Bits and Bites

The Modern Burger

By Coco Morante / Photography By Coco Morante | January 18, 2017
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Muffie Fulton (left) leading the Modern Burger cooking class

Bringing modernist cuisine to your kitchen


If you’re ready for a different take on traditional cooking classes, the Modern Burger class offered by Los Altos–based Bold Food fits the bill. Founder Muffie Fulton’s focus on modernist cuisine, a.k.a. molecular gastronomy, expands the realm of home cooking beyond traditional methods and techniques. Her lessons employ the scientific method (along with some really cool gadgets) to help her students understand the whys and hows of each recipe.

Though her professional background is in biotech (including 12 years in supply chain management at Genentech), Fulton’s passion has always been food and cooking. In order to learn her way around modernist techniques and appliances, she has traveled all over the country to take workshops and classes from restaurant chefs.

Excited to pass on her knowledge, Fulton set up her home garage as a kitchen—or “gitchen”—where she teaches her Bold Food classes. The space is meticulously organized and stocked with an impressive array of appliances big and small, and ingredients are measured to the tenth of a gram.

The Modern Burger class covers every angle of the classic fast-food meal, from homemade hamburger buns to freshly churned vanilla ice cream for dessert. Though many sophisticated techniques and machines are employed, plenty of the information learned in class is applicable to home cooking. For instance, the hamburger bun dough includes a small amount of amylase, an easily sourced enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates to make the dough sweeter. The buns emerge from the oven tender, slightly sweet and with just the right amount of squish to complement the burger within.

Burgers are made with freshly ground beef—ground with a mixture of flavor-and umami-packed ingredients. Fulton recommends investing in a grinder if you eat a lot of burgers at home. The texture and flavor of her Modern Burgers are miles better than store-bought ground beef. They’re cooked medium rare in a steam oven (similar to sous vide), then blasted with a torch for a perfectly charred exterior.

To make a nonseparating, American-style cheese, Fulton uses the mother of all modernist gadgets: the Thermomix. Out of the machine comes an outrageously flavorful liquid cheese, which is poured onto a sheet pan and sliced into rounds, custom-sized to cover the burgers. Made from a mixture of clothbound cheddar and ale, it’s a far cry from the plastic-wrapped slices at the grocery store. If you don’t have a Thermomix, you can make this recipe using a whisk and a saucepan.

The Modern Burger curriculum also includes french fries two ways, exploring two theories on how to get the crispiest exterior while still achieving a soft, fluffy interior. For dessert there are dueling versions of vanilla ice cream: one churned in a stand mixer with liquid nitrogen, the other frozen solid and “micro-puréed” into oblivion with a Pacojet.

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