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Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great…

Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food

by Jeff Potter

Other authors: Aaron Double (Illustrator)

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5211019,425 (3.91)3
  1. 00
    De dood in de pot? : 60 lekkere recepten onder de loep by F. Boucher (mene)
    mene: "De dood in de pot" bevat recepten met commentaren over micro-organismen en voedselveiligheid, net zoals sommige stukken in "Cooking for Geeks" beschrijven.

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The 4/5 is more for it's usefulness to me rather than the overall quality of the book. I must admit I haven't tried any of the recipes but I did find this one very interesting to read and to think about. This is something the same as Elizabeth Zimmermann for knitters, a book that makes you think about the why of cooking methods instead of just being instructive and encouraging you to experiment with methods and results to get results for you, not necessarily what's written in books. It's a book to make you think about cooking and play with your food and to always remember that you can always dial out for Pizza (unless you're coeliac like me, then you're calling for GF friendly solutions). Aimed at people with possibly a bit more engineering skills than I have it's still an interesting look at food and it's production. ( )
  wyvernfriend | Feb 5, 2014 |
So, I was reading this article about cookbooks at a lady blog SHUT UP DON'T JUDGE ME and then I was like hey, I'm a geek and I eat, maybe I should read this.
1 vote | AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
I love food science stuff: two things I miss very much from having actual TV is Good Eats and America's Test Kitchen, both of which get into why things work in the kitchen.

This book does that, with the extra twist of assuming a (computer) geek audience. It's smart and charming in the process. Lots of interviews, a whole section of really weird cooking techniques, and recipes too.

I've only used one of the recipes so far: Bechamel Sauce, which turns out to be the first time EVER that I've made a cheese sauce (for veggies) that turned out the way I wanted. That said, the information about techniques, temperatures, and even food safety has changed my approach to cooking, or at least made me feel like I understand what I'm doing when I do it.

Definitely recommended. ( )
  epersonae | Mar 29, 2013 |
My wife and I received this as a Christmas present from her brother not long after we got married.  Though it's got recipes in it, it's not just a cookbook; indeed, there are more pages without recipes, than with.  Basically, it approaches cooking skill as not a series of recipes, but a series of principles that you can master, aimed at an audience of the "geeky" sort, who is interested in strange facts, background theories, and doing things differently.

It's a nice idea, and the book is filled with the kind of factoids that you'll irritate your wife by reading aloud to her, about how flavors work, and what the difference between baking soda and powder is, and what are the six different kinds of cooks, and so on.  I didn't always know who the book was aimed at, though. The first chapter treats the reader as someone scared of the very concept of cooking, with a lot of moments I found kinda condescending ("no, scared geek, you really can use a cooking implement that's not a microwave!").  But the later chapters get increasingly complicated; the sort of person who might find the first chapter useful is going to be intimidated by the last chapter's extolling of the virtues of sous vide cooking.  And sometimes parts of it were boring (I learned more about baking than I ever would have cared to), but that's probably down to individual taste.

As for the recipes, I've only made one so far, the white bean and garlic soup (p. 133).  It was good, but I found that Potter's technique of including the ingredients in the middle of the recipe caused me to overlook important facts about them on first readthrough.  It came out way thicker than I would have liked, but that may have been my own fault and was alleviated by adding more veggie broth in any case.  I did really like how the recipe has you toast some French bread in oil and then blend it in; the soup had a really interesting flavor.  There's also a recipe for making your own ginger lemon soda (p. 229), which my wife and I are planning on trying this week.

The best part of the book were the interviews with other cooking geeks that Potter conducted: famous chefs, Twitter recipe writers, a man who cooked a pizza in his oven on cleaning mode, the coiner of "molecular gastronomy" and more.  Each one was fascinating; Potter asked good questions and got great answers.
  Stevil2001 | Feb 10, 2012 |
As I slog my way through this book, I continue to find it both dull and disappointing. I think I had expectations of a concise tome of knowledge, summarising lots of the science and methodology of cooking which is left out of recipe books. Instead it's a poorly structured, badly written, self-indulgent meandering tribute to "geek culture" whose main aim seems to be give the reader a warm fuzzy feeling, that it's really ok, don't be shy, have a go and cook. Almost every single page has a line like "Caramel sauce is one of those components that seems complicated and mysterious until you make it, at which point you're left wondering, 'really, that's it?'"

The writing is exceptionally verbose. Whole pages go past with barely a single coherent idea expressed. Ideas are presented, but not developed: he hints at methodologies, but goes no further than "experiment! have fun!" Cheery anecdotes constantly get in the way. All kinds of barely-relevant asides ("how do they get teflon to stick to pans?") and interviews dilute the content further. At the other end of the spectrum, ridiculously esoteric and useless information like the molecular structure of carrageenan.

Don't get me wrong - there are some interesting tables in here, but the selection process that determines what goes in each is simply arbitrary.

Maybe the book lives up to its name. Maybe it really is just random discussion of "cooking" for "geeks" - people who gain something from being told that Benzaldehyde is the primary component of bitter almond oil, and who get a frisson every time the Maillard reaction is mentioned. I was just hoping for something a bit deeper, and with a bit more useful reference material. Perhaps I'm just not the right kind of geek. ( )
  stevage | May 18, 2011 |
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Hackers, makers, programmers, engineers, nerds, techies -- what we'll call "geeks" for the rest of the book (deal with it) -- we're a creative lot who don't like to be told what to do.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0596805888, Paperback)

Are you the innovative type, the cook who marches to a different drummer -- used to expressing your creativity instead of just following recipes? Are you interested in the science behind what happens to food while it's cooking? Do you want to learn what makes a recipe work so you can improvise and create your own unique dish?

More than just a cookbook, Cooking for Geeks applies your curiosity to discovery, inspiration, and invention in the kitchen. Why is medium-rare steak so popular? Why do we bake some things at 350 F/175 C and others at 375 F/190 C? And how quickly does a pizza cook if we overclock an oven to 1,000 F/540 C? Author and cooking geek Jeff Potter provides the answers and offers a unique take on recipes -- from the sweet (a "mean" chocolate chip cookie) to the savory (duck confit sugo).

This book is an excellent and intriguing resource for anyone who wants to experiment with cooking, even if you don't consider yourself a geek.

Initialize your kitchen and calibrate your tools Learn about the important reactions in cooking, such as protein denaturation, Maillard reactions, and caramelization, and how they impact the foods we cook Play with your food using hydrocolloids and sous vide cooking Gain firsthand insights from interviews with researchers, food scientists, knife experts, chefs, writers, and more, including author Harold McGee, TV personality Adam Savage, chemist Hervé This, and xkcd

From Cooking for Geeks: Butternut Squash Soup

Purée in a food processor or with an immersion blender:
2 cups (660g) butternut squash, peeled, cubed, and roasted (about 1 medium squash)
2 cups (470g) chicken, turkey, or vegetable stock
1 small (130g) yellow onion, diced and sautéed
1/2 teaspoon (1g) salt (adjust to taste)

Notes The weights are for the prepared ingredients and only rough suggestions. So, prepare each item individually. For example, for the squash, peel it, then coat it with olive oil, sprinkle it with salt, and roast it in the oven at a temperature around 400–425 F / 200–220 C until it begins to brown. When you go to purée the ingredients, hold back some of the squash and some of the stock, taste the purée, and see which you think it needs. Want it thicker? Add more squash. Thinner? Add more stock. This soup by itself is very basic. Garnish with whatever else you have on hand that you think might go well, such as garlic croutons and bacon. Or top with a small dab of cream, some toasted walnuts, and dried cranberries to give it a feeling of Thanksgiving. How about a teaspoon of maple syrup, a few thin slices of beef, and some fresh oregano? Chives, sour cream, and cheddar cheese? Why not! Instead of purchasing items to follow a recipe exactly, try using leftover ingredients from other meals to complement the squash soup. If you’re in a rush, you can “jump-start” the squash by microwaving it first. Peel and quarter the squash, using a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Then, cube it into 1–2” / 3–5 cm pieces, drop it into a glass baking pan that’s both oven and microwave safe, and nuke it for four to five minutes to partially heat the mass. Remove from microwave, coat the squash with olive oil and a light sprinkling of salt, and roast it in a preheated oven until done, about 20 to 30 minutes. If you’re not in a rush, you can skip the peeling step entirely: cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, add oil and salt, roast it for about an hour (until the flesh is soft), and use a spoon to scoop it out.

Pumpkin Cake

There are two broad types of cake batters: high- ratio cakes--those that have more sugar and water than flour (or by some definitions, just a lot of sugar)--and low-ratio cakes—which tend to have coarser crumbs. For high-ratio cakes, there should be more sugar than flour (by weight) and more eggs than fats (again, by weight), and the liquid mass (eggs, milk, water) should be heavier than the sugar.

Consider this pumpkin cake, which is a high-ratio cake (245g of pumpkin contains 220g of water--you can look these sorts of things up in the USDA National Nutrient Database, available online at http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/).

In a mixing bowl, measure out and then mix with an electric mixer to thoroughly combine:
1 cup (245g) pumpkin (canned, or roast and puree your own)
1 cup (200g) sugar
3/4 cup (160g) canola oil
2 large (120g) eggs
1 1/2 cups (180g) flour
1/4 cup (40g) raisins
2 teaspoons (5g) cinnamon
1 teaspoon (5g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (5g) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
1/2 teaspoon (2g) vanilla extract

Transfer to a greased cake pan or spring form and bake in an oven preheated to 350 F / 175 C until a toothpick comes out dry, about 20 minutes.

Notes Try adding dried pears soaked in brandy. You can also hold back some of the raisins and sprinkle them on top. One nice thing about high-ratio cakes is that they don’t have much gluten, so they won’t turn out like bread, even with excessive beating. With a total weight of 920 grams, of which only roughly 20 grams is gluten, there just isn’t enough gluten present in this cake to give it a bread-like texture. There’s also a fair amount of both sugar and fats to interfere with gluten development.

Presents recipes ranging in difficulty with the science and technology-minded cook in mind, providing the science behind cooking, the physiology of taste, and the techniques of molecular gastronomy.

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