Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spherification 101

Calcium Lactate, Xanthan gum, Sodium algniate, agar agar, locust bean gum..huh?  These are the ingredients used in spherification.  And, what is spherification?  Encasing a liquid within it's self. 
I've always been interested in these techniques, it's the science geek in me.  The play of the chemical reactions when certain additives are added to food. As it's commonly known, molecular gastronomy: foams, gels, spherification, use of  liquid nitrogen etc.  Turning the known into the unexpected.
Chef Pajo Bruich was the instructor for this class, he's becoming quite well known for his dinners using molecular gastronomy.
This was a hands on class with Pajo doing the initial explanation of how the chemical reactions work and the "how to's". We each had our own station, Pajo measured the calcium lactate and xanthan gum into the strawberry  and mango purees we were using for the Reverse spherification method.  The calcium lactate and the xanthan gum act as thickeners.
addition of calcium lactate and xanthan gum
strawberry "pearls" and spheres
We were each given a bowl of each puree and got to practice making our spheres.  Not as easy as he made it look.  I took a scoop of the puree and dropped it into a water bath that contained the sodium algniate.  This then gelled the puree... after about 3 minutes I gently (these are super fragile) scooped out the sphere and dropped it into a water bath.  The sphere can be stored in that water bath until use. These spheres have the constancy of an egg yolk.
We also made "pearls" using a syringe and dropping little droplets of the puree into the algniate bath.
my sphere of strawberry puree
strawberry and mango spheres and pearls

The next method we learned was the cold oil method. Agar agar and locust bean gum are dissolved in boiling water then the pear puree is added to this mixture.
melting the agar agar and locust bean gum
The puree is then put into a squeeze bottle or pipette and dropped into cold (frozen) oil. As the gel sets the little "pearls" drop to the bottom of the container.
droplets of pear puree in cold oil

The consistency of these pearls are quite different from the first spheres we made.  These are more a gel and have a firm texture.  I'm going to try this with a different fruit puree one of these days, I don't like the texture of pears, it's gritty so I naturally didn't like the texture of these pearls.
pear pearls
These applications can be used with any liquid or creamy food items. PH comes into play in figuring out how much of what "chemical" to add to get the right balance. This is fun.  I ordered a molecular gastronomy kit from Amazon so I can't wait until it gets here. There are various websites that sell these ingredients but most of them are sold in large quantities.  If your interested in trying this just Google molecular gastronomy and there are a lot of sites that now sell kits so you don't have to buy each item separately and you get them in much smaller quantities.
My schedule doesn't allow me to take any more of  Pajo's classes this month but I'll be waiting for his next list of was fun!  Now let the experiments begin!!

Pajo will be giving more classes this month:

Sous Vide 101
March 19th, 6pm-10pm
Guests will gather in the kitchen for a class on the fundamentals of sous vide cooking. Pajo will cover cooking everything from vegetables, meats and desserts sous vide, and discuss the benefits and reasons why the technique is so great. Each guest will get recipes and techniques that they will be able to play with on their own. After class, the guests will gather in the dining room for a dinner featuring sous techniques throughout every dish.

The Menu: Amuse
Lime Cured Hamachi, Compressed Apple, Soy Gel, Finger Lime

Cauliflower Salad
Pears, Madras Curry, Marcona Almond, Cilantro

Acorn Fed Pork Belly
Spring Garlic, Heirloom Bean “Cassoulet”, Whole Grain Mustard

Grass Fed Ribeye
Potato Pave, Pickled Onions, Cornichon, Tomato Marmalade

Brother Thelonious Ale Cake
Valrhona Chocolate, Oatmeal, Streusel

Steel Magnolia Kitchen, 701 16th Street, Sacramento CA 95814

Email or call to reserve your space today, limited to 16.
email: pajo at theprivatetable dot net

Class $100 per person

Cold Gels & Thermo-Irreversible Gels
March 30th (call for time)
Spend an evening learning the chemistry behind cold setting and heat stable gels. Students will work in groups to execute recipes including various gelling agents such as the following; agar agar, gelatin sheets, methylcellulouse, gellan gum. Some of the techinques executed will be cold gels, fluid gels, hot mousses, hot liquid gels and more. **Dinner not provided.

Steel Magnolia Kitchen, 701 16th Street, Sacramento CA 95814

Email or call to reserve your space today, limited to 16.
email: pajo at theprivatetable dot net
$65 per person

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