Gift Guide 2016: Gear up for Bread

This year the idea for our gift guide came from our community. In the months after preorders for Modernist Bread began, many of you have asked us what gear you will need to begin baking through the book when it arrives.

We’ve put together this guide to help you stock up on supplies or shop for your favorite baker. It features 19 basic items that you will find in any well-stocked bakery, as well as other helpful tools. Many of these selections are inexpensive like the $39 cast-iron cooker that beautifully bakes bread in home ovens, but there are also a few splurges on the list, which we think are wise investments.

The Basics

1. Baking pans

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Why it’s a bakery essential: Simple metal loaf pans can be used for proofing as well as baking. They keep proofing dough in place so that it can be easily moved. Pans also mold proofing dough and help hold the shape.

Features to look for: You need to have a few basic pans in several sizes so that you can choose one that is appropriate for the bread you want to prepare. The dimensions of the pans we recommend below are the ones we most frequently use for our sandwich breads, brioche, and gluten-free breads. Although baking pans come in a variety of shapes, there’s generally no need to buy specialty pans unless you want to make a bread in its traditional shape. The material or thickness of the pans aren’t terribly important, but you will want a durable nonstick coating, which does make it easier to quickly remove hot loaves and reduce cleanup.

Price range: $10–$50

Start your search with:

Commercial II Non-Stick 1 lb Loaf Pan (21.59 cm by 11.43 cm by 6.99 cm / 8.5 in by 4.5 in by 2.75 in) by Chicago Metallic

Aluminized Steel 1.25 lb Loaf Pan with non-stick Americoat coating (22.86 cm by 12.7 cm by 7 cm / 9 in  by 5 in  by 2.75 in) by USA Pans

Aluminized Steel 1.5 lb Pullman Pan with non-stick silicon glaze (33 cm by 10 cm by 10 cm / 13 in by 4 in by 4 in) by Focus Foodservice

Custom Baking Pans (for artisanal bakeries) by Lloyd Pans

2. Baskets

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Why it’s a bakery essential: Some of the most common items found in a bakery are wicker or cane baskets (bannetons or brotforms), which are used to hold and mold shaped pieces of dough during final proofing. The baskets are seasoned with flour, which, over time, serves as a nonstick surface.

Features to look for: Proofing baskets come in many different sizes and forms meant for specific shapes. It’s good to have go-to baskets for standard shapes like boule (round) and bâtard (oval), but you can also find baskets to mold dough into special shapes such as couronne bordelaise (a Bordeaux-style crown), triangle, double boule, and others.

Lining is another important consideration for choosing baskets. Some baskets have no lining and will imprint your dough with the pattern of the wicker; other versions are linen-lined. We recommend unlined baskets for doughs with a relatively firm consistency. Lined baskets work well for both high-hydration and drier doughs because the flour adheres to the linen and makes the dough easier to unmold. Baskets with removable linen covers are the most versatile options, giving you the benefits of both.

Price range: $15–$40

Start your search with:

10-inch Wicker Boule Basket with Removable Linen Liner (for 800 – 1000 g of dough) from San Francisco Baking Institute

8-inch Wicker Boule Basket with Removable Linen Liner (for 500 – 750 g of dough) from San Francisco Baking Institute

Coiled Bâtard Basket (for 500 – 650 g of dough) from San Francisco Baking Institute

3. Cast Iron Cooker

Lodge Combination Cast Iron Cooker

Why it’s a bakery essential: Baking in a pot is hands down our favorite method for making bread in a home oven. The pot’s base and lid create a tightly enclosed environment for the proofed and scored dough. Cast iron absorbs heat well and retains it even better, helping to mitigate the temperature drop when you open the oven door.

Features to look for: When it comes to these pots, you don’t have to spend an exorbitant amount. We’ve tested a lot of cookware, but our favorite is the simple cast-iron combo cooker. You can bake extraordinary bread at home with this inexpensive, multipurpose pot. The cooker actually is a two-piece set that consists of a Dutch oven and a skillet that is repurposed as a lid. For bread, we use the skillet as the base and the Dutch oven as the lid, which makes transferring dough less complicated. We find that 800 g of dough fits perfectly in most three-quart cast-iron combination cookers.

Price range: $39

Start your search with:

Cast Iron Combination Cooker by Lodge

4. Plastic tubs

Why it’s a bakery essential: Storage is an important consideration for bakers, and clear plastic tubs are the storage bins of choice. Up for almost any stowage task, these bins come in a range of sizes; they make it easy to keep an eye on the contents inside; and they stack much like nesting dolls when they aren’t being used. Long rectangular storage boxes can be used to hold fermenting dough, while preferments, ingredients, and old dough are often stored in square versions. Tall tubs make great vessels when weighing large quantities of water—some can even transform into water bath containers when cooking sous vide.

Features to look for: Clear plastic bins with airtight lids are useful to have in a variety of sizes. The Cambro brand is so habitually used that the name is practically a generic term for the tubs in professional kitchens. Another kitchen vocabulary word to know is ‘lexan’, which is another name for the durable polycarbonate sheets that are often used to make commercial storage boxes, pans, and containers for food.

Price range: $9–$40

Start your search with:

Camwear Polycarbonate Food Storage Box (17.98 L / 4.75 gal) by Cambro

Camwear Polycarbonate Food Storage Box (33.12 L / 8.75 gal) by Cambro

Camwear Polycarbonate Square Plastic Food Container (in assorted sizes) by Cambro

5. Plastic bags or tarps

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Why it’s a bakery essential: They may not make the most exciting gift, but plastic bags and tarps are essential tools for bakers. They’re used to cover dough to keep it from drying out as it rests on a worktable.

Features to look for: More likely than not, you already have suitable covers in your pantry. Clean trash bags work, however we prefer eco-friendly transparent compostable bags.

Price range: $5–$16

Start your search with:

Heavy Duty Compostable Trash Bags (in assorted sizes) by Stout

6. Thermometer

ThermoWorks Mk4 Digital Thermometer

Why it’s a bakery essential: Digital thermometers are indispensable tools, and any baker will benefit from having one in their pocket. Small changes in temperature can make all the difference in cooking and baking, which is why we measure it as accurately as possible. A good digital thermometer can be used to improvise a water bath to cook sous vide, and you can also calibrate your home oven with an oven-safe probe.

Features to look for: One of our favorite digital thermometers is the Thermapen Mk4. It’s extremely accurate, has a slender probe, and can connect to a Type K Thermocouple. Home bakers will also want a basic oven thermometer.

Price range: $5–$80

Start your search with:

Thermapen Mk4 by ThermoWorks

Commercial Stainless Steel Oven Monitoring Thermometer by Rubbermaid

7. Digital Scale

Why it’s a bakery essential: This is the piece of equipment we recommend most emphatically for all bakers. If you have been measuring ingredients only by the cup and teaspoon, now is a great time to buy a good scale to begin applying more precision to your recipe measurements. Some high-capacity kitchen scales display baker’s percentages as well as grams, which is another benefit. A super-precise fine weight scale is the best way to measure tiny quantities of ingredients like yeast or salt.

Features to look for: Bakers should really have two scales: a relatively high-capacity kitchen scale and a fine weight pocket scale for measuring small quantities. The standard scale should be accurate to one decimal place and should have the capacity to weigh double the amount of our standard recipes plus the weight of the mixing bowl. For larger quantities of dough, look for scales that can hold even more weight. The fine weight scale should be accurate to .01 g. If you don’t want to spend a lot, an inexpensive 200 g pocket-sized version will work just fine. All-purpose scales exist that will cover both these requirements, but they are expensive.

Price range: $15–$115

Start your search with:

Baker’s Kitchen Scale (8,000 g capacity) by My Weigh

Salter 405 General Purpose Scale (6,000 g or 15,000 g capacity) by Salter Brecknell

Scout Pro Portable Electronic Balance (200 by .01 g) by Ohaus

Digital Gram Pocket Scale (200 by .01 g) by American Weigh Scale

8. Timers

ThermoWorks Extra Big and Loud Timer

Why it’s a bakery essential: Baking bread is a time-intensive process that also requires time management skills. In addition to telling you when to remove your bread from the oven, digital timers will help you keep track of dough as it ferments and proofs, especially when you’re managing several doughs and kitchen tasks at a time.

Features to look for: Timers should be easy to use, with loud alarms that can be heard across a noisy bakery or from another room. Have several basic timers on hand for juggling tasks.

Price range: $10–$30

Start your search with:

Extra Big and Loud Timer by ThermoWorks

9. Bench knife (bench scraper)

Bench Knife

Why it’s a bakery essential: A bench knife, also referred to as a bench scraper, is another inexpensive but invaluable tool highly recommended. Even though there are several options available for mechanically dividing dough, a bench knife and a scale work the best.

Features to look for: We prefer a sharp metal version for cleanly cutting dough, lifting sticky dough, and scraping dough residue off the table. Plastic ones will get the job done, but they can make cutting and scraping dough more difficult because they are generally thicker and less sharp than metal scrapers.

Price range: $10–$20

Start your search with:

Stainless Steel Dough Scraper with Polypropylene Handle by Dexter-Russell

Flexible Dough and Bowl Scrapers (set of four) by Prepatize

10. Lame

 

Why it’s a bakery essential: Our go-to tool for scoring dough is a classic: the lame. A lame is a sharp razor blade held in place by a handle. The blades are cheap and can be replaced easily, which isn’t necessarily true of other cutting tools, such as a paring knife.

Features to look for: Lames come in several styles. Basic lame handles are often made from metal or plastic. Look for razor blades that are thin and flexible as many lames are designed to make the blade curve. Disposable versions have a blade that can’t be removed or sharpened. Professional bakers generally avoid disposable lames because they need to replace the lame blades often (usually at the end of the day). A wood-handled lame is an attractive showpiece with a heft that makes it easier for the blade to slice the dough. The drawback is that it can be pricey and can’t make a razor blade curve.

Price range: $6–$40

Start your search with:

Stainless Steel Lame from San Francisco Baking Institute

Professional Disposable Lame (pack of 5) by Scaritech

Hand-Crafted Walnut Wood-Handled Lame by Zatoba

Stainless Steel Double Edge Razor Blades by Personna

More Tools

11. Baking steel and baking stone

Why we recommend it: A baking steel or stone is one of our favorite tools for making pizza and flatbreads, including naan and pita, and pan loaves. Steel provides enough thermal mass to replicate the environment of a wood-fired oven, allowing you to rapidly produce Neapolitan-style pizza in your own kitchen. We prefer using a stone to bake pan loaves and other breads because steel tends to scorch the bottom of larger loaves.

Price range: $50–$120

Start your search with:

Modernist Cuisine Special Edition Baking Steel by Baking Steel

Rectangular Baking Stone (35.56 cm by 41.91 cm by 1.27 cm / 14 in by 16 in by .5 in) by Old Stone Oven

12. Pastry brushes

Why we recommend it: Any bakery or kitchen can benefit from having several pastry brushes. Reserve different brushes for specific purposes—for instance, designating one for cooking sugar and another for egg washes.

Features to look for: We like to use pastry brushes with natural or fine synthetic bristles over the thicker silicone brushes that leave track marks. Synthetic bristles are more hygienic and can be incredibly soft, which makes them a good choice for egg washing more delicate doughs. Art or home improvement stores often have great options—paintbrushes that meet these specifications can easily double as pastry brushes.

Price range: $6–$15

Start your search with:

Restore Flat Synthetic Premium Mottler Brush (assorted sizes) by Global Art Materials

13. Stand Mixer

Why we recommend it: We use a stand mixer for most home baking and also recommend it for small restaurant production. It’s the biggest splurge on our list, but a good stand mixer is a gift that will make any baker happy. A stand mixer is a small version of a planetary mixer that can comfortably sit on any work surface, occupying minimal space. They have the same mixing attachments as well—most come with a hook, paddle, and whip.

Stand mixers are incredibly versatile countertop tools. They can be used for much more than mixing, thanks to additional attachments that can use the spinning motor to sheet pasta dough, grind meat, mill grains into flour, chop vegetables, and even make ice cream.

Features to look for: A stand mixer can be a big investment, so look for models that have a strong motor, which is important for making drier doughs, and a broad range of speed settings, from very slow to very fast. A five-quart consumer stand mixer will work for home bakers who are making up to a kilo of dough—the minimum in most of our recipes—at a time. But beyond that, we find that these mixers tend to hop around the table and need more power. We recommend investing in a commercial stand mixer with a sturdy base if you plan to frequently make seven quarts of dough or more.

The Ankarsrum mixer is not very common, but we like using it for our gluten-free breads in particular and for mixing paste-like doughs, such as 100% rye breads. It has one arm that performs the mixing and another that scrapes the spinning bowl, making for a very efficient mix. The design makes it easy to pour ingredients in the bowl, which is unobstructed by the motor housing that most stand mixers have.

The flat solid base won’t dance around the counter, either.

Price range: $250–$900

Start your search with:

Original AKM S 6220 Stand Mixer by Ankarsrum

Professional 5 Plus Series 5-Quart Stand Mixer by KitchenAid

7-Quart Commercial Countertop Stand Mixer with Guard by Vollrath

10-Quart Gear Driven Commercial Planetary Stand Mixer with Guard by Avantco

15. Bench brush

Why we recommend it: Messes are hard to avoid when you bake bread. A bench brush is a small investment, but it will help you to quickly clean surfaces between handling dough. These special hand brooms offer an easy way to sweep flour and bits of dough away from your work space.

Price range: $8–$20

Start your search with:

Wood Handle Counter Duster with Flagged Silver Polystyrene Bristles by Weiler

16. Water spritzer

Why we recommend it: Bakers use spritzers to keep dough moist after it has been mixed. A light mist of water will prevent the dough’s surface from becoming tough and dry while it is exposed to air. The spritzer itself is basic, but remember to change the water in it at least once a week.

Features to look for: Although any spritzer is up for the task, clear bottles allow you to keep an eye on the liquid inside.

Price range: $7–$15

Start your search with:

Clear Plastic Spray Bottle by Soft ‘N Style

17. Couche

couche

Why we recommend it: A couche is a swatch of plain linen cloth that sits between the dough and a flat surface; the cloth is creased to cradle the dough it holds. Couches absorb excess moisture from dough during the proofing process so that the board stays relatively dry, making it easier to slide the dough off surfaces and keeping portioned dough from touching other pieces or losing its shape as it expands.

Features to look for: You can purchase prepackaged options on many sites, however, we like to buy our couches by the yard to specifically suit our needs.

Price range: $15–$30

Start your search with:

Linen Couche (by the yard) from San Francisco Baking Institute

Custom Proofing Cloths (for artisanal bakeries) by Cleanbake

18. Peels and Transfer Boards

Why we recommend it: Peels and paddles are used to transfer dough onto a baking surface.

Features to look for: A single average-sized paddle is sufficient for some bakers, but it’s also helpful to have larger peels if you plan on making large quantities of bread. Metal peels are better than wooden ones for flatbreads and pizzas because they are thinner and can easily slide under the crusts.

The transfer board is the best all-purpose piece of equipment you can use to transfer dough. They come in a number of shapes and sizes, but we use only the long thin ones that are intended for baguettes because they also work for practically any other dough shape.

Price range: $16-$70

Start your search with:

Super Peel in Polymer-Sealed White Ash by EXO

“Big 16” 16-Inch Super Peel with Aluminum Blade and Black Cherry Handle by EXO

Aluminum Pizza Peel with Wooden Handle (assorted sizes) by Kitchen Supply

Baguette Transfer Board by Breadtopia

19. Wooden boards and sheet pans

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Why we recommend it: In a bakery, wooden boards or the back of sheet pans are used for proofing dough, especially high-hydration doughs that are too wet to hold their shape. Both are lined with a floured couche to prevent the dough from spreading out.

Features to look for: After use, wooden boards must be dried out quickly and completely to decrease the risk of contamination and prevent warping. If you prefer sheet pans, it’s worth having full-size, half-size, and quarter-size sheet pans as well as wire racks that fit on top of them.

Price range: $10–$30

Start your search with:

Aluminum Full, Quarter, and Half Sheet Pans by Lloyd Pans

Poplar Wooden Proofing Board (45.72 by 66.04 cm / 18 by 26 in) by BakeDeco

20. Serrated knives

Why we recommend it: Beyond a general-purpose chef’s knife and a paring knife, bakers will benefit from a few good serrated knives. A serrated paring knife is good for smaller items; a long version is best for cutting big pieces of bread; and an offset one is helpful for chopping chocolate and nuts. An electric knife, the sort typically used only for annual turkey carving, can get additional use when employed to slice bread. The serrated blade does all of the work, making it easy to carve off a perfect slice in a single motion.

Features to look for: Many serrated knives do a fine enough job of cutting bread without costing a lot of money. Just make sure the knife is very sharp and has long, pronounced teeth.

Price range: $18–$130

Start your search with:

High-Carbon Stainless Steel 10-inch Serrated Bread Knife with Walnut Handle by Chicago Cutlery

16 Gauge Stainless Steel 14-inch Serrated Bread Knife by Fat Daddio’s

Damascus Bread Knife by Kasumi

Stainless Steel Electric Knife with Wood Block by Cuisinart

21. Personalized Tools

Why we recommend it: Personalized tools are thoughtful gift ideas for experienced bakers who want to put their own stamp on bread recipes. We’ve had several tools, including silicon molds, pans, and rolling pins, custom made for us so that we could mold dough into special shapes or apply it as a decoration. Silicon molds come in many sizes and shapes, sometimes with elaborate detail, or you can have them custom-made with a unique design, name, or bakery logo. An embossed rolling pin engraved with patterns or text is another way bakers can make their mark. We use our own personalized pins to roll out crackers.

Start your search with:

Custom and Decorative Silicon Molds by Chicago School of Mold Making

Personalized Rolling Pin by Valek Rolling Pins

Books and Calendars

22. Modernist Bread: The Art and Science

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All signs indicate that bread is going to be big in 2017. In May, sourdough bread made its debut as a rising star in Google’s 2016 Food Trends Report. Their data confirms our own observations over the last few years—there is a new thirst for knowledge about bread making. We believe that the greatest age of bread is about to begin, and Modernist Bread will give all bakers the tools they need to be part of this revolution. It’s the ultimate gift for any baker who is ready to make better bread.

List Price: $625

Modernist Bread: The Art and Science

23. 2017 modernist Wall Calendars

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The Modernist Bread and Modernist Cuisine 2017 wall calendars make fantastic gifts for curious cooks, passionate bakers, and food photographers. We pulled together some of our favorite images from each of our books to create our new calendars. Each month reveals food from a different perspective, as well as the story behind the photo. We can’t think of a better way to organize meal planning, keep track of a new sourdough starter, record New Year’s resolution progress, or count down to the day Modernist Bread ships.

The Modernist Bread calendar is the perfect way to let someone know that they have a book coming their way this spring. While supplies last, they are essentially free when you buy Modernist Bread from Amazon. For more details on how to redeem this special offer, click here. You will also receive the calendar for free, for a limited time, if you preorder the book through Kitchen Arts & Letters.

Price: $14.95

Modernist Bread 2017 Wall Calendar

Modernist Cuisine 2017 Wall Calendar

Good Things are on the Rise for Modernist Bread

A title, publication date, plus more. Discover what we’ve been up to over the last year.

Over four years ago, the Modernist Cuisine team began to sleep, eat, and breathe bread—with an emphasis on the eating part. Of course we love all food, but one could say that we’ve become enthusiastic carbivores. We still have much to learn about bread, but we have reached a significant mile marker of our journey: an official book title and a tentative publication date. And we’re excited to share those with you—we anticipate that you will be able to find Modernist Bread: The Art and Science on bookshelves in March 2017.

Photo credit: Nathan Myhrvold / Modernist Cuisine, LLC

Our passion for bread goes beyond appreciation for a really good loaf. Since this project began, we have fully immersed ourselves in the world of bread, both baking and researching it, all in the pursuit of understanding everything we possibly can about the science of bread and baking. As we’ve learned more about bread, our team has come across a rather interesting phenomenon: every new answer that we discover leads to a new question. The ingredient list can be simple, but baking bread is deceptively complex. There are still many puzzles to solve for the scientific community that studies it. Our team has performed over 1,500 experiments to date, and we’re still experimenting.

Countless loaves later, we’ve amassed (and are still generating) an incredible amount of content, so much so that it will fill five volumes, just like our first passion project, Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. The culinary team has developed more than 1,200 recipes from around the world that are both traditional and avant-garde. At over a million words so far, Modernist Bread will total over 2,000 pages and feature more than 3,000 new photos.

What is Modernist Bread?

Bread has been around for a long time, and it’s one of the most technologically sophisticated foods you can make. Yet, throughout the last century, the general perception of bread has changed. It has become a good that is purchased and not made at home. For many people without access to wonderful local bakeries, bread is an afterthought at the store, and at restaurants, it’s typically served merely as an accompaniment to satiate diners as they wait for their meal to arrive. Unfortunately, it has also suffered another fate far worse—avoidance. Bread has become public enemy number one, deemed unhealthy for one reason or another, usually thanks to an abundance of bad information and poorly made bread.

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Nevertheless, a new movement is taking form in bakeries and kitchens across the globe. The next generation of bakers and chefs are positioning bread and grain back at the center of the table, infusing a 6,000-year-old tradition with a renewed spirit of creativity and innovation. As they begin to experiment, there’s a new thirst for knowledge about bread. It’s flowing out of the professional environment and into homes where people want to know how to bake bread again and how to bake it well. In many ways, Modernist Bread is a celebration of this shifting paradigm and the exciting conversations that people are having about bread.

A new home

There have been other big developments for our team, specifically over the last year. Namely, Modernist Cuisine has a new home.

The Cooking Lab. Photo credit: Chris Hoover and Duncan Smith / Modernist Cuisine, LLC

Our old kitchen was housed in a building that was a Harley-Davidson showroom during its previous incarnation. That space took shape organically as we worked on Modernist Cuisine. The long rectangular layout evolved as the scope of the book expanded and necessitated new equipment, the placement of which was dictated by where we could find available outlets instead of kitchen ergonomics. Our photo studio was located away from the kitchen in a different part of the building, which made some shoots challenging. Large dishes and projects, such as our Gaudí Gingerbread House, needed to be slowly (and tediously) wheeled through a maze of narrow corridors.

Our old kitchen will always be special to us because it was our first home, but our new space is already home. It’s larger and more functional. Our photo studio and kitchen are side by side, a change that has enhanced the collaboration between the culinary and photography teams. The square kitchen now makes it much easier to navigate and reduces the number of steps the culinary team takes throughout the day. It makes tasks like lifting heavy tubs of dough and carrying 50-pound sacks of flour that much easier. Baking bread all day is an incredibly labor-intensive craft.

Moving a culinary wonderland took about a year of planning and a month to relocate. All of our equipment is here, including the centrifuge, roto-stator homogenizer, and CVap, for which we’ve found new applications in baking. There are also a few new additions to the space. Being in a bigger space has allowed us to use new research tools, expanding what we’re able to do in-house.

Bread Scanner Photo credit: Chris Hoover / Modernist Cuisine, LLC

We use a 3D scanner to create three-dimensional models of our test loaves in order to compare their volumes and densities. To better understand how different flours and doughs behave during mixing and baking, we use a Chopin Mixolab. This machine measures the resistance to mixing, and the integrated software converts the data into six qualitative indices that describe important properties of dough.

Photo credit: Chris Hoover / Modernist Cuisine, LLC

Another new tool is the Calibre C-Cell, used in the commercial baking industry, which allows us to test the quality of flour, assess gas cell structure of the crumb and quality surface features, and measure the height and width of different types of breads.

C-Cell Machine. Photo credit: Chris Hoover / Modernist Cuisine, LLC

We’re now able to take all of our microscopy photos in-house. A scanning electron microscope helps us to look at ingredients at the molecular level. We’re able to see an incredible new view of bread, from the gluten structure to mold and yeast. We’ve discovered that the science of baking also happens to be fantastically beautiful—it’s just one of the many discoveries we’re thrilled to share in Modernist Bread.

SEM Machine. Photo credit: Chris Hoover / Modernist Cuisine, LLC

What’s to come

From time-tested traditions to brand-new discoveries, Modernist Bread will capture the science, history, and techniques that will transform foodies into bread experts. Whether you are a strict traditionalist, avid modernist, home baker, restaurant chef, or an artisanal baker, we hope that this book will open your eyes to possibilities of invention and different ways of thinking.

Toaster Cutaway. Photo credit: Chris Hoover / Modernist Cuisine, LLC The Cooking

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

Keeping it Fresh: Make Your Juice Last Longer

Jack LaLanne was the world’s first fitness superhero, the “godfather of fitness.” He also really loved juice. The Jack LaLanne Juicer turned juicing into a mainstream practice and juicers into common kitchen equipment.

Research studies have yet to validate claims that juicing is more beneficial than eating whole fruits and vegetables, with some studies suggesting that cleanses or excessive consumption can do more harm than good. Juicing, within reason, is a great way to incorporate these ingredients into your diet if you aren’t naturally inclined to eat your fruits and veggies. There is also something undeniably delightful about a glass of fresh-squeezed juice or the unique flavor combinations that can be created—orange-durian-strawberry-mango-kale, anyone?

Whether you juice for health or to please your palate, here is everything you need to know about how to help your juice stay fresh and vibrantly colored for as long as possible and about selecting the proper juicer for your needs.

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How Juicing Works

Juicing seems like a violent practice. There are gentler ways of retrieving flavor, such as stock making, when we coax flavors from these ingredients as they simmer. Juicing, however, is a form of violence on the biological building blocks of food so that we can unlock the liquid essence within. This means rupturing cells, but the cellular violence is well worth it—juicing yields incredibly rich flavors.

The rich flavors are fleeting, reserved for the freshest juice, which explains why the fresh stuff will always taste better than store-bought counterparts. When we make juice, sugars, acids, and peel oils combine to make the unmistakable flavor of fresh juice; however, over time, the acidity ruins the incredible flavor by destroying the aromatic peel oils over time.

Making the Most of Your Juice

Juicing is only half the battle. Freshly squeezed juice is fleeting. Although cellular destruction is required to release flavor-creating enzymes, as soon as cell walls are ruptured, the clock and biology will start working against you. The same oils that imbue juice with intense flavors and bright colors oxidize quickly. Aromas and flavors begin to diminish as flavor compounds break down.

When we cut open a piece of fruit, we know that it will eventually turn an unappetizing brown. The same applies for the liquid of those fruits. Many juices brown quickly in reaction to the trauma of juicing. Browning is a defense mechanism that plants use to prevent infection. To defend against germs, plants raise antimicrobial defenses. One mechanism is the release of the enzyme polyphenol oxidase (PPO) from tissue, which leads to the production of protective compounds, such as tannins, and to brown color. Pulp presents another issue. It typically browns long before the liquid. Pulp contains high concentrations of oxidizing enzymes and their molecular targets.

KIT3_Freeze finish_MG_3625

Browning may seem like a strange issue for those of us who are accustomed to purchasing juice at the store. Those juices, however, have already been treated to prevent color change and to preserve flavor. Although juicing is a relatively simple technique, these seven tips, used alone or in combination, will help you to improve your product and get the most out of your produce.

  • First, keep everything cold. Browning is caused by enzymes that respond to heat: for every 10°C/ 18°F drop in temperature, enzymatic activity falls by about half. You can safely chill most fruits to just above freezing before juicing them; however, avoid chilling subtropical produce, such as bananas, mangoes, avocados, and strawberries. Chilling these fruits can induce chilling injury, wherein low temperatures reduce the quality of produce.
  • Freezing produce prior to juicing will also prevent browning. Deep-freezing will permanently destroy the browning enzymes; however, flavor-creating enzymes might take a bit of a hit. If you decide to freeze your produce, thaw prior to juicing, unless you want to have a smoothie on your hands.
  • A three-minute dip in boiling water destroys browning enzymes. Blanching requires high temperatures, though, which will partially cook food by the time the enzymes break down.
  • Although some of us prefer a little pulp in our juice, filtering it out will eliminate the tissue that enzymes act on to form brown pigments.
  • Try lowering the pH of your juice. The more acidic the juice, the slower the enzymatic reactions that cause discoloration. High acidity also acts directly on brown pigments to lighten their color.
  • If you own a vacuum sealer, use it to help prevent oxidation. Although some oxygen is dissolved into the juice itself, vacuum sealing the juice will help slow down browning by removing oxygen.
  • Natural preservatives are another way to retain color and restore flavor. Ingredients like ascorbic acid (vitamin C), citric acid, malic acid, and honey will prevent browning, while essential oil, alpha tocopherol (vitamin E), or even a squirt of fresh juice from a different batch will preserve flavor.

Picking a Juicer

The type of juicier you own will also make an impact on your juice. Devout juicing advocates prefer cold-press juicers over equipment that introduces any heat to the process. In truth, the mechanisms that make each juicer work can affect the quality of your product, yield size, and even what types of produce you can juice.

Centrifugal-style juicers:

Centrifugal-style juicers are similar to blenders—they pulverize food with a broad, flat blade that sits at the bottom of a spinning mesh basket. The pulverized food is flung against the basket wall, where centrifugal force expels most of the juice from the pulp through the mesh and into a waiting container. These juicers handle both fruits and vegetables well, but look for machines that are designed to automatically dispel pulp deposits to make cleaning easier and to prevent clogs forming in the basket. With centrifugal force comes one major drawback: the friction of the force oxidizes the juice faster, which damages the flavor and color. You’ll also find that the yield from these machines is smaller than its Champion-style counterpart.

KIT3_Juicers centrifugal_Y2F1124

Champion-style juicers:

Champion-styles juicers are workhorses. Food is pushed down a chute onto a serrated, rotating blade. As fruits and vegetables pass through the blades, cell walls rupture, releasing their contents, which rapidly collect in a bowl. These appliances excel at separating solids from liquids: pulp is discarded into a separate waste receptacle. Champion-style juicers are also ideal for juicing relatively dry foods, like wheatgrass or leafy greens that can be difficult for other machines to pulverize. The primary shortcoming of this style of juicer is that the pulp still retains some liquid, which reduces overall yield.

KIT3_Juicers champion_MG_8374

Food presses:

Food presses or cold-press juicers (also known as masticating juicers) force liquids out mechanically by squeezing food between two hard, unyielding surfaces, one of which is perforated. These machines, which theoretically seem like a medieval torture device for fruits and vegetables, are often preferred by serious juicers because they use less heat. Juice presses are great for softer foods or for foods that have been softened with sugar, enzymes, or a little heat. In some presses, including cider presses, food is placed between flat plates, often between multiple layers of plates. Citrus fruit presses accommodate the shapes of citrus fruits by using convex and concave pressing surfaces. Muscle power fuels juice presses, which causes juice yields to vary depending on the user. If you enjoy pulp in you juice beware— your juice will contain fewer particles because food is compressed, as opposed to being torn or shredded.

KIT3_Juicers press_MG_6835

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Gift Guide 2013: Gifts for Modernist Cooks

Whether you’re purchasing one of our books for a loved one or buying gifts for someone who has already added one of our volumes to their personal library, this year we devoted our gift guide to items that pair perfectly with Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home. From stocking stuffers to larger gear, we have you covered. We even selected a few ingredients to help you launch your own journey into Modernist cooking.

Modernist Cuisine

Water Bath: This year, give the gift of sous vide. We suggested gifting sous vide setups in previous years with good reason: a water bath is an essential tool for many of the recipes we created for Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home. While there are ways to improvise, this is the best tool for regularly cooking sous vide or for any cooking task requiring precise temperature control. Water baths are also the perfect way to heat up holiday leftovers. The SousVide Supreme ($329 and up) is sufficient for most home uses, but the PolyScience Sous Vide Professional immersion circulator (Creative series, $399), paired with a polycarbonate tank ($33 for a 10 L tank), provides more uniform heat distribution.

 

Cook the lamb sous vide for 3 hours.

Blowtorch: From caramelizing crème brûlée to searing sous vide meat, there are many practical (and impractical) reasons to keep a blowtorch handy in the kitchen. A blowtorch is an inexpensive gift (we like the Bernzomatic TS4000 Trigger Start Torch, $34) that’s great for recipes that call for high temperatures unattainable in conventional ovens. It’s also an impressive tool to pull out during holiday gatherings and dinner parties.

Modernist Cuisine™ Gel Noodle and Spherification Kits: 130 pages of Modernist Cuisine are devoted to the science of gels because creating gels is a fundamental technique of Modernist (and even conventional) cooking. The Gel Noodle and Spherification kit ($40 and $50) are a fantastic introduction to the art of creating these magical treats in your kitchen. Each kit comes with some essential tools to get you started as well as enough ingredients to create 20 batches of gelled noodles or spheres. And the kits just happen to be stocking size.

Spherification-WT-2

Borosilicate Flasks and Beakers: Flasks and beakers aren’t necessarily a Modernist must, but these lab tools are incredibly handy to have in the kitchen. If you need to measure volume, beakers and flasks are highly accurate and have greater heat resistance than conventional Pyrex. Plus they double as a very nerd-chic container for cocktails. This SEOH 5-pack of beakers ($14) is a great starter set, but there are many, many options available online.

Modernist Cuisine at Home

Digital Scale: Begin applying more precision to your measurements with a reliable, digital gram scale. These scales are easy to find at cooking stores, and basic models are inexpensive. You should really own two: a general-purpose scale that accurately measures weights from one to 1,000 grams and an even more precise scale accurate to a tenth or hundredth of a gram. A 0.1 g scale is a must-have for measuring hydrocolloid thickening and gelling agents. We recommend the Digital Bench Scale ($49) for extra-large batches and the Extreme‑Precision Digital Ingredient Scale ($27) for its compact portability.

scale-open_1024x1024

Thermometer: The pockets of chef jackets have one thing in common: thermometers—and for good reason. Thermometers are indispensable kitchen tools. Small changes in temperature can make all the difference in cooking, so thermometers are essential. A good digital thermometer can even take the place of a fancy sous vide cooker. Our favorite is the Taylor Professional Thermocouple Thermometer ($78), which is extremely accurate and allows you to measure food temperatures in both water baths and ovens. Even an inexpensive instant-read thermometer will give you excellent range and speed, and it’s useful for almost any application.

The Modernist Cuisine™ Special Edition Baking Steel: Andris Lagsdin, a pizza enthusiast who works at a family-owned steel company, was inspired to produce Baking Steels after reading Modernist Cuisine. We worked with Andris to develop the Modernist Cuisine edition, a preseasoned, shatterproof ⅜ in thick steel plate. Based on our own research, we designed it to be an optimal combination of performance and usability. It’s the perfect tool to help create any of the pizzas from Chapter 18 of Modernist Cuisine at Home, and it’s easy to use: simply slide it into a conventional oven for perfect pizzas or place it on top of a burner to use as a griddle. You can even use it as an anti-griddle to make ice cream.

steel 20 degree on white with pizza

Sodium Citrate: If your loved one is a cheese lover, a packet of sodium citrate ($7 for 50 g, $15 for 400 g) is an inexpensive, world-changing gift. Essentially the combination of salt and citric acid from citrus fruits, a tiny bit yields silky smooth Mac and Cheese or wonderfully melty cheese for dips and sandwiches. Appearing in over 20 cheese-based recipes in Modernist Cuisine at Home, sodium citrate is a staple ingredient.

Mac and cheese variations

Your 2013 New Year’s Resolution: Try Modernist Cooking

Ready to take on Modernist cooking?

Maybe you received Modernist Cuisine or Modernist Cuisine at Home as a holiday gift, or perhaps you’re just curious about what this whole Modernist cooking movement is. We understand that it can be intimidating either way. That’s why we’re here to help. Join us over the next three months to learn about and test-out recipes from our books.

We invite you to make “trying Modernist cuisine” your 2013 New Year’s resolution.

Each week we will publish recipes, slowly gaining in difficulty, along with articles that explain the underlying science. You’ll learn the following:

We hope you’ll take this trek with us. Make sure to register with ModernistCuisine.com and check in with us each week.

Gift Ideas from the Modernist Cuisine Team

What do real chefs (and the writers, editors, and scientists who work with them) put on their holiday wish lists? Here are some items that the team behind Modernist Cuisine at Home either want, have been given, or have given for the holidays. We hope you find some inspiration here for your own shopping.

Nathan Myhrvold, Coauthor: I recently received 4-Hour Chef, by Timothy Ferriss. It’s not like any cookbook I have ever seen: not only does it include a bunch of great recipes, it also covers how to make a three-pointer in basketball, and how to kill pigeons in the park and then clean them with your bare hands. I don’t know how I’ve lived this long without that knowledge. Another really different cookbook I received this year is Dirt Candy, by Amanda Cohen and Ryan Dunlavey. It includes comic-style illustrations and is really funny.

Wayt Gibbs, Editor in Chief: I love my SousVide Supreme. The bundled book is great too! For a smaller item, sodium citrate is great for amazing Mac and Cheese and an awesome cheese sauce for Brussels sprouts and nachos.

Johnny Zhu, Developmental Chef: I got a Thermapen one year and a Vitamix another year. Both were great gifts!

Judy Oldfield-Wilson, Online Writer: This year I’m asking for a Silpat. I didn’t specify the size, so we’ll see what I get!

Jennifer Sugden, Production Editor: For my smoothies, I want a set of glass straws. I once received a rotary vegetable slicer, which spiralizes fruits and vegetables. I make sweet potato and zucchini noodles, topped with my favorite sauce.

Aaron Verzosa, Developmental Chef: Immersion blenders make great gifts. Both the one I have at home and the ones we use at the lab are KitchenAid.

Melissa Lukach, PR and Marketing Manager: Finishing salts are nice for coworkers, friends, and as stocking stuffers. Black Hawaiian sea salt is interesting on its own, but a simple gray salt can be enhanced by blending it with herbs or spices.

Scott Heimendinger, Director of Applied Research: This year I treated myself to an iSi Gourmet Whipping Siphon. I use it to make scrambled eggs, carbonate fruit, “instant barrel-age” maple syrup, make microwaved sponge cake… and occasionally, to make whipped cream, too!

Sam Fahey-Burke, Developmental Chef: Two inexpensive gift ideas are a Japanese mandoline and a Microplane. They are both kitchen essentials. We use them all the time.

Larissa Zhou, Food Scientist: This year I want a blowtorch because it is a small investment that can take your dishes from home-delicious to restaurant-fancy. You can make crème brûlée, of course, but you can also smoke wood chips, sear meat, and generally use it whenever you need high temperatures that are rarely attained on home stoves.

Still stumped? Check out our Top 5 Modernist Cuisine at Home Tools, or our gift guide from last year.

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What to Buy a Foodie for the Holidays

We think that many chefs will be surprised by a 52-pound box beneath their tree this year because Modernist Cuisine is high on people’s lists. But beyond MC, gift options are plenty: we’ve put together a gift guide to help you find the perfect present for every foodie in your life. Each member of the MC team has come up with his or her favorite suggestions. Many of them are much easier to lift! These are all things that we personally have, wish we had, or would give as a gift. For other great ideas, see Eater.com’s and Seattle Food Geek’s gift guides, as well as our equipment page.


Vitamix
$378 5.99
Available at Amazon, Sur La Table
Recommended by Sam Fahey-Burke, Culinary Research Assistant

Cuisinart Stick Blender
$19.73
Available at Amazon, Sur La Table
Recommended by Judy Wilson, Editorial Assistant

Aroma Kit
Cost varies by size and brand
Available at various online retailers
Recommended by Maxime Bilet, Coauthor


Excaliber Food Dehydrator
$105 – 2.19
Available at Amazon
Recommended by Johnny Zhu, Culinary Research Assistant


Inventing Cuisine DVDs
$19. – 22
Available at Amazon
Recommended by Aaron Verzosa, Culinary Research Intern

Uni Opener
Approx. $128
Available at various online retailers
Recommended by Nathan Myhrvold, Coauthor


Lucky Peach issue or subscription
$9. 28
Available at McSweeney’s, Amazon
Recommended by Chris Young, Coauthor

Benriner Japanese Mandoline
$26. – 64
Available at Amazon, Sur La Table
Recommended by Anjana Shanker, Culinary Reasearch Assistant

FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer
$66 – 1.48
Available at Amazon
Recommended by Wayt Gibbs, Editor-in-Chief

Liquid Nitrogen
Approx. $2/gallon
Available at welding supply stores
Recommended by Aaron Verzosa, Culinary Research Intern

Pacojet
$3,998
Available at Pacojet
Recommended by Nathan Myhrvold, Coauthor


Heston Blumenthal at Home
$37
Available at Amazon
Recommended by Chris Young, Coauthor


Deni or Kuhn Rikon Pressure Cooker
$66 1.49 (Deni brand), $95 – 259 (Kuhn Rikon brand)
Deni available at Amazon
Kuhn Rikon available at Amazon, Sur La Table
Recommended by Mark Clemens, Art Director (Deni); Mark Pearson, Business Development (Kuhn Rikon)

Microplane
$8. – 17
Available at Amazon, Sur La Table
Recommended by Anjana Shanker, Culinary Reasearch Assistant

SousVide Supreme
$299 3.99
Available at Amazon, Sur La Table
Recommended by Daniel McCoy, Editorial Assistant


Thermapen
$89
Available at Amazon
Recommended by Wayt Gibbs, Editor-in-Chief

Kopi Luwak Coffee
$50 and up
Available at various online retailers
Recommended by Mark Clemens, Art Director


Artistre Experimental Kit
$59
Available at Amazon
Recommended by Judy Wilson, Editorial Assistant

1800 Watt Induction Burner
$66 4.15
Available at Amazon
Recommended by Johnny Zhu, Culinary Research Assistant