A First Look: New Content from Modernist Bread

There are less than six months until Modernist Bread goes on sale—it will be in bookstores by November 7th—and we’ve hit a lot of milestones since our last post. (We’re happy to report that pages are being printed as you read this post.)

Today we’re sharing a first look at new content from Modernist Bread, including the table of content and new spreads from the book. The most exciting thing we have to share, however, is an excerpt from The Story of this Book in which Nathan answers some of the most common questions we’ve received in the two years since revealing we were working on a bread book.

Read on if you’ve been wondering why we decided to write a 2,642 page book on bread, who this book is for, and what we hope to accomplish with this book.


When I tell people what we’ve been working on since our last book, the reaction often goes something like this: “Did you say 2,600 pages? On bread?”

I’ll concede that at first blush, 2,600 pages might seem a little over the top. But we’ve been here before. We got the same initial reaction when we were working on our first book, Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, which ran an encyclopedic 2,438 pages. When it was released in 2011, people in the publishing industry told us that a nontradi­tional $625 cookbook would never sell.

Well, Modernist Cuisine broke a lot of rules. And to my great relief, that worked. More than 220,000 curious and passionate food lovers—from home cooks to renowned chefs to staff at educational institutions—decided that the book fit the right value equation. It won numerous major food writing awards and has been translated into nine languages. It’s fair to say it has had a big impact on the culinary world.

Now I am excited to introduce Modernist Bread. It’s just as disruptive, just as comprehensive, just as visually appealing, and just as thought-provoking as its older sibling. In the space of five volumes plus a kitchen manual, we tell the story of one of the world’s most important foods in new and different ways. Through this story, we hope to enlighten, delight, and inspire creativity in others who love not only bread but also the science, history, cultures, and personalities behind it.

Why focus on bread? Because it has so many of the things that we love in a topic. Bread may seem simple, but in fact it is highly technological and scientific—it’s actually a biotech product whose creation requires harnessing the power of microorganisms that ferment. Making bread is so technique-intensive that small variations in the method can make huge differences in the outcome. There is a tremendous amount of skill involved, to the point that bread making can be daunting to home bakers and professionals alike. During the baking process, bread’s simple ingredients go through such a mind-blowing transformation that the product that comes out of the oven bears almost no resemblance to the flour, water, salt, and yeast that went in. That’s just cool.

Focusing on bread has given us the opportunity to explore such wide-ranging scientific topics as the structure of gluten and the physics of ovens. It has given us a window into the minds of the inventors and innovators who have made, improved, and transformed this important staple over the course of thousands of years. Our focus on bread has also allowed us to look closely at the evolution of cultures through the lens of a single food that has spanned so much of human history: bread was the primary source of calories for the ancient Greeks and Romans and the Western civilizations that followed. We also became intrigued by the evolution of our agricultural system. There is currently a lot of nationwide and global concern about this system, after all, and wheat is at its center. As the grandson of a Minnesota wheat farmer, I was determined to tell the story of the role that the underappreciated and underpaid farmers play in our agricultural system.

Starting around the 1920s (but at an increasing pace throughout the 1960s), bread became an industrial product. Giant machines and factories were cranking out millions of loaves of bland, precisely uniform sandwich bread, and people welcomed these snow-white loaves. By the 1970s, though, both bread lovers and bread bakers were beginning to rebel, eventually building what is today called the artisanal bread movement. In the United States, the search for quality led to the breads of Europe—and in Europe, bakers turned to the past.

The idea behind the artisanal bread movement was a great one: bread lovers wanted to increase the variety, flavor, and quality of bread beyond the cheap industrial products that swamped supermarket shelves. Going back to preindustrial bread-baking practices and returning to small-scale methods historically used by village bakers seemed like just the thing to do.

But it can’t possibly be true that all the best ideas in bread baking have already been discovered—creative bakers around the world have made some amazing new loaves. Science and technology are not the enemies of great bread. The laws of nature govern baking just like they govern everything else in the world. Knowing which laws affect your bread helps; understanding technology helps, too.

When it began, the artisanal bread movement was so liberating: it freed consumers from insipid, machine-made white sandwich bread by giving them choices. But any belief system can become stagnant if it is closed to new ideas.

This stagnancy is all the more troubling today, in a world in which bread is under attack from the gluten-free trend and the low-carb movement. Now more than ever, it’s vital to start unleashing the creative possibilities of bread. With all the excitement around today’s innovative, modern cuisine, it’s time to make bread more than just an afterthought. Why not have fun and explore what the latest science can add to the bread we know and love? At the risk of sounding dramatic, bread must innovate to survive and thrive.

We took an approach that is fiercely analytic but also deeply appreciative of the artistry and aesthetics of bread. We studied exhaustively (or at least until we were exhausted!). We researched ingredients and history, milling technologies and dough rheology, grain botany, bubble mechan­ics, and more. We talked to grain farmers, mill­ers, food historians, statisticians, and every great bread baker we could find. Over time, we became even more convinced that our book could offer something fresh and new.

We believe the idea of Modernist bread—bread that looks to the future, not the past—should be celebrated. In these pages, you’ll find our contributions to what we hope will become a movement. This movement isn’t just about new recipes, though—it’s about the way we think of bread from the ground up.

For each of our key recipes, we developed a traditional version and a Modernist version. You can follow only the traditional recipes and find much of value in this book—or you can branch out into our Modernist recipes to explore new ideas. All of the recipes have been tested in and developed for professional and home equipment—you can bake out of this book no matter what kind of oven or tools you have.

Better yet, use this book as a jumping-off point to make new kinds of breads that no one has tried before. Whether you are a strict traditionalist or an avid Modernist, a home baker or an artisan baker or a restaurant chef, we hope that this book will open your eyes to the possibilities of invention and encourage different ways of thinking about bread. We believe this kind of disruption will even help change the economics of bread. (We’d like to see bread go the way of chocolate and wine, which are sold in a wide range of quality levels and price points.)

In short, we believe the golden age of bread isn’t some mythical past that we all should try to return to—the best days of bread are yet to come. [soliloquy id=”18055″]

Introducing the Modernist Cuisine Gallery

We’ve always done things a little differently at Modernist Cuisine. We self-publish so that we can make books in our own, and undeniably huge, way. It’s an experiment that has allowed readers to see food as we do—as something that is endlessly fascinating, powerful, and beautiful.

Our first book, Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science, broke many of the rules for cookbooks, including how they should be illustrated. Early on, we decided not to photograph food in traditional ways, opting instead to cut kitchen equipment in half, use high-speed video and laboratory microscopes, develop innovative digital tools, and turn ordinary ingredients like grapefruit or kernels of wheat into stunning monoliths with macro lenses. Four books later, the stunning, distinctive images we create are still an integral part of how we share our research and love of food.

The way in which critics and readers have embraced our photography is beyond what we could have imagined. We included small prints in Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home, and were amazed to discover that people were framing them and asking for large custom sizes. The acclaim inspired us to embark on another big experiment—the Photography of Modernist Cuisine: The Exhibition. We dramatically scaled up the size of our images and made larger prints; some are as big as a full-sized bed. In museum after museum, visitors have asked where they can purchase prints just like the ones hanging on the wall.

Unfortunately, for some time, we haven’t been able to give the answer fans were looking for. We know there are many people who, like us, love to see and take pictures of food. For some reason, however, photos of food have never really been considered fine art photography. Photographs of nature, fashion, celebrities, babies, cars, architecture, animals, and ordinary objects like locks and keys—even subjects that make some squeamishly uncomfortable—are considered fine art. Why not food?

The Modernist Cuisine Gallery, our next experiment, will challenge this issue head on. We are standing up for food as a subject matter because we believe it can be both beautiful and intriguing, and deserves a place on walls alongside other works of art.

We could have chosen to exhibit our pictures in established art galleries, but we decided to take the same approach we have always taken—doing things in our own way. Building our own retail gallery affords us the ability to lavish care on every aspect of discovering, owning, and displaying one of our pictures. When the Modernist Cuisine Gallery opens at The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in May 2017, it will be the first gallery in the world to focus only on food photography by a single artist – a mission that is unabashedly bold.

The gallery will include limited edition prints of photos by Nathan produced using the highest quality and most durable print methods available.  The gallery’s opening collection will debut stunning new photos, plus a few iconic images that you may recognize from our books. The prints will be available in several frame, media, and size options—including large-scale options for big spaces – available for shipping worldwide.

Las Vegas has become an incredible food destination that draws people from around the globe. We look forward to sharing our photography with new audiences and giving people the opportunity to see the beauty of food on their own walls.

For now, we’re excited to reveal just a few of the images that will be available for the first time. This, however, is just the beginning. We will have more updates, information, and prints to share as the gallery prepares to open its doors.

We look forward to seeing you in Vegas!

We’re Still Baking: Modernist Bread Updates

Modernist Bread has come a long way since our last update in September. In the months since then, we’ve added another 200 pages—the total is now around 2,500 pages—in the process of finalizing chapters. We’re excited to share all that we’ve discovered while working on this book. You can hear a few insights in the podcast, The Eater Upsell, where Nathan discusses the book. Last week we reached another major milestone: finishing the covers of each volume. And we’re happy to reveal them today.

The Covers

Volume 1: History and Fundamentals

As in Modernist Cuisine, the first volume covers bread history, health, and the fundamentals of science for bakers: microbiology, heat and energy, and the physics of water. 

Volume 2: INGREDIENTS

The chapters herein provide a detailed look at the ingredients of bread—from the grains that become flour, to yeast and other ingredients that have Modernist applications.

Volume 3: Techniques and Equipment

Your guidebook to the techniques of bread making. Chapters follow the process of making bread: fermentation, mixing, divide and shaping, proofing, scoring and finishing, ovens and baking, plus cooling and storage.

Volume 4 and 5: Recipes

Here’s where the recipes begin. With more than 1,500 recipes, each chapter is divided by types of breads. We begin with recipes for Lean breads, Enriched breads, Rye and Whole Grain breads, Flatbreads and Pizza, then move on to Bagels, Pretzels and Bao, Gluten-free breads, and Bread Machines.

Volume 6: Kitchen Manual

Our last volume is the wire-bound kitchen manual so that you can easily bring all of the recipes, plus reference tables, into the kitchen in one compact collection.

On-sale Update

This month we also made a difficult yet important decision that we want to share with you: we are pushing back the on-sale date of Modernist Bread to fall 2017. This was not an easy choice for us and we realize that this news might be disappointing for those of you who have already preordered the book.

We’ve always done things a little differently at Modernist Cuisine. We self-publish so that we can make books in our own, and undeniably huge, way. Which means that we don’t compromise on the quality of our books, even if it means moving the schedule out. In the case of Modernist Bread, we made some new discoveries  in the 11th hour that just need to be included.

To prevent any future confusion, we will release the new on-sale date, right here, in the coming months. Those of you who have preordered the book through Amazon or Barnes & Noble will automatically receive e-mail notifications with the new estimated ship date once it has been updated. Preorder policies vary between independently owned local bookstores, so please contact them for more information.

Thank you for your continued support, enthusiasm, and patience as we complete Modernist Bread. We look forward to sharing more news with you very soon.

Modernist Bread preorders begin today!

Last spring we revealed news about the scope and size of our upcoming book, Modernist Bread. With five full volumes and a kitchen manual, this enormous tome will be almost the exact size (and weight) of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. We were thrilled by the tremendous response we received. We heard from many of you, and the top question was “When can I order the book?” The answer is: now.

Modernist Bread: The Art and Science Book Trailer from Modernist Cuisine on Vimeo.

Beginning today, you can preorder Modernist Bread on through Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Phaidon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Bol.com, and Booktopia.com.au. You can also order the book through local bookstores that work with Ingram Content Group.

Like our first book, Modernist Bread retails for $625.00 USD and spans more than 2,300 pages. It’s time to clear space on your bookshelves, stock up on flour, and practice team-lifting the delivery box with a friend or loved one—we anticipate that Modernist Bread will arrive in May 2017 with our first foreign language editions in the queue for 2018.

We know that some of you have been following the progress of this project for some time, so we wanted to celebrate the countdown with a taste of what you will discover this May. To mark the arrival of the next bread revolution, we have created a companion 2017 wall calendar that features 14 of Modernist Bread’s most intriguing photos, which, we hope, will inspire you with the hidden beauty of bread. And now when you preorder Modernist Bread on Amazon.com US, you will receive the calendar for free while supplies last—it’s a tongue-in-cheek way to thank you for waiting so patiently.

While the Modernist Bread calendar offers a sneak peek of our newest photographs, we’re celebrating the outset of our photographic journey with the 2017 Modernist Cuisine calendar, a collection of the bold images that started it all. A snapshot of our readers’ favorite photos, it takes the book’s most captivating images off the pages, placing them onto your wall. In addition, when you purchase the Modernist Cuisine tome, you will receive the companion calendar for free, while supplies last.

Both 12-month calendars include the story behind each photo, as well as listing holidays and foodie celebrations in the United States and Canada. Retailing for $14.95, the calendars will ship in October so that you’ll have them before the winter holidays.

This isn’t the only news we have to share—read on for more details about Modernist Bread including a preview of the volumes, the new publication date and website, and what our team has been up to since our last post.

More pages, recipes, and answers to discover

Initially we thought that Modernist Bread was going to be a smaller book . . .

The process of transforming wheat into flour and then flour into bread is scientific, technological, artistic, and fairly magical. The appearance of a steak changes when you grill it, but it still resembles its raw form. Bread, however, looks nothing like the raw ingredients that went into it. Naturally, we had a lot of questions when we started this book. As we learned more, our discoveries inspired new questions, techniques, and recipes. Bread is even more complex and intriguing than we could have imagined—and so our book has grown. Thankfully, we aren’t known for making small books.

For Modernist Bread, that means telling the complete story of bread in a way that has never been done before. Since our last post in April, we have performed more than 100 additional experiments, created more than 200 recipes, and taken hundreds of photos. In all, we’ve added over 300 pages to the book. We continue to find more historical texts and freshly published studies by scientists who study bread, grains, and nutrition. We don’t want to leave out these incredible insights or the ideas that they have inspired, so we gave ourselves more time to make the book we want to make.

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Although Modernist Bread will now be arriving on shelves in May 2017—later than we originally anticipated—it will be gorgeously illustrated, including modern scientific research and rigorously tested techniques and recipes. We have collaborated and consulted with 75 industry leaders around the world, including historians Jim Chevallier and Steven Kaplan, grain experts Steven Jones and Maria Speck, and bakers Ken Forkish, Richard Miscovich, Peter Reinhart, and Didier Rosada. During book production we continue to seek new answers, updating and improving the manuscript until the files need to fly off to the printer.

For now, we’re excited to share how the book will be organized. Like Modernist Cuisine, the first volume covers bread history, health, and the fundamentals of science. But that’s where the similarities end. The chapters in volume two provide a detailed look at the components of bread—from the grains that become flour to ingredients that have Modernist applications—followed by the third volume, a guidebook to the techniques of bread making. The final volumes are devoted to our recipes (as we said, we’ve developed quite a collection). These chapters span classic breads and Modernist interpretations, as well as recipes for pretzels, bao, flatbreads, and avant-garde loaves. And, of course, a book about bread would not be complete without all the wonderful condiments we love to smear and pile on bread. You can expect a new look for the casing of Modernist Bread too—the set will be housed in a sleek stainless steel case instead of clear acrylic. We’re looking forward to revealing the final design of the case and all of our potential covers in the coming year.

New challenges and surprises— our photographic journey continues

Photography is an incredibly important element for all our titles. It shows the story of food. With Modernist Cuisine, our photography team faced the challenge of showing ingredients and the science of cooking from a new, intriguing perspective. Taking inspiration from the Modernist culinary movement, we developed and adapted techniques not normally used in food photography—the result is a distinctive visual style that celebrates the power of food.

For Modernist Bread, our photography team has faced a new set of challenges. With a single-subject book of this magnitude, we’re figuring out how to show bread making from different perspectives—our illustrations need to be fresh and engaging through the very last page. As a result, our photographic style has evolved. We’ve improved many of our original techniques thanks to modern technologies and better tools, and our team has discovered creative ways to illustrate the story of bread. With more than 3,000 photos, you will be able to peer inside of a toaster to understand how it works, and you’ll also see the history and science of bread come alive in ways that will surprise you.

In addition to creating a striking book, we also want our illustrations to provide practical value. We recognize that one of the barriers to learning about bread is a lack of useful photography. Bakers, for example, rely on visual and tactile cues throughout the bread-making process, but these cues can be difficult to summarize in words alone or to accurately depict in pictures. Each week, our photography, editorial, and culinary teams work together to make sure those important details are captured in our step-by-step photos.

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Ultimately, we hope that our photography allows readers to see food as we do—as a beautiful source of inspiration, wonder, and imagination. That’s exactly why we decided to create our 2017 Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Bread calendars. Each month features striking images that bring complex phenomena to life, illuminating the hidden beauty of simple ingredients and capturing a magical view of cooking or baking.

Learn how to redeem our special bundle offer

We don’t want you to miss out on the opportunity to take advantage of the special bundles we’ve created for Modernist Bread and Modernist Cuisine on Amazon.com, which is why we want to make sure you have all of the details before you order either of the books.

Each Amazon coupon is good for a $15 savings—the value of the calendars—on the price of either book. Although this is a bundled offer, each item ships separately, when it is available. This means that you don’t have to wait until May to receive your Modernist Bread calendar—it will ship as soon as they are in stock in October. When you are ready to preorder Modernist Bread or purchase Modernist Cuisine, visit the Amazon product pages for the companion calendars first. The coupon is linked to the calendars—it will become available for you to use towards the book after you purchase your calendar.

Redeeming the Amazon coupons takes a few steps, so we’ve put together instructions to help walk you through the process. You can watch the video below or read through the steps just below it to find out how the special Amazon.com coupon works.

 

  1. Purchase your Modernist Bread or Modernist Cuisine wall calendar.
  2. The coupon for a $15 savings will become available after the transaction is complete. You won’t immediately see the coupon– it will be waiting for you when you’re ready to order your book.
  3. Go to the Modernist Bread or Modernist Cuisine landing page.
  4. Add the book to your cart. The coupon will automatically appear under the price of the book when you view your shopping cart or on your Amazon coupon homepage.
  5. Click or tap on the “Clip Coupon” button. This will apply the coupon discount to the book.
  6. Proceed to checkout. The coupon savings will appear on the final order page under the ‘Place your Order’ button.

If you have any questions about Amazon coupons or experience any technical issues as you go through this process, please reach out to the Amazon team here or via phone at 1-888-280-3321 or 1-206-266-2992 for international customers. They will be more than happy to help.

A book (and new website) for any baker 

Our goals for Modernist Bread may seem audacious, but in the end, they all come down to a single objective. This book is a call to arms for any baker to embrace the possibilities of invention and follow inspiration to make breads in your own way.

The future of bread is already under way on our new site, modernistbread.com. Starting today, you can visit us there to preview content from our book. Over time, we’ll populate the site with sneak peeks of the photographs, facts, techniques, and recipes in Modernist Bread.

Project developments are never-ending. Join our mailing list, check our blog, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for news and announcements.

The Art and Science of Bread

We are frequently asked what our next big project will be, and for almost a year we’ve alluded to “having something in the works.” In actuality, our culinary team has been working overtime baking and learning about bread. From crust to crumb, we are excited to finally reveal that our next book will be entirely devoted to the art and science of bread.

Why bread? Because it’s so ubiquitous that we now have vast, daunting selections of breads to choose from at most grocery chains. Many of us have started taking the bread course for granted when dining out. But bread shouldn’t be an afterthought on the table or simply a building block for sandwiches—breaking open a good loaf of bread, fresh from the oven, is an experience that can evoke nostalgia for years to follow. For many of us, however, baking bread at home is intimidating and shrouded in mystery. Unlike cooking, most breads are made by varying the amounts of four simple ingredients: flour, water, salt, and, of course, yeast. Yet the simplicity of these ingredients is complicated by the intricate science of the bread-baking process and by the fact that bakers must contend with an ingredient that is alive and sensitive to its environment.

With thousands of years of wisdom that inform techniques still used today, the art of baking bread is steeped in tradition. As such, we are researching bread’s rich past and studying the science therein. We have been fortunate to meet a number of talented bakers and chefs who are sharing their expertise and knowledge with us, and we remain on the lookout for new experts and resources.

This project comes with another exciting announcement as we welcome to our team Francisco Migoya as head chef and Peter Reinhart as assignments editor. We are incredibly lucky to have recruited two individuals whose contributions to pastry and baking have already set the bar high.

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Under the leadership of head chef Migoya, our bread program has blossomed in a relatively short time. His passion has led him to push the boundaries of pastry arts in savory, pastry, viennoiserie, and bread. Chef Migoya pairs sublime flavors with Modernist techniques to create exquisite, avant-garde pastries and chocolates that are almost too stunning to eat. Having worked as executive pastry chef at The French Laundry, and most recently as a professor at The Culinary Institute of America, his work has earned him recognition as one of the top pastry chefs in the country by both the Huffington Post and Dessert Professional, and he has been imparted Medal of Master Artisan Pastry Chef by Gremi de Pastisseria de Barcelona. Chef Migoya has authored three pastry books, winning a 2014 award for The Elements of Dessert from International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).

Peter Reinhart Photo Credit Ron Manville

One of the leading authorities on bread, Peter Reinhart will lend his extensive expertise to this project. As a full-time chef on assignment at Johnson & Wales University, Peter teaches courses on baking and the juncture of food and culture. A best-selling author of nine books, his approachable methodologies and techniques have been embraced by home bakers and earned him numerous awards, including Book of the Year (2002) for The Bread Baker’s Apprentice from both IACP and the James Beard Foundation. Additionally, he won James Beard Foundation awards for Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads (2008) and Crust and Crumb (1997), with a nomination for Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day. His newest book, Bread Revolution, will be released in the fall of 2014.

Our hope for this project is that, by revealing the history, science, and techniques of baking bread, we will create an in-depth multivolume set of books that will be useful and accessible to amateur home bakers, passionate bread enthusiasts, restaurants, and small-scale bakeries alike. But because we are in the beginning stages of this book, we do not know how many volumes it will be or when it will go on sale. There is a lot for us to decide, but we will stay true to the approaches used for Modernist Cuisine, so readers can expect the same level of rigor and detail in our writing, illustrations, and photography as we attempt to showcase bread in a new light.

If you have a burning question about this project, or would like to contribute your expertise, we would love to hear from you. Please contact breadcontributions@modernistcuisine.com.

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Introducing the Modernist Cuisine at Home eBook edition!

We are thrilled to announce the eBook edition of Modernist Cuisine at Home, available now for $79.99! Powered by the Inkling platform, the digital version includes all the content from the print edition plus exclusive features and new content, making it a perfect companion to the print version. For the full list of features, see the product page.

Modernist Cuisine at Home on DevicesSo, why are we releasing an eBook now? Back when we started developing the original Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking book in 2004, there were no e-readers or tablet computers (the first black-and-white Kindle wasn’t introduced until late 2007). When work began on Modernist Cuisine at Home, e-readers and similar devices had matured but not enough to create the type of digital experience we wanted. Most eBooks were just digital reproductions of printed pages, which created problems for our over-sized, information-dense layouts—text would be too small to read, recipe tables would require a ballet of finger swiping to navigate, and screen resolutions of yesteryear would not have done justice to our vivid photography. We decided to print Modernist Cuisine at Home and wait for tablets and eBook publishing technologies to catch up to our needs.

Thanks to the Inkling platform and recent advancements in hardware, we knew we could create a digital edition of Modernist Cuisine at Home that would exceed, not sacrifice, the quality of the experience of cooking through our books.

Taking full advantage of the digital platform, the eBook lets you study a video* of a new or complex technique, quickly change the recipe yield, add items to a grocery list that syncs to your smartphone, and find product and ingredient recommendations with a single tap. Inkling also developed new features for the Modernist Cuisine at Home eBook to make it easy to search recipes by ingredient, tool, and difficulty level.

feature-recipes

With so many new features and additional content, we hope the Modernist Cuisine at Home eBook becomes an indispensable resource in your kitchen and an excellent companion to the print edition.

 

*Internet connection required for video playback.

Announcing Our New Book: The Photography of Modernist Cuisine

When I began writing Modernist Cuisine, I had several goals in mind: to explore the scientific principles behind cooking, to explain the latest Modernist techniques from the top restaurants around the world, and to punctuate the collection with stunning visuals. Nearly every review that came in cited our photography; even commenters who took issue with the Modernist approach or found the book too long or daunting praised the photos and illustrations.

I think we owed that enthusiastic reception, in part, to the fact that our photography stood out as distinctive in a world crowded with food imagery. We created cutaway photos that offer dramatic views inside previously hidden realms of cooking. We stepped away from recent trends in food photography, which have long seemed to me to focus more on the ambiance than the actual food, and shot our dishes on black and white backgrounds that highlight the beauty inherent in the subjects. We also deployed a wide range of photographic techniques, such as compositing, microscopy, macro photography, and diffuse lighting, to create photos that are informative as well as visually interesting.

canning cutaway

This approach required extra time, effort, and money, but it was worth it. I love photography as much as I love food and cooking. It’s been a passion of mine for as long as cooking has (since grade school)!

Soon after the publication of our second cookbook, Modernist Cuisine at Home, I started thinking more seriously about the hundreds of thousands of photos that my team and I have made and collected over the years’ those that made it into the volumes of our books and the many more that didn’t. I decided to showcase them in a new way by creating a book dedicated to the images themselves.

The Photography of Modernist Cuisine Collage

We pored over our vast photo library and ultimately selected 405 photos for our book, The Photography of Modernist Cuisine. Of those images, 145 are presented full-bleed across one or two full pages. As we look at these images, it’s hard to resist the temptation to comment on their backstories, to share some of the scientific, culinary, or photographic context to the image. We didn’t want to add captions on the images that would distract from their impact, so we have instead included a chapter in the back of the book that presents some short but interesting backstory for each photo. Readers who dip into that section will learn, for example, how I coaxed crystals of vitamin C to produce a kaleidoscopic explosion of colors, how we use enzymes to remove the peel from the tender juice sacs of a grapefruit, or how you can quickly turn fresh herbs into a crispy snack or garnish in your microwave oven.

Grapefruit_close up

We also included a chapter that reveals, in a very visual way, all of the major methods that we used to make these images. From cut-in-half kettle grills to levitating hamburgers, we explain how it was done. We even have a few pages on how to get the best food shots in restaurants if all you have handy is a point-and-shoot camera or a camera phone. While we were at it, we cut a camera lens in half to illustrate how it works.

One thing you won’t find in our new book is a single recipe. When I first told friends about our new project, they thought it was a nice idea, but asked, “Of course, you’re going to have a few recipes, right?”

No. This is a photo book. If you’d like to try our recipes, and we hope you will, please check out our other books, or click here.

In 2011 Modernist Cuisine tested the then dubious proposition that people would buy a six-volume cookbook. The Photography of Modernist Cuisine is a similar experiment: Will others share our desire for an art-quality book that immerses readers in vistas of food that are familiar, yet profoundly new? I hope that readers will be drawn to our photos and will share with us the child-like wonder and curiosity that we feel when we look at them.

 

The Photography of Modernist Cuisine Straight On

The Photography of Modernist Cuisine will be released October 22, 2013.

 

Introducing the Modernist Cuisine Special Edition Baking Steel

We love Neapolitan-style pizza. With its bubbly crust cooked to perfection, it is held to high esteem in the pizza world for good reason. The trouble is that home ovens don’t reach the scorching 800 °F used to create a blistering crust in a wood-fired oven. We researched this problem and in Modernist Cuisine shared how a steel plate can help give home ovens a needed boost to create Neapolitan-style pizza.

We partnered with Baking Steel and are happy to announce that we’ve created the Modernist Cuisine Special Edition Baking Steel to consistently deliver perfect Neapolitan-style pizzas in a home oven. We performed rigorous tests to find the perfect balance between steel thickness, performance, and weight. Retailing for $99, it’s sold exclusively through Bakingsteel.com and is available today with free shipping!

Throughout the week, we’ll be sharing pizza recipes and other great uses of a baking steel. You can learn more about it here. Please let us know what you think.

 

Modernist Cuisine Special Edition Baking Steel with cheese and basil pizza

Modernist Cuisine at Home Nominated for Awards

We are thrilled to announce that Modernist Cuisine at Home has been nominated for a James Beard Award in the “General Cooking” category. Also nominated in that category are Canal House Cooks Every Day and What Katie Ate.

In 2012, winning the James Beard Award for Modernist Cuisine in the categories “Cookbook of the Year” as well as “Professional Cookbook” was one of the highlights of our year. We are very much looking forward to the award ceremonies. The award winners for cookbooks will be announced on May 3, 2013.

Modernist Cuisine at Home was also recently nominated for an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) award in the category of “Food and Beverage, Reference/Technical.” In that category, The Art of Fermentation and Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking were also nominated. Last year, Modernist Cuisine won three IACP awards—in the “Professional Kitchen Books” category, the “Design” category, and also their newly created “Visionary Achievement” category.

On top of that, our CHOW.com video series, MDRN KTCHN, was nominated in the “Short Video Series” category. Kitchen Confidence on Food52.com and Master Class on Saveur.com were also nominated.

We are deeply honored to have been nominated for both the James Beard and IACP awards. Congratulations and best of luck to all other nominees!

Win a Dorm Room Dinner Party

Update: Due to popular demand, we’ve extended the entry deadline to October 26th!

Dorm-room living has never been synonymous with delicious, home-cooked food. When it comes to cooking in a dorm, it may be hard to imagine producing much more than a cup of ramen noodles and a toaster pastry. But armed with Modernist Cuisine at Home, we’ll show one lucky winner that a little cooking knowledge goes a long way, even in small spaces. Small appliances like microwaves, toaster ovens, hot plates, and, of course, sous vide machines are capable of producing delicious results when paired with the right recipes and techniques.

To prove that great cooking can happen anywhere, we’re partnering with Seattle Weekly to host a Modernist Cuisine Dorm Room Dinner Party contest. If you’re a college student in the greater Seattle area, you can enter to win a dinner party for yourself and eight of your friends. You’ll also win a copy of Modernist Cuisine at Home, a PolyScience Sous Vide Professional CREATIIVE Series immersion circulator, a PolyScience Smoking Gun, an iSi Whipping Siphon, and the opportunity to cook alongside Modernist Cuisine chefs. You can find full details on seattleweekly.com and read the contest rules here.

For those of you who are no longer students, know that you can experience your culinary youth again on better terms when Modernist Cuisine at Home comes out next month. We’ll show you how to elevate pizza, wings, hamburger, and many other classics. As for perfecting the proportion of spirits in “jungle juice,” you’ll have to ask a current student for that.

To Enter:

Create a video of a cooking show (starring you, of course) which shows why you need the Modernist Cuisine folks to help you throw a dinner party, and then upload it to YouTube with “mcvideocontest” as its tag.

The show should run no longer than two minutes, and must be filmed in your dorm room or kitchen-less residence. Your demonstration needs to include at least one of the following five ingredients: ramen noodles, Sriracha, coffee, peanut butter, or an energy drink. Once you’ve uploaded your video, e-mail mcvideocontest@seattleweekly.com with your name, age, school, area of study, and a brief description of your living space.

All entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, October 26, 2012. The contest is open to individuals who are 18 or older and enrolled at University of Washington, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, Evergreen State College, or any other residential tertiary institution between Tacoma and Everett (the south and north, respectively), and North Bend and Seattle (the east and west, respectively). Entrants must be available for the dinner party between October 29th, 2012, and December 1st, 2012, and willing to have the experience filmed.

Most importantly, only students who do not have access to a working kitchen are eligible. If you live in an apartment or an apartment-style dorm suite, you can’t play. A hot plate, mini-fridge, or microwave is fine. A sink, stove, or centrifuge is not. If you’re unsure whether you qualify, send an e-mail to mcvideocontest@seattleweekly.com.

A panel of qualified judges will judge entries based on the following criteria: the most apt, original, and interesting video; creative demonstration of why you deserve to have the Modernist Cuisine chefs help you cook without a kitchen; unique presentation of video themes; overall quality of your video. Good luck!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS CONTEST. Void where prohibited. Odds of winning depend on the number and quality of eligible entries received. Contest is subject to Official Rules. For more details, restrictions, and Official Rules, visit https://modernistcuisine.com/inyourplacecontestrules/. Contest is sponsored by The Cooking Lab, LLC, located at 3150 139th Ave SE, Ste 500, Bellevue, Washington 98005.