Musings: Is molecular gastronomy really just baking for savory ingredients?

We have been playing around with some very low-level molecular gastronomy at home (foams, false sou vide, etc.). It is to early to judge any results, but it did get me thinking a bit. It seems to me that most molecular gastronomy is simply cooking savory ingredients with very controlled heat and defined chemical reactions. Sometimes specific chemicals are added for the desired effect. That sounds like baking to me.

We tend to forget that baking IS chemistry. Humans have been at it for thousands of years, so we think of most baking as pedestrian.  We are used to yeast, glutens / proteins, sugars, baking powder and baking soda. We understand how temperature impacts rise and cooking time. But these are powerful, complex variables. It takes mastery to use them well (or at least recipes that are well-tested).

Molecular Gastromony has the same variables; Xanthum gum, malto-dextrin, agar agar, immersion circulators, etc. And very precise recipes. But are these really just tools that allow the chef to cook savory ingredients with the same control that baker and (gasp) pastry chefs have had all along?

In the world of cooking, pastry (and baking) is often looked-down upon by chefs and cooks. I don’t get it, but it is true. So I think it is ironic that the forefront of modern cuisine might really be trying to catch up to the baking and pastry that we have been enjoying for thousands of years. Just a thought..comments welcome.

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