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Some sweetened tangerine juice. A little soy protein. A blender. Voila: A trendy, frothy dessert becomes a lesson in kitchen chemistry. It turns out the chef who whips up pies for the president is also a bit of a scientist — calling on knowledge of how to help bubbles hold their shape and how crystals affect chocolate and salt, in the quest for healthier goodies.
But White House pastry chef Bill Yosses exchanged his white apron for a bow tie Saturday to talk with scientists about how chefs are changing perceptions of taste. He brought samples — chocolates that gleamed, and that tangerine foam that held up spoonfuls of juicy berries for about an hour. His point: Texture plays a huge role in taste.
Consider chocolate mousse with its sumptuous mouth feel, caused largely by added cream that, Yosses notes, also clogs arteries. He substitutes water and gelatin for cream to deliver that feel with less fat. Or take that tangerine foam. The soy protein helps form structures around the air bubbles from Yosses' blender. Look, he said as he spooned a plateful: "It's just tangerine juice, but we can fill the whole plate." Maximize texture to maximize a taste, Yosses said, and suddenly people are happy with fewer bites — a message that goes hand in hand with the healthy-eating mantra of his bosses, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. Dessert in moderation, he said, can be part of a healthy balanced diet.
In fact, the science of taste is a booming field. It tells us that taste is incredibly complicated, an interaction of the tongue, the nose, psychological cues and exposure to different flavors.