Recipe from Newton's grandfather. Physics will help you prepare the perfect mashed potatoes

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Grandpa Newton's recipe. Physics will help you prepare the perfect mashed potatoes

A basic understanding of the laws of Newtonian physics can make a huge difference in a favorite side dish.

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Mashed potatoes are an edible expression of minimalism – just four ingredients can create a wonderful dish. However, it is worth deviating from the plan and using any non-standard ingredient and you risk getting a heavy and tasteless mass, writes Inverse.

According to chef Hervé Malivert, director of the culinary department at the Institute for Culinary Education, making mashed potatoes is extremely easy – all you need is potatoes, cream, butter and salt. However, the culinary specialist also warns that how easy it is to prepare this side dish, it is so easy to spoil it, getting a sticky or dry and starchy mass.

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Malivert nevertheless told how to make the perfect mashed potatoes – you should turn to Newton's laws.

The problem of starch

Most likely you have ever done a school experiment mixing corn starch and water. Starch and water combine to form a non-Newtonian fluid that does not flow according to Newton's laws of viscosity.

It is known that Newtonian fluids, such as water, retain a constant viscosity when pressure is applied. However, starch sticks to water, forming a viscous substance – in fact, we can form a ball out of it, however this substance flows like water when not under pressure.

In cooking, starch is often used as a binding ingredient – for example, bakers add it to the filling of pies so that it turns out sticky and does not leak when the pie is cut. Potatoes also contain starch trapped inside their cell walls, which is why tuber variety is so important, according to Malivert. However, it is important to remember that to achieve the desired texture, you need to control the amount of starch in the potatoes.

According to the chef, for the perfect mashed potatoes, it is better to choose starchy tubers – this does not mean that you will get sticky mashed potatoes, but rather the opposite. Starchy potatoes absorb more fat, making the texture of the side dish fluffy and airy.

Malorert recommends choosing reddish-brown potatoes, a classic ingredient in fluffy mashed potatoes. Despite the fact that this variety has a lot of starch, it is soft and breaks easily.

Process matters

In addition to choosing a potato variety, the process of processing it is also important. When a potato is mashed or broken open, the cell walls rupture and release the sticky starch. The longer the potatoes are processed, the more starch will be released. For example, running a potato with a high starch content through a coffee grinder will provide less starch release and thus a more fluffy puree. In the case of using a food processor to process potatoes with a low starch content, we will end up with more starch recovered.

While slicing potatoes to speed up the cooking process may seem like a good idea, it's not entirely true. Most likely, this will lead to the fact that the potato simply becomes tasteless – when cut, the cell walls of the potato are exposed, and its center is constantly in direct interaction with boiling water. Hitting the potatoes, the water will draw out starch and other enzymes, such as natural pectin and calcium ions.

Pectin, for example, is another powerful binder—it can hold mashed potatoes together without damaging their light texture. If we cook potatoes in pieces, calcium ions react with pectin, resulting in strong bonds that cannot soften. Recall the experiment of J. Candy Lopez-Alta, who proved that boiled potatoes cut into small pieces, even with careful preparation, retain some firmness. Even when put through a food mill or rice cooker, the potatoes are still lumpy and grainy.

Grandpa Newton's recipe. Physics will help you prepare the perfect mashed potatoes

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Boil or bake?

According to Chef Malivert, potatoes are easy to digest while boiling, resulting in a very watery mash. The fact is that in the process of boiling, potato cells absorb water and burst, releasing sticky starch. The new starch will draw even more water into the potato, but the potato is originally 80% water and it makes no sense to add more water to it.

In addition, the starch absorbs water molecules and becomes bound, as a result, the potato simply won't be able to absorb the flavor when it's time to add the cream and butter.

Malivert notes that if your potatoes are too wet after cooking, you can put them in a warm oven to dry them out a little when the water has evaporated , the starch will become available again and it will be time to add butter and cream.

Note that boiling whole potatoes “in their uniforms” will prevent this process. Chef recommends placing whole potatoes in their skins in cold water and then bringing them to a boil. By placing potatoes in already heated water, we may find that the outer layer of the potato may be overcooked while the center is still undercooked. After boiling and cooling, the peel is easily removed.

However, chef Malivert still prefers to bake whole potatoes. Such a process will prevent the introduction of additional water and leave all the molecules available and ready to be absorbed by the butter and cream. There are many different ways to grind potatoes, but the chef prefers the ricer – as a result, the potatoes are processed only once without releasing too much starch.

Add flavor

After the potatoes have turned into mashed potatoes come the moment when it should be saturated with aromas. To do this, add butter, and then cream, gently mixing the mass. All this is necessary to minimize the release of starch.

By the way, Malivert recommends using a spatula instead of a whisk in the last step, again, to reduce the amount of starch released.

Essentially potato mashed potatoes are still a fairly simple dish—you don't need a master's degree in chemistry or even a solid understanding of the definition of an ion to make mashed potatoes light and fluffy. However, a basic understanding of Newton's laws of physics definitely doesn't hurt.