Christina Tosi and Zoe Nathan Give a Science & Food Talk at UCLA + A Pie Personality Quiz
An apple pie bake-off with a twist opened the final installment of the UCLA Science & Food lecture series this past Sunday, in which students enrolled in the corresponding undergraduate class vied for the best in final group project. The range of theories, as it turned out, would expand further when Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar and Zoe Nathan of Huckleberry (not to mention, Rustic Canyon, Sweet Rose Creamery, and Milo & Olive) each shared insight into her personal process in baking.
Christine Chiao Judges' panel at Science & Food
Before their lecture, Tosi and Nathan were part of the panel of judges, including Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold and KCRW Good Food host Evan Kleiman, invited to select the winning project amidst a slew of experimental apple pie recipes, varying in focus from texture to taste. The audience participated in the sampling as well, asked to vote in the People's Choice category. Amy Rowat, a biophysicist who co-created the class and the series, chose pie as a platform to look into such scientific principles as the melting points of fat and how solids become liquids. Now in its second run, the series began at UCLA last year, with guest lecturers including Rene Redzepi of Noma and Momofuku's David Chang.
As with inquiries in science, there is more than one path to (good) pie. While both Tosi and Nathan packed in plenty of helpful baking tips, it was clear that the two are often opposites in approach and attitude. What's even more clear, given their respective successes, is that neither perspective is necessarily better than the other.
Seeing validity in both perspectives, we created a short quiz based on their lectures, meant to pinpoint preferences, whether old school or new school, in pies and other baked goods. To take the quiz, choose either a or b then tally the number of times you chose one or the other. The answer key is on the following page.
1. What is your approach to baking?
A. You bake with all of your senses, often relying on your intuition.
B. It's about science meeting food and food meeting science.
2. What is your preferred pie filling?
A. It's fruit and fruit only. Anything else would just be a glorified tart.
B. Almost anything in the pantry is fair game: chocolate, cornflakes or pretzels.
3. Choose the statement on baked goods that best describes your approach.
A. Classic recipes are not to be messed with, which is why you should try to make them very, very well.
B. Classic recipes are not to be messed with, which is why you shouldn't try to replicate or top them, but evoke your best memories of them instead.
4. Salt is _______.
A. a flavor enhancer
B. a flavor profile
5. Which do you identify with more?
A. A baker
B. A pastry chef
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