The Alinea Project's Allen Hemberger on Mastering Maltodextrin and Mocking Up an Anti-Griddle
|"Bubblegum, long pepper, crème fraîche, hibiscus" from the Alinea Project.|
In 2008, Hemberger's girlfriend bought him the Alinea Book for Christmas, and he flipped through its pages, simultaneously marveling over the pictures and scoffing at the idea that anyone could make the recipes at home. "I was amused and irritated. It almost seemed like a bluff. I thought, 'I'm just going to try one of these,'" he says. The recipe was caramel powder. It took him six tries to get it right, making a caramel and then mixing it with tapioca maltodextrin. The results, he says, were "magic." The Alinea Project, Hemberger's primary hobby and beautifully photographed blog, was born.
|Allen Hemberger, filling a water balloon with coconut-milk foam.|
Hemberger started by borrowing a dehydrator from a friend, and has since assembled a battery of chemicals, tools, and dishes. For the most part, he keeps prices down by investing in low-tech alternatives. Instead of an expensive immersion circulator, he uses a thermocoupler plugged into a rice cooker to cook dishes sous-vide, and mocks up Grant Achatz's famous anti-griddle (a device that freezes anything placed on it instantly) by sandwiching dry ice between metal sheet pans. He now wants a PacoJet. It costs $4,000. His girlfriend is telling him there's no more room in their apartment.
|Alinea Project's "coconut, trout roe, licorice"|
Hemberger's now 70 percent of the way through the book, and determined to see the project through. In a strange way, perhaps, the Alinea project has taught him how to cook.