On Mayonnaise

The ins and out of mayonnaise and a guide on how to make it and fix it if you break it.

What is it?
Mayonnaise is an emulsion formed from eggs and fat seasoned with lemon juice or vinegar and salt.

What’s an emulsion?
If you don’t want to know the science behind emulsions then skip to the next section to learn how to make it.
An emulsion (in the culinary sense) is a mix of water and oil droplets. Since the oil droplets are much larger and slower moving than water molecules their movement is impeded and this creates a thick, creamy consistency. The problem here is that emulsions are made from two liquids that are incommensurable (two liquids that can’t be dissolved into one another). You’ll know this from any experience looking at oil and water. When mixed the oil will disperse into smaller droplets which coalesce into a large mass of oil if left for a few seconds. So emulsions are unstable in nature.

The reason the oil congregates in one mass is due to surface tension. When liquids can’t mix the liquids arrange themselves in a way that minimises contact with each other. They form a single large mass which minimises surface area and therefore has less contact with the other liquid.

Mayonnaise Under an Electron Microscope

So in order to form an emulsion we need to seriously break up that mass of liquid. When you whisk a tablespoon of oil into mayonnaise it’s broken up into roughly 30 billion separate droplets. Those droplets will be approximately 3 thousandths of a millimetre in diameter. A blender can make them smaller and an industrial homogeniser can break them up to smaller than a thousandth of a millimetre across. This is important because smaller droplets are less likely to merge together and cause the two liquids to separate.

There are two things that are important factors in the ease of forming an emulsion. The first is by using a more viscous water base as this drags harder on the droplets and allows the shearing force from the whisk to be transferred from the whisk more effectively. The second is the use of emulsifiers which coat the surface of the droplets and prevent them from merging into one large mass and separating.

Great, why do I care?
Because the science is important for understanding what needs to be done or why something went wrong. There are a few laws that apply to making any emulsion:

  1. The first material in the bowl should be the water based ingredient and some emulsifying or stabilising ingredients. To this the oil is added as the oil has to be dispersed in the water base.
  2. The oil should be added very slowly at first. Once the mixture has developed some viscosity the oil can be added more quickly. This is because initially it is easy for large droplets to avoid being dispersed and as you add more oil this will pool with the large droplets causing the liquids to separate as the large droplets merge.
  3. The proportions of the two liquids need to be kept in balance. The volume of the oil shouldn’t exceed three times the volume of the water base. The more crowded the droplets are the more likely it will be that they will be in continuous contact with each other and might coalesce. When the emulsion becomes stiff it’s a sign to either stop or add more of the water base.
  4. If it went wrong and didn’t emulsify it’s almost always because:
    1. The oil was added too quickly.
    2. The mixture was too hot or too cold.
    3. Too much oil was added.

Once you’ve made your emulsion you might want to store it. This is done chiefly by keeping it at the right temperature. If it’s too hot the oil droplets will move around energetically making them more likely to coalesce and split the emulsion. At low temperature surface tension increases making neighbouring droplets more likely to coalesce.

How to Rescue Your Emulsion
When an emulsion separates there are two ways to re-emulsify it. The first is to use a blender’s sheer mechanical force to force the droplets apart and break them up. The second more reliable technique is to acquire more of the water base in a separate bowl and slowly whisk the broken sauce into that.

Mayonnaise
Mayonnaise is the most tightly packed emulsion  and as much as 80% of its volume can be oil. This can be achieved as egg yolks are full of natural stabilisers and emulsifiers. When making mayonnaise have everything at room temperature allows the emulsifiers in the yolk to attach to the oil droplets more easily.

You can make mayonnaise from more or less any fat be that olive oil or leftover chicken fat from a roast. Bear in mind that if the fat you’re using solidifies in the fridge then the fat crystals can rupture the emulsifying layer and cause the emulsion to split when brought to room temperature. Be careful with refrigerated mayonnaise otherwise as some oil may have escaped its droplets. Stir gently with a few drops of water to re-emulsify.

Yum yum mayonnaise yum.

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Lounge Bohemia – the coolest bar you’ve never heard of

This is my favourite cocktail bar in London ever. It’s ridiculously cool and the cocktails aren’t tired variations of classics (I’m looking at you mojito). Go check it out but there are two things you should know:

1. The dress code specifies no suits.

2. You’ll need a reservation, it’s quite busy usually.

When I say “hole in the wall” I’m not even remotely exaggerating. It is simply a doorway next to the kebab shop at 1 Great Eastern Street (you can go there afterwards. I did; it’s not very good). Stepping inside the hole you can’t help but feel a bit disoriented as only a few metres from that gritty street corner is well, this…

shazzam!

As you can see it’s pretty damn atmospheric but often atmosphere isn’t enough for a bar.

Therefore I proudly present my elementary theory to Cocktail Bar Selection (or CBS for short). I’d like to add that this is a preliminary draft so is likely to need alteration but it’ll suffice given no alternatives.

Given the choice between two or more cocktail bars choose according to the following set of criteria:

  1. Make sure it’s a cocktail bar and not a regular bar.
    Usually this is pretty obvious as they’ll have a significantly larger portion of the menu devoted to cocktails than to beer or wine.
  2. Originality of Cocktails
    The Cocktail menu should show some cocktails which are very uncommon to the extent that they’re unrecognisable. This shows that the bartender has some level of creativity and implies and understanding of cocktail mixing (or as they rather ridiculously call it – mixology).
  3. Noise Level
    This really annoys me. If I’m in a bar with no dance area and everyone is seated why is dance music being played and why is it so loud that I can’t hear anyone speak? If I wanted to dance I would go to a club or a bar/club (but I have my own problem with those too). If I’m sitting down with a nice cocktail in a bar which really only has room for seats I kinda want to chat. If I can’t talk then I’m left sitting amongst a group of people utterly unable to join in any form of conversation and what the hell is the point of that? Would you go to a restaurant where the music was so loud you couldn’t hear anyone on your table speak? No, so why should you put up with it when you’re trying to have a drink?
  4. Number of Cocktails on the Menu
    This is arguably the best distinction between actual cocktail bars. Try to avoid bars with over 40 drinks on the menu. Bars with too few cocktails are either extremely specialised at creating a handful of well known cocktails or they aren’t really cocktail bars at all. Bars with too many cocktails spread themselves too thin. Avoid, “With over 200 different choices on the menu” at all costs. In the case where the menu has over 100 cocktails that means that not enough time and effort has been taken to develop a really excellent cocktail. This also means that even if they have any masterpieces on the menu you are less likely to choose them.
  5. Types of Alcohol
    Flavoured vodkas (such as pepper or lemon) and brand names such as Bombay Sapphire and Wyborowa or Grey Goose are a sign that you’re on the right track. Unusual alcohols such as umeshu and elderflower liqueur are generally hints too.
  6. Peer Reviews
    These are pretty mixed and a positive review can be a reason not to go. For example: “Let’s go to Freud’s, you can really taste the alcohol in their drinks”. The assumption was that since you couldn’t taste the alcohol in the cocktails we were drinking at Detroit (exceptional quality cocktails, less good atmosphere) that there wasn’t any. For me this was a reason to discard any further reviews of food or drink from this individual.

Where 1>2>3>4. By the time you work your way through the other criteria and finally get to peer reviews you should probably be down to one or two bars to choose from anyway.

Japanese Light LunchSo with the theory out of the way let’s get back to the review. I can happily state that Lounge Bohemia satisfies all criteria and probably beats most other cocktail bars on almost all of them. I mean they have black forest ham bourbon so I doubt they can be topped on types of alcohol. The peer reviews are top notch, you can Google them if you want – I’ll wait – done? Happy? Good. You can’t help but feel just a little bit sad that these achievements aren’t noticed more often but you understand once you take note of their creativity and originality which are good enough to deserve a new paragraph.

Often when people use the term “paradigm shift” it’s misused (a slight understatement) for instance when someone buys a new frying pan or different fabric softener. Thomas Kuhn is likely spinning in his grave. All of these past injustices almost seem to be put right when you refer to the cocktails at Lounge Bohemia as “paradigm shifting”. Not only do the cocktails somehow manage to transcend the bounds of cocktails but those of drinks as well. This glowing praise can’t help but sound like hyperbole to anyone who hasn’t seen what I’ve seen. When I explain that the tasting menu contains toothpaste (well not toothpaste but… well … toothpaste) and cocktail noodles then you might start to understand. When they brought out a tree made of Campari I was pretty sure that Thomas Kuhn would have died happy had he seen it.

If I haven’t convinced you to go then show this review to someone else, hopefully they will. For those that wish to go then let me give you a few recommendations to get you started. The cocktails I would recommends are:

Sgt. Pepper – a lemony peppery martinii delight
Tea for Two – Vodka and lemon and Earl Gray in a teapot for two
Some sort of chocolate thing – don’t know what this was called but despite having no cream it was rich and indulgent.

So those are your (relatively) run of the mill drinks (at £6-7). If you want something a bit more Willy Wonka then you need to order off of the molecular mixology menu (at £10-11) or order one of the tasting menus. If you don’t mind the taste of alcohol then go for the 5 course tasting menu at £25 (the drinks are designed to show off alcohol at its apotheosis). If you want to get a tasting menu then you need to give them 24 hours notice as well. I don’t want to spoil the surprise (and it is definitely a surprise) but some of the drinks are unbelievable. The bohemian breakfast, a fat duck  inspired ham and maple syrup cocktail cooked before your very eyes, is truly a marvel.

So yeah there you have it. This little gem on the edge of Shoreditch is miraculous to the extent that any future cocktail bars will just seem tragically ironic.

Find the limited website and phone number at:
http://loungebohemia.com/
07720 707 000

Internetty Clusters III

Thought I’d do a social media edition this week. Let’s see what cool stuff is being done with your facebook page.

Swiss Cottages Ad

This will blow your mind. Just click allow when it asks for permission to access your facebook profile. Trust me it’s worth it.

http://chat.myswitzerland.com/playMovie.php?language=en

 

Intel Museum of Me

Similar technology but still pretty damn cool.

http://www.intel.com/museumofme/r/index.htm

 

Google+

All the trial spots are taken right now but you can find out what you’re missing out on. It’s more of a heads up for what’s to come. The only really interesting thing about it so far is that the competition is forcing facebook to roll out skype chat which will allow multiple people to video conference at once.

http://www.google.com/+/demo/

 

Augmented Reality Cinema

Ok so this is technically geo tagging not social media but it’s still pretty cool. Depending on your exact location the app will play excerpts from films. Still in development but it might be a nice way to rediscover parts of London that you had written off. It’s difficult to tell but it should allow you to feature in these scenes but we’ll have to see how it all pans out.

If you’re really keen to see similar stuff that’s available now then check out Hackney Hear which plays recordings of the history of Hackney as you walk through the borough.