Sunday, August 22, 2010

McGee and Me

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to present a talk (with Chris Loss, Ph.D, Department Chair of the Menu Research Department at the CIA) at the Flavor Research Workshop organized by the American Chemical Society. Our subject was "Emerging Culinary Perspectives on Flavor". We were the last to present and it was a combination of PowerPoint and tastings of different items as you can see in the tray below. For me the highlight though was to finally meet Harold McGee in person; he was there just to attend and not present, but to be one of the people presenting to someone like him is pretty intense.

I was not expecting him to be so tall but there you have it. I spent about ten minutes talking to him and it turns out he's quite a nice man and is more than happy to talk shop. I always assumed he'd heard the same story each time, chefs like me thanking him for his work, but he was very gracious and appreciative. Also, he owns my book, Frozen Desserts. I was not prepared for that, so I just thanked him (what else could I do?). I wonder what he thinks about it? He was a bibliographical resource for it, frequently cited.

One of the items that I made for this event was my Maple and Bacon Candy Bar. It is a bar made of dark chocolate (64%), filled with a slice of brioche, soaked with a very fluid ganache made with white chocolate, cream, maple sugar, vanilla and cinnamon (and Vodka to reduce water content and extend its shelf life without affecting flavor... it really just evaporates).

This ganache is meant to emulate the custard in French toast, as far as texture and flavor. The bar is then capped and before it sets it is sprinkled with bacon praline and Fleur de Sel. The bacon praline is simply equal parts bacon and a dry caramel. This keeps the bacon from going stale and soft, and gives it a coveted crunch, necessary in bacon (who wants soggy bacon? Answer: no one). The bag is then filled with cinnamon air using the Volcano Vaporizer, and then the bag is sealed to keep the aroma in. The experience is meant to emulate breakfast, as far as aromas, flavors and components... all inside a chocolate bar.


  1. i'm intrigued by the use of vodka to increase shelf life. what's the water activity in the ganache?

  2. As a pastry student, I am constantly referring to Mr. McGee's book. It's a recommended text for my program too. I couldn't imagine actually meeting him in person. Wow.

    The Maple and Bacon Candy bar sounds divine!

  3. Vodka replaces a portion of the heavy cream to make the ganache seem more fluid and custard-like. had I used all cream to obtain this viscocity the shelf life of the ganache would have been greatly reduced to about a week (it is almost 1:1 ratio liquid (cream plus vodka) to chocolate) I suppose I could have used sorbitol or other ingredients to extend the shelf life but vodka seemed the less obtrusive.