Spherification has existed for several decades. Its roots lie in a time when food science was primarily focused on the production of industrial food.
The study of the science behind everyday home cooking was not part of this field at that time.
This is where molecular gastronomy comes into play. Not as a separate science within food science, but as a different approach to applying it. It brings together physics, chemistry, and microbiology to enhance the art of cooking at home.
Compared to traditional cooking methods that have been used for centuries, these techniques are relatively new, but at the end of the day, it’s still just cooking.
Today, I want to deviate from my usual focus, not because I use them frequently in my own kitchen (I hardly do), but because I recently attended a workshop on this very topic.
And, of course, because it combines two of my favorite things: science and food. So let’s start with a fascinating technique called spherification.
Spherification is undoubtedly one of the most talked-about techniques in the field of molecular gastronomy. It is a technique that never ceases to amaze and astonish.
Imagine presenting familiar flavors in a completely new way, to the point where it confuses your senses.
So, how does it work? In spherification, we create these small spheres, or balls, using any type of liquid you can imagine. When we make smaller balls, they become solid and gelatinous in their entirety.
But here’s where it gets fascinating. With larger spheres, about the size of a marble ball, the exterior solidifies while the interior remains liquid.
Imagine this: you take a bite and the sphere bursts in your mouth, releasing an explosion of flavor that surprises you.
Now, let me give you some amazing examples.
Have you ever thought about making a dark-colored pineapple juice that looks like an olive? Well, with spherification, you can do it!
Imagine biting into what appears to be an olive, only to be greeted with the refreshing taste of pineapple.
It’s like a culinary magic trick! And how about a ravioli that tastes like peas? Yes, it’s possible!
With spherification, we can create unique flavor combinations that will leave your taste buds amazed.
So, if you’re looking to add a touch of surprise and novelty to your culinary creations, spherification is the way to go.
Get ready to surprise your guests with unexpected flavor explosions and a gastronomic experience like no other.
How To Make Spherification
Alginate and Calcium Ions: Two Indispensable Elements
It is important to note that not all types of alginates work equally well for spherification.
To form a sphere, it is necessary to create a strong outer layer or gel. When a gel is created, a network of complex molecules is formed that keeps the liquid together.
This is where alginate comes in. Alginate is a large polysaccharide composed of a long chain of two different molecules, mannuronic acid, and guluronic acid.
However, on its own, this long chain of molecules cannot create a gel. It needs something to structure it in a way that retains the liquid.
This is where calcium ions come in. These ions can be placed between two chains of alginate molecules, providing stability and structure.
Think of it as a two-component glue: the glue only works when the two components are combined. As long as they are separate, nothing happens.
Joining Alginate and Calcium Ions
We have discovered the secret to creating our perfect spheres: it’s about keeping the components separated until the right moment.
How do we do it? By dissolving both components in an aqueous phase and keeping them separate.
One of the components dissolves in the product we want to turn into a sphere, like pineapple juice. The other component dissolves in water, creating a refreshing water bath.
Now comes the fun part: creating the spheres! We gently drop small balls of the liquid that should become a sphere into the water bath.
Something magical happens when the liquid interacts with the alginate or calcium ions in the outer layer. A thin gel layer forms around the liquid, transforming it into a beautiful sphere.
It’s like a culinary adventure, where science and art come together to create something truly extraordinary. The process is intriguing and fascinating.
Here’s a video demonstrating this technique.
Basic & Reverse Spherification
Have you ever wondered how to create a perfect sphere using a water bath?
The choice of which component to dissolve in the water bath and which one to add to the product depends on the desired structure of your sphere and the material you want to use.
It is important to note that alginate and calcium should not be mixed before making the spheres. If your product already contains a high amount of calcium, like milk, it is better not to add alginate to the mixture.
In addition to considering the interaction with other ingredients in your food, you should also think about the type of spheres you want.
Alginate is responsible for forming the gel layer, so the phase in which it is present will create the gel.
In basic spherification, alginate is added to the ingredients, and a water bath with calcium is used. The result is a more delicate sphere without a gel layer.
On the other hand, in reverse spherification, if alginate is dissolved in the water bath, a gel layer will form around the ingredients.
So whether you choose basic or reverse spherification, you can create incredible spheres with different textures and flavors.
The possibilities are endless, and it all depends on your creativity and desired outcome.
When it comes to creating spheres, the perfect balance lies in achieving a delicate outer layer and a juicy and delicious interior.
The key is to ensure that the outer layer is thick enough to hold the liquid, but thin enough to effortlessly burst. The secret ingredient here is concentration.
If there is not enough calcium, or if there is a shortage of alginate to form a gel, nothing exciting happens. Sure, you might see some weak structures trying to take shape, but they simply don’t have the strength to retain that precious liquid.
On the other hand, if you go overboard with calcium and alginate, get ready for a full-on gel party. Every corner and crevice of your creation will transform into a wonderful gelatinous and wobbly world.
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