Pea butter is one of the primary reasons I was compelled to put a laboratory centrifuge in my house.  It is an iridescent, velvety substance produced in miniscule quantities by spinning peas at high G-forces.  It’s also one of the most vivid flavors I’ve ever tasted, and I needed to make it at home.

The existence of pea butter was unearthed by the Modernist Cuisine team, using a centrifuge the size of a washing machine.  My cooking compadre, Jethro, was the first kid on the block with a home-sized centrifuge (if you’re single, or have a basement) and did a great write-up on his pea butter experience back in February.  Jethro whipped frozen peas into a powder, then centrifuged them for 5 hours.  Contrary to his technique, I found that I was able to extract roughly the same yield of pea butter by blending thawed peas into a liquid and spinning it for 3 hours.  I believe the reason is due to Brownian Motion (see the explanation on the eGullet Centrifuges thread). 

I also decided to try the same technique with corn.  Corn and peas are both wet and chewy, they both contain starch, and they’re both really sweet.  After 3 hours of spinning at 1500Gs, I couldn’t detect a corn “butter”, per se, but I did get a thick, milky corn liquid that was extremely flavorful and rife for culinary applications.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be hunting for ways to use these centrifuged components.  Check back for recipes that will spin you right-round.

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I recently had the incredible opportunity to visit master bladesmith Bob Kramer’s knife making workshop in Olympia, WA.  Bob’s culinary knives are the most coveted in the world, fetching thousands of dollars each.  Although Bob’s lends his name to a production line of Shun knives sold by Sur La Table, this workshop is where he crafts his one-of-a-kind masterpieces that are sought after by chefs and steel fetishists everywhere.

Part of the allure of Bob’s knives is the elaborate Damascus pattern he achieves in the blade by pounding together layers of different types of steel.  Much like making puff pastry, Bob flattens and folds the steel layers on themselves, pounding them with power hammers, until they are fractions of a millimeter thick, with up to 10,000 layers in the width of the blade.

In the video below, Bob gave us a demo of making a Damascus slab out of a length of steel cable.  If you like surf-rock metalworking montages, you’re gonna love this.  Many thanks to Bob Kramer for the tour, and for expert knife sharpener Bob Tate for making this kick-ass tour happen.

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Do try this at home, but don’t burn your house down!

This turned out to be one of the more dangerous machines I’ve ever built.  The goal was to make a cotton candy machine out of parts I had lying around.  The finished product was an aggressive, 1/2 horsepower, 4000°F beast of a machine that lasted long enough to prove itself before dying of awesomeness. 

If you want to build a cotton candy machine at home, all you need is:

  • A tin can, like a tuna or dog food can
  • A drill with a very small drill bit
  • A motor (ex, your drill, an old CD player, a blender)
  • A heat source, such as a propane torch, a lighter, or the coils from an old toaster
  • A bucket to catch the cotton candy, or alternately a sheet of paper to wrap around the assembly
  • Sugar

Follow the steps in the video to see just how easy this machine is to build.  Oh, and don’t forget… safety first.  My favorite part of this project was setting up a blast shield in front of the camera before we turned on the machine.

cotton candy build
Special thanks to Victor (@sphing) for filming!

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