For Jerusalem-based designer Omer Polak, cuisine and manufacturing aren't all that different. As part of Jerusalem Design Week in December, Polak and fellow designer Michal Evyatar created a sort of hybrid bakery-assembly line for his project Blow Dough, using industrial-strength heat guns that reach temperatures of over 1,000°F to inflate and cook hollow balls of flavored dough. The result was a crispy, pita-like bread that's both sculptural and edible, which together encapsulate the essence of design: form and function in harmony.
Inspired by the street food of the region, Polak and Evyatar collaborated with Israeli chef Erez Komorovsky and settled on dough as a basic material. "We wanted to create a project with a strong cultural relationship," says Polak. "One of the most popular and common ingredients in the Jerusalemite food arena and the entire Middle East is bread: pita bread, bagels, buns, and more. We chose to use the very basic materials of flour and water, and combine it with the designer's territory of the production process."
One of the main aspects of Blow Dough is using cooking as a metaphor for industrial design, and demonstrating that process to participants in a factory-like setting. The heat guns were attached to the undersides of tables with improvised cooktops on the surface. The bakers wore earmuffs to dampen to the noise produced by the blowers. "If you think about it, it's like a small workshop in which all the processes happen in the same place, from the raw material to the final product," Polak says.
But the bread is still central to the project. "Most of the time pita bread is used as a container for other food—for falafel, meat, salads, and so on," he notes. "This time we wanted to give the focus on the pita balloon itself."
To give the bread even more character, Polak, Evyatar and Komorovsky replaced the water in the dough with beet, carrot, and spinach juices. "By adding the vegetable juice and the odors inside, we offered a new perspective, new flavors, and a new eating experience to this basic and traditional food."
Polak has worked with food as a design medium in the past. "I look at our society and our habits and relationship with food," he says. "My recent projects focus on our sensory experience of the world. I'm using multi-disciplinary and collaborative approaches to create new experiences that could change something in the life of the viewer/participant. Blow Dough project has a lot in common with my S Sense project, which combines design and neuroscience research on the sense of smell and its uses."
The dough itself took time to develop. "It was a great challenge to succeed in creating dough that is very flexible and also thin," Polak says. "Thanks to the vegetable juice, the dough got a delicate flavor. It also absorbed odors from local herbs that we added before filling the dough balloons."
As participants bit into the balls, they were hit with the aromas captured inside, as well as the garnishes on the outside. "To enrich the flavors at the end of the baking process we scratched lemon and olive oil on the top," says Polak. "It's very traditional."