About the content
In this course, which investigates physical transformations in food, we will be visited by world-famous chefs who use a number of different styles and techniques in their cooking. Each chef will demonstrate how he or she prepares delicious and interesting creations, and we will explore how fundamental scientific principles make them possible.
Topics will include:
- How cooking changes food texture
- Making emulsions and foams
- Phase changes in cooking
You will also have the opportunity to become an experimental scientist in your very own laboratory — your kitchen! By following along with the recipes of the week, taking precise measurements, and making skillful observations, you will learn to think like both a chef and a scientist. This practice will prepare you for the final project, when you will design and perform an experiment to analyze a recipe of your choice from a scientific perspective.
The lab is certainly one of the most unique components of this course — after all, in what other science course can you eat your experiments?
- The chemical and physical principles that underlie everyday cooking and haute cuisine techniques
- How chefs can use enzymes to make foods that would otherwise be impossible
- How to use the scientific method to learn how a recipe works, and find ways you could improve it
- How to think like a chef AND a scientist.
Secondary school (high school) algebra, basic mathematics concepts
How do we describe food texture? In the first module of the course, we will explore the scientific concept of elasticity, which influences the texture of food, and how it changes during cooking. Discussions with Bill Yosses and Mark Ladner will address the role of gluten in dough and the challenges of working with gluten-free varieties.
Module 2: Viscosity
How can we make liquid foods more appealing? Just as solid foods can have different textures, so can liquids, largely determined by their viscosity, or thickness. Scientific discussions about what determines viscosity and demonstrations of different ways to change the viscosities of foods will allow us to explore this topic from different perspectives. We will hear from Harvard’s own Martin Breslin, Director for Culinary Operations, and Carles Tejedor, from Oillab and By restaurant in Barcelona.
Module 3: Emulsions and Foams
Emulsions and foams are some of the most interesting foods to think about from a scientific perspective, and we will investigate the physical principles that control their formation. Nandu Jubany will demonstrate how he uses emulsions and foams for a twist on traditional Catalan cuisine at his restaurant, Can Jubany. In the lab you can compete with other learners to see whose emulsion and foam rises the highest!
Module 4: Advanced Phase Behavior
The preparation of chocolate and frozen desserts such as ice cream are great illustrations of how chefs manipulate phase changes such as crystallization (freezing). In this module, we will discuss such concepts as nucleation of crystals and freezing point depression, and see how they can be used for chocolate tempering and making ice cream, which you will make yourself in the lab!
Module 5: Enzymes
The activity of enzymes can provide both benefits and challenges in the kitchen. After discussing the diverse roles that enzymes can play, we will investigate strategies to both restrict and exploit enzyme activity in cooking. Ted Russin and Wylie Dufresne will showcase some of their creative dishes that are only possible because of enzymes.
Module 6: Baking
To conclude the course, we will see how many of the topics that we have discussed come together in a popular cooking technique – baking! Joanne Chang and Christina Tosi will show us how to make delicious cakes, cookies, pies, and bread, and we will see how science makes it possible!
Glover Professor of Applied Mathematics and Applied Physics
Professor of Physics and Applied Physics
Senior Preceptor in Chemical Engineering and Applied Materials, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Established in 1636 and named for its first benefactor clergyman John Harvard, Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning, and its history, influence, and wealth have made it one of the world's most prestigious universities. The Harvard Corporation is its first chartered corporation. Although never formally affiliated with any denomination, the early College primarily trained Congregational and Unitarian clergy. Its curriculum and student body were gradually secularized during the 18th century, and by the 19th century, Harvard had emerged as the central cultural establishment among Boston elites. Following the American Civil War, President Charles W. Eliot's long tenure (1869–1909) transformed the college and affiliated professional schools into a modern research university; Harvard was a founding member of the Association of American Universities in 1900. A. Lawrence Lowell, who followed Eliot, further reformed the undergraduate curriculum and undertook aggressive expansion of Harvard's land holdings and physical plant. James Bryant Conant led the university through the Great Depression and World War II and began to reform the curriculum and liberalize admissions after the war. The undergraduate college became coeducational after its 1977 merger with Radcliffe College.
The university is organized into eleven separate academic units—ten faculties and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study—with campuses throughout the Boston metropolitan area: its 209-acre (85 ha) main campus is centered on Harvard Yard in Cambridge, approximately 3 miles (5 km) northwest of Boston; the business school and athletics facilities, including Harvard Stadium, are located across the Charles River in the Allston neighborhood of Boston and the medical, dental, and public health schools are in the Longwood Medical Area. The endowment of Harvard's is worth $37.1 billion, making it the largest of any academic institution.
Harvard is a large, highly residential research university. The nominal cost of attendance is high, but the university's large endowment allows it to offer generous financial aid packages. The Harvard Library is the world's largest academic and private library system, comprising 79 individual libraries holding over 18 million items. The University is cited as one of the world's top tertiary institutions by various organizations.
Harvard's alumni include eight U.S. presidents, several foreign heads of state, 62 living billionaires, 359 Rhodes Scholars, and 242 Marshall Scholars. To date, some 157 Nobel laureates, 18 Fields Medalists, and 14 Turing Award winners have been affiliated as students, faculty, or staff. In addition, Harvard students and alumni have won 10 Academy Awards, 48 Pulitzer Prizes, and 108 Olympic medals (46 gold, 41 silver and 21 bronze).
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