Public Lectures

The Science of Pie

The Science of Pie
Featuring Christina Tosi & Zoe Nathan
May 19, 2013

At the world’s first scientific bakeoff, the students of the Science & Food undergraduate course presented results from their final projects, including a live taste test of apple pies. The final projects were judged by Chefs Christina Tosi and Zoe Nathan, food critics Jonathan Gold and Evan Kleiman, and UCLA Professors Andrea Kasko, and Sally Krasne.

Chefs Christina Tosi and Zoe Nathan also shared their perspectives on inventing desserts, with an emphasis on pie. Watch the entire lecture or check out some of the shorter highlights below.

Christina Tosi on…

…creating cereal milk

“Cereal milk, fortunately for us but unfortunately for the scientific process, was very simple to make . . . But a lot of the other things that we make at Milk Bar go through a much more vigorous question asking and testing process before we actually decide whether or not its successful.”

…crack pie and re-inventing pie crust

“Crack pie is our approach to pie. It very much embodies our approach to pie. We don’t use a traditional American pie crust . . . Pie crust is an opportunity to surprise and wow and provide texture and flavor that is beyond, perhaps, you standard traditional American pie crust.”

…creativity, curiosity, and the scientific process

Whether or not we’re aware of it, the scientific process is often an integral part of cooking and baking. When Christina Tosi describes her creative process at Milk Bar, she might as well be describing the process of scientific research and discovery:

“The second that I got out of school and I was able to have my own voice, I stepped back and I looked at everything that I was taught and listened to and followed  without questioning, and I questioned it. And not in a disrespectful way, just in a ‘Well, what if? Why and what if?’ And I think that that curiosity and that forcing yourself to question every single thing in the creative process is incredibly helpful … you really just need that wandering spirit and the courage to ask ‘Why?’ And then of course the momentum and the patience to test through and be willing to fail but also be excited when you succeed.”

Zoe Nathan on…

…being a traditional baker and working with simple ingredients

“A really good baker isn’t bored of flour, and isn’t bored of sugar, and isn’t bored of salt, and isn’t bored of butter. They just know that through process they can make an entirely different thing every single day using five ingredients.”

…how to create the most amazing pie

“My second biggest pet peeve as a baker is how people bake. They forget that this is also an ingredient. Color is flavor: without it, you don’t have flavor. It just doesn’t work. Color and baking time and how your pie looks needs to be treated as another ingredient. It’s just as important as salt, sugar, flour, or anything. If you forget your color, you didn’t make the thing. . . It’s like you don’t have chocolate for your chocolate chip cookies.”

…baking and being present

“I would wish for everybody to throw away their timers and to start to engage all of their senses.  Smell! Is it done? Look at it! Is it ready? . . . The whole thing about baking is that it makes you be present.”

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2 thoughts on “The Science of Pie

  1. Pingback: 5 Things About Baking | scienceandfooducla

  2. Reblogged this on A Book and A Button and commented:
    So I posted about the science of cookies. And then I found this. As if I wasn’t already enough obsessed with Christina Tosi, she is absolutely amazing here too. Plus, scientific bake-off? Just about the coolest idea ever. Yeah. Basically. So I’m posting this too. Enjoy!
    Nicole

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