The future of food has arrived.
Engineers at Columbia University have successfully 3-D printed. . .cheesecake, according to CNN. In a study published Tuesday in NPJ Science of Food, they detail a process by which a seven-ingredient vegan cheesecake (kind of counterintuitive, no?) is made using 3-D-printing technology and lasers.
“There’s perhaps a stigma associated with this word (3-D printing),” Jonathan Blutinger, a co-author of the study, told CNN. “Usually with printing you think of an industrial process. (But) it’s important to realize that this is no different than cooking normally except instead of chopping the ingredients up and everything like that, the machine is basically just assembling it in paste form.”
Using graham cracker paste and other ingredients, Blutinger and his team were able to create customized slices of cheesecake with flavors like cherry, banana, peanut butter, and hazelnut spread. As the food is printed, lasers are used to heat up and cook the cake. The whole process for one slice takes about 30 minutes.
The method is ideal for chefs, Blutinger said, as it allows for extremely precise amounts of ingredients to be baked or heated differently at discrete points in the cooking process. “It works great on the millimeter scale of printing, and you can just control it with much higher resolution than you would (with), say, an oven or a stove top,” he said.
This isn’t the first time such high-tech tools have been used to make food. 3-D printers have been utilized to create sugars, steaks, and entire meals. But the introduction of lasers by the Columbia team is what’s most exciting in this example, as it allows for printing and cooking at the same time.
While it’s pretty cool to think about the culinary possibilities that 3-D printers could make a reality, it’ll probably be some time before the practice is widely adopted. First of all, the tech is rather expensive: The device to create the cheesecake costs about $1,000, while lasers can run about $500 each. And second, people may be a bit turned off by the idea of laser-cooked food. However, Blutinger noted that it’s not much different from using a microwave or a broiler.
Of course, the most important factor might be how the food actually tastes. With the cheesecake, “you get these waves hitting your palate at different times,” Blutinger said. “That’s a really cool part of the printing process that you can actually localize flavors in the cheesecake.”
The Cheesecake Factory better watch out.