The Role of Gases in the Culinary Experience
This chapter explains how something as nebulous as air or gas can be contained and structured so that it lends texture to food. The answer is through the creation of foams. Foams are a class of materials, termed colloids, in which two incompatible phases, water and air, are mixed together by dispersing one phase (air) into the other (water). The dispersed state in foams is in the form of bubbles. As such, foams are often particularly short-lived systems and can be rapidly destabilized. The lifetime of foam is affected by several properties, most notably composition of the bubble surface, bubble size, and the physical properties of the phase surrounding the bubbles, such as stiffness, thickness, and solidity. The chapter discuses how foam lifetime can be controlled through these different aspects, and how it can in turn be used in the design and production of some remarkably diverse gas-containing foods. It is also possible to prepare food foams whose lifetimes extend from seconds to years.
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