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The sensible kitchen


The Bread Bible is read in Madrid Fusion

He worked for Bill Gates developing pioneering projects and accompanied Stephen Hawking on the move towards the theory of quantum physics at Cambridge. His entry into the world of gastronomy could only end in one way: creating the most ambitious of the compilations around contemporary cuisine. He has written and edited 'Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking' and now presents 'Modernist Bread', the largest study on bread known to date.

Nathan Myhrvold, before being an expert in bread and gastronomy, was (and is) a scientist specializing in mathematics, geophysics and particle physics. A profession that, in addition to the obvious knowledge he grants, has allowed him to investigate in a different way in the kitchen, another of his passions. His first contact with her, on a professional level, was through the search for studies on vacuum cooking. An investigation that led him, in addition to finding the book 'The empty kitchen' by Joan Roca, his only reference, to think about developing his own that explained this method of cooking in a serious, detailed and rigorous way.

But that idea did not stay there, but continued to grow to answer different questions. So, why not create a single reasoned, detailed and well-illustrated monumental work that talked about the evolution of cooking but with the interest that comes from addressing it also from a scientific point of view? Myhrvold created it giving rise to a five-volume encyclopedia entitled 'Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking', which has been followed by the publication of the bread bible, 'Modernist Bread', which he presented at the newly opened congress Madrid International Pastry of Reale Seguros Madrid Fusion 2020.

Five volumes and a kitchen manual that are collected in almost two kilos of ink, with 2,642 pages and 5,526 images, for which it is estimated that, between recipe and recipe, 36 tons of flour have been used. «To make this compilation we have researched a lot on a historical level, we have gone to art museums to know what the bread we ate before was like. Many believe that the Golden Age of bread has passed. They believe that the bread from before was better and that good bread is made by copying the ideas of yesteryear, but the best bread that has been made is never being made today, and we will do even better in the future. This is how resounding Myhrvold shows when talking about the evolution of bread. A few words that are based on the scientific approach that this collection of information has about bread.

The secrets

The myths about gluten and the sourdough, the measure of the perfect loaf, the differences in the temperature of fermentation, the role of steam in the creation of the crust of the bread or the hydration of the doughs are some of the topics that are develop throughout these five volumes. Issues that every baker and panarra pose but that lead to a bigger question: why is bread still so cheap? How to make bread a premium product?

Nathan replies: “Flour is cheap because in the 19th century, 120 years ago, our ancestors were afraid of starving. Practically, the only food that was brought to the mouth was bread and, even, some were still starving. We have inherited this way of thinking, but then, should bread be free in restaurants or should we pay for it? And why do all the bakeries offer the same breads? This is a cultural change that should be massive, but we have to do it to make quality bread continue to prosper. We have to educate the population to buy high-end breads, just as we educate them to buy wine, a good quality cheese or chocolate having different ranges in the market ».

A challenge that Myhrvold poses with a clear objective: to find as many different breads as there are bakeries in one place.

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