Saturday, April 3, 2010

An imperfect sphere...

Ever since I saw an episode of Top Chef, in which the chef made some food into spheres, I was hooked, thinking it was the best way and a brand new method. After all this time I thought that food was cooked the way it was given, as in, the only way to change the texture of food was to do it by juicing it or mashing it. A carrot has the carrot texture unless you juice it or mash it then it has a liquid texture and mashed potato texture.

So, as great chefs like the ones at WD50 and El Bulli have shown us, using chemicals we can drastically change the texture of things. After reading a free downloadable book on textures and hyrocolloids, by Martin Lercsh, I was very interested in other hydrocolloids. Recipe upon recipe of spherification gave ideas for me to try. One of the recipes used olives and making olive juice and then dripping it into ice cold oil, making the spheres form there. A good idea and worked for the mixologist in the video, but not for me.

I did the next best thing, finding a place that sold a mixture of an unknown percentage of sugar and sodium alginate, I thought it was pure sodium alginate but was mistaken, I used it anyway, using twice as much as the recipe called for. I also bought some calcium chloride for use as well. The recipe had me taking a soda, boiling it a bit, then adding the sodium alginate, or in my case, adding a bunch of the mixture.

I let it cool so it would start to gel. I then mixed water and the calcium chloride and dripped the soda mixture into the water one.
Little spheres formed perfectly and floated to the bottom of the bowl.
I then poured the whole bowl over a sieve and collected the water in another bowl, underneath, to be used again. I rinsed the caviar off in water, then dipped in a separate bowl of clean water. When I had enough, I placed them in a white dish and thought they looked like caviar, my wife, the sushi lover, thought it looked like flying fish roe.
However, the taste wasn't what I had expected: The small balls of strawberry soda flavor, had a gummy shell but a juice on the inside, like a paintball. I rinsed them off multiple times but still, there was a salty or sour flavor afterwards, which could have come from the calcium chloride since it is a salt. I have read online that people say that it has no taste, but it clearly does. It was an interesting process and I am very happy to have done it, but this may not be something I would do many many times.

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