Posts Tagged ‘experiment’

The baby is sleeping, Ted just left for a few hours, the dog is attempting to hide from the garbage truck, and we’re still in this period of Coronavirus isolation; seems like the perfect time to write another blog post. Hopefully I’ll make it all the way through before nap time is over.

Flour has been difficult to come by lately, which is super frustrating for people like myself who like to bake on the regular. I’m betting that the vast majority of flour hoarders will barely touch their stash before its shelf life has long passed. In fact, I need flour for the recipes in the next Good Eats episodes, so hopefully I can find some soon. Alas, I digress, as no flour was required for the avocado-based recipes in this episode. Now for a few avocado facts from this episode:  1) It takes 13 months for a seed to become fruit. 2) Avocados will never ripen while they are on the tree, so they can be “stored” on the tree for up to seven months. 3) All Hass avocado trees came from the same mother tree, which had died at the airing of this episode in 2005.

Avocado Compound Butter

You may recall that Alton made compound butter back in episode 35. I honestly don’t think I had made compound butter in the five years (!) since I wrote that post, so it was suitable that this episode led me to make an avocado compound butter. This one comes together in a snap by pulsing the following ingredients together in a food processor:  1 T lemon juice, 1 minced clove of garlic, 2 t cumin, 1 T chopped cilantro, 2 oz softened unsalted butter, and 6 oz of ripe avocado meat.

IMG_1783(1)

Ingredients for compound butter in food processor: lemon juice, garlic, cumin, cilantro, butter, and avocado.

Once combined, season the butter to taste with Kosher salt and pepper.

IMG_1785(1)

Pepper and Kosher salt added to butter.

Transfer the butter to the center of a sheet of parchment paper, folding the paper over the butter. Holding a sheet pan at a 45 degree angle to the counter, press the edge of the sheet pan against the mound of butter, pulling the parchment toward you with your other hand as you simultaneously push away with the sheet pan; this will form the butter into a perfect log shape within the parchment paper. Twist up the ends of the parchment paper and chill the butter until it is firm.

You can serve this butter with chicken, fish, corn, bread, or pretty much anything. We first ate ours with corn on the cob. Although the corn was pretty awful, the butter was fantastic.

IMG_1793(1)

Avocado compound butter on corn.

This butter is like a somewhat melty guacamole that you can serve on anything, and it is delicious. It is rich, yet savory, and has a slight tang from the lemon. The cumin, cilantro, and garlic give it layers of flavors. We often find ourselves with extra avocados when we buy the big bag from Costco, and this is a way I intend to use them in the future.

Avocado Ice Cream

Of the recipes in this episode I was most excited to try the avocado ice cream. To me, avocado ice cream just makes sense. Avocados are high in fat and have a super rich, creamy texture that seems like it would make a delectable ice cream base. Their flavor too is naturally on the sweeter/milder side. To make Alton’s avocado ice cream, place 12 oz of avocado meat in a blender with 1 T lemon juice, 1/2 C sugar, 1 C heavy cream, and 1 1/2 C whole milk. Blend the mixture until it is smooth and place it in the refrigerator until its temperature has dropped below 40 degrees (I chilled mine overnight).

Once suitably chilled, process the ice cream base in an ice cream maker. Alton claimed that this ice cream would only need 5-10 minutes of churning time, but it took a good half hour in my ice cream maker. For a soft-serve texture, you can enjoy the ice cream immediately, or you can place it in the freezer for a firmer texture.

IMG_1778(1)

Finished avocado ice cream.

Ted really didn’t care for this ice cream at all, saying it was too “vegetal” in flavor. I initially wasn’t sure what I thought of it. I’ve actually been eating a scoop of this ice cream as I’ve been writing this post. This ice cream becomes rock hard in the freezer – it’s hard to scoop even after sitting out for 15-20 minutes on the counter. The initial mouthfeel appears to be somewhat icy, but then melts into a rich, smooth consistency that coats the palate. There is no doubt that the flavor of this ice cream is avocado. I’ve been going back and forth on whether I like this ice cream or not, and I think the honest answer is that I really want to love this ice cream, but I don’t. From reading the online reviews of this recipe, this one is quite polarizing, with some true fans and some people who can’t stand it at all. I’m somewhere in the middle, I suppose. In any case, this ice cream is undeniably interesting, which is perhaps just reason enough to try it for yourself.

Avocado Buttercream Frosting

I have to agree with the title of this episode that the recipes therein are definitely experimental. I consider this final recipe for buttercream frosting to be the most experimental of the three. For avocado buttercream, use the whisk attachment of a stand mixer to beat 8 ounces of avocado meat with 2 t lemon juice for two to three minutes on medium speed.

Sift one pound of powdered sugar and slowly add the sugar to the avocado on low speed. The sugar does not incorporate easily, and I found I had to scrape the bowl quite often with a spatula. Once half of the sugar is incorporated, increase the speed and add the remaining sugar. Finally, add 1/2 t lemon extract.

IMG_1817(1)

Lemon extract.

IMG_1815(1)

Avocado frosting after adding powdered sugar.

Refrigerate the frosting for two hours before using to frost a cake. I used my avocado frosting on a vanilla cake that I confess I made from a mix. To make things comical, when I went to frost my cake, I discovered that my cat had licked the top off of a portion of the cake. Yes, we trimmed that portion off.

IMG_1818

My cake, licked by my cat.

IMG_1821(1)

Alton’s avocado buttercream.

This frosting is kind of weird in its consistency, as it is very sticky and a bit glossy. It does not have the rich, buttery flavor and texture that are so typical of buttercream. It is also incredibly sweet. In fact, it is so sweet that it really has very little discernible flavor, other than a hint of citrus. I can’t say that I would know this frosting is made from avocado, especially if I tasted it without seeing the green color. Oh, and the color? Well, it’s different. This frosting could have a place on some type of cake for a little kid’s birthday, such as an alien or Shrek cake. Other than that, though, I thought this was sort of a dinger.

All in all, the recipes in this episode did make for quite the interesting kitchen experiment. I would definitely make the compound butter again. The frosting would be a no for me, unless I desperately needed green slimy frosting for a particular project. The ice cream? Although it wasn’t my favorite, I do think it was a fun one to make and try, and I think some people would really love it.

This episode of Good Eats is unique because Alton does not actually cook anything. Instead, this episode serves to prove or debunk five culinary myths. Through a series of kitchen experiments, Alton evaluates each myth and concludes whether each is true or false.

Myth #1 – The juices of meat are sealed in by searing.

For this myth, Alton weighed two steaks prior to cooking. The steaks were both oiled, but no salt was added, as salt pulls out liquid. One steak was seared on both sides in a hot skillet, while the other steak was not seared. The seared and unseared steaks were placed in a 400-degree oven at the same time, and a probe thermometer was placed in the center of each steak; the thermometers were set to beep when the steaks reached a temperature of 140 degrees. The seared steak reached 140 degrees faster than the unseared steak, so the seared steak was removed from the oven and allowed to rest for five minutes. After four additional minutes in the oven, the unseared steak reached 140 degrees, and was removed from the oven/allowed to rest.

After both steaks had rested, they were weighed a second time. The unseared steak lost 13% of its raw weight, while the seared steak lost 19% of its original weight. Based on these results, Alton concluded that searing does not seal in meat juices, and declared this myth to be “SMASHED.”

Myth #2 – Birds can be killed from the toxic fumes of nonstick pans.

In all honesty, Alton did not conduct any actual experiment for this myth. Instead, he simply talked about the conclusions that have been made by studies conducted on this topic. It has been found that nonstick pans release toxic fumes when they hit a temperature above 500 degrees, and especially when they are empty. These fumes can kill birds and can also cause humans to have flu-like symptoms. Alton opts to avoid all high-heat cooking in nonstick pans, including searing, frying, broiling, and even sautéing. This myth is “TRUE.”

Myth #3 – Mushrooms should not be washed because they absorb water.

The method for this experiment was to place four ounces of mushrooms in a hand sieve, which was then placed inside a glass bowl; four of these mushroom/sieve/bowl combos were set up. A liter of water was poured over the mushrooms in three of the four bowls, while the final bowl of mushrooms were left dry. The first bowl of mushrooms was allowed to sit in the water for 10 minutes before removing and draining the mushrooms. The second bowl of mushrooms was allowed to sit in the water for 20 minutes before removing and draining the mushrooms. The third bowl of mushrooms sat in the water for 30 minutes before removing and draining the mushrooms. The final bowl of mushrooms was rinsed thoroughly under running water and allowed to drain.

After all of the mushrooms were drained, the mushrooms from each sieve were weighed to analyze how much water they had absorbed. The mushrooms soaked for 10 minutes had gained 0.2 ounces of water, or about one teaspoon. The 20 minute mushrooms had gained 0.25 ounces of water, or about a teaspoon. Thirty minutes of soaking resulted in the mushrooms gaining 0.15 ounces of water, or about a teaspoon. The mushrooms rinsed under running water had gained 0.2 ounces of water, or about a teaspoon.

This experiment demonstrated that mushrooms absorb a small amount of water regardless of length of exposure to water. Since mushrooms tend to have a fair amount of grit and dirt on them, Alton concluded that he will thoroughly wash his mushrooms. This myth was “SMASHED.”

Myth #4 – Adding oil to pasta water keeps noodles from sticking together.

To test this myth, Alton added a gallon of water, 1 T of olive oil, and a pinch of Kosher salt to a pasta pot. The pot was covered and placed over high heat until the water reached a boil. Once the water was boiling, Alton added a half pound of pasta to the water, decreased the heat to medium-high, and cooked the pasta until it was al dente.

After cooking, Alton drained the pasta, allowing the liquid to drain into a long, clear tube beneath the strainer. After several minutes, the drained liquid had separated into its oil and liquid phases, with the oil rising to the top of the tube. Alton calculated the drained amount of oil to be 0.43 ounces, which was about 85% of the original tablespoon of oil added to the pasta water.

Since only 15% of the olive oil remained on the surface of the drained pasta, Alton concluded that not enough oil coated the pasta to prevent the noodles from adhering to each other. This myth was hereby “SMASHED.” Alton did, however, state that adding oil to pasta water can prevent the water from foaming by oiling the bonds of the starch released from the noodles. Or, you can just use a larger vessel with more water.

Myth #5 – Water can explode when microwaved.

The experiment for this myth involved placing a tall, narrow, glass bottle (picture a Snapple bottle) full of water in a microwave. The water was microwaved for three minutes on high power, which resulted in water spraying all over the inside of the microwave. This “explosion” of water is called spontaneous boiling, which occurs when the temperature rises above the boiling point without the formation of any bubbles. Since the inside of the glass bottle was perfectly smooth, there were no nucleation sites, which are spots where bubbles can form. In addition, the small opening of the bottle kept the water still, so when the heat energy built up within the bottle, one large bubble was formed and the water sprayed everywhere. To avoid this, when microwaving, use a container with a large opening and stir the contents regularly. This final myth was deemed to be “TRUE.”