It’s 3-Michelin Stars vs the most scientific kitchen on he planet! We put Heston’s Macaroni Cheese recipe, from Heston at Home, against the version from Modrnist Cuisine at Home
We’re big fans of the Modernist Cuisine blog here at insearchofheston. Their site is the closest I’ll get to the recipes – unless someone buys me the Modernist Cuisine At Home book for my birthday (hint, hint).
The original Modernist Cuisine book has a pretty strong Heston Blumenthal link: two of its key contributors helped create the In Search of Perfection series. And, from what we’ve seen online, their recipes are the natural evolution of the scientific approach to cooking that defines a lot of Heston’s work. Albeit with the backing of a guy worth $650 million.
One of the things we like most about their recipes is the user-friendliness. Take the Modernist Cuisine Macaroni Cheese recipe, for example. 4 ingredients and a cooking time of less than 20 minutes. But how does it fare against Heston’s Macaroni Cheese recipe?
Special Equipment: Immersion / stick blender
Special Ingredients: Sodium Citrate
Time: 20 minutes
Cost: £4 (or £13 if you need to buy Sodium Citrate online)
Difficulty: Very Easy
Sodium Citrate is the key ingredient that makes this recipe work. We bought a big 100g box from creamsupplies.co.uk, as we’ll be needing it to make the cheese slices in Heston’s Perfect Hamburger recipe.
For a one-off purchase we’ve seen small sachets of unflavoured Sodium Citrate on sale in Superdrug in the UK (it’s commonly sold as a cranberry-flavoured cystitis treatment!).
We’ve already cooked a couple of Heston’s Macaroni cheese recipes: Heston’s Cauliflower Cheese Macaroni recipe here, and then his more traditional truffled Macaroni Cheese recipe which we pitted against the Hawksmoor variant.
Rather than give you yet another blow-by-blow account of the Heston Macaroni Cheese recipe we’re just doing the Modernist one, and digging some our leftover Heston Mac n’ Cheese out of the freezer.
Step 1: Boiling the pasta
I presume we’re all comfortable with the process of boiling pasta? Good. Then I won’t waste your time discussing it. We used this spiral shape stuff because we were frankly bored of cooking plain old macaroni.
As with all novelty pasta shapes we buy, I look forward to discovering the half-empty bag in the back of the cupboard in a few years’ time.
Step 2: Cheese Sauce
It’s kind of ridiculous how easy this sauce is to make. Weigh sodium citrate and milk (or water, if you’re some kind of puritan) into a pan. Put it on the hob, then start blending with your immersion blender and throw in your cheese.
The cheese will melt faster and smoother the more finely you grate it. Add a handful at a time.
As you blend the sauce will develop a bubbly, aerated appearance. This is nothing to worry about. Most of those bubbles will disappear. If you really object to them just skim the surface.
Step 3: Finishing
Then just add boiled, drained pasta into the cheese sauce. That’s really all there is to it.
In these photos the Modernist Cuisine Macaroni Cheese recipe sauce looks slightly thin and runny. It isn’t. This sauce just looks that way because it is so staggeringly smooth.
That smooth texture was the winning element of Heston’s Macaroni Cheese recipe. Unfortunately the flavour in Heston’s recipe, which comes from a relatively small amount of parmesan, was kinda weak. Certainly not as punchy or flavoursome as the Hawksmoor Macaroni Cheese recipe. Here’s Heston’s recipe (left) next to the Hawksmoor variant (right):
With more than a full block of mature cheddar this recipe certainly doesn’t skimp on the cheesiness. But, with so few ingredients, the quality of cheese you use will be the deciding factor in the flavour of the final dish.
For smoothness, refinement, flavour and, above all, convenience this is probably the best Macaroni Cheese recipe we’ve made so far.
Well, starch and fat fans, I think we really are on the cusp of a genuinely “perfect” Macaroni Cheese recipe.
We would probably adapt this recipe to use the ratios of Stilton, Gruyere and Cheddar as recommended by Hawksmoor, and we might replace the milk base with the stock and wine reduction used by Heston. Or a wheat beer, which seems to be the fashionable approach these days.
A thick layer of cheese and breadcrumbs, followed by a quick trip under the grill, and this could be our perfect macaroni cheese recipe.
Have you made any of these recipes, or is there one classic macaroni cheese recipe that you swear by? Use the comments section to tell us about it.