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Spherification - The making of Faux Caviar

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Spherification - The making of Faux Caviar

Stuffed zucchini rolls, vegetables, green caviar and sprouts with source and foam in warm colors on plate on white background. Modern molecular gastronomy

Faux Caviar Adds an Elegant Touch to Any Recipe 

Though the picture dish above represents all that is delicious in modern gastronomy recipes. This recipe is introduces you to the art of sperification which are those colorful green tinted spheres sitting on top of the zucchini rolls in the middle of the photograph. These are not difficult to do, and once mastered will add excitement and "wows" to you future dishes

  • The spherification technique creates globes with liquid inside within a very thin membrane that is almost undetectable in your mouth
  • Depending upon the  liquid it captures, it is all about a  flavor experience exploding on the palate  
  • Our technique consists of submerging a liquid mixed with sodium alginate in a bath of calcium.

Though there are two types of spherifiction, basic and reverse, these instructions are for the basis method. The Reverse method will follow.

Step 1: assemble your ingredients

The ingredients for basic spherification are simple - a low acid liquid, as a liquid with a high acid content will not work unless further modified. So we will use cantaloupe juice for this recipe. Sugar. Vegetable dye. Sodium alginate powder and calcium chloride. Both the sodium alginate and calcium chloride are available from Cape Crystal .Brands (below)

Main Ingredient

You'll need one cantaloupe melon sliced in cubes. Liquify the  melon cubes in a blender. Then strain the juice. You'll need 500g or 17.6 ounces of cantaloupe juice for this recipe.
You can add sweetener to the juice using either honey or sugar depending upon your personal preference. The degree of sweetness will not effect the outcome of the recipe.

Additional Ingredients

In addition to 500 g of melon juice you will also need:

  • Distilled water
  • 5g Sodium alginate
  • 0.5g Calcium chloride
  • Sugar or honey to taste
  • Several drops of food coloring
  • Mint or peppermint flavor if desired

You will also need a clean mixing container for the mixing of the alginate and melon filler, a clear glass bowl for the calcium bath, a wire kitchen whisk or a hand held immersion blender.

Step 2: mix and then refrigerate the liquid components

Recipe Steps

1

To 500 g (17.6 Oz) melon juice add-

2

Honey or sugar to taste, then add-.

3

A few drops of food coloring, stir-

4

Add 5 g • Sodium, alginate (See below)

IMPORTANT, it’s always best to blend alginate into a very cold liquid or to first dry blend it with an ingredient like sugar. So, before adding the alginate powder to your liquid filler, refrigerate the liquid for at least a half hour. This will prevent premature gelation. Then after thirty minutes, remove from the refrigerator and add the alginate powder. Mix well using a wire kitchen whisk or immersion blender. You will notice that then liquid will begin to slightly thicken. This is the time to return the liquid fill in the refrigerator for a minimum of two hours to overnight. This will allow the air bubbles created during mixing to rise to the surface and disappear. If there are air bubbles, the spheres will not stay underwater in the calcium bath long enough to spherify. The mixing process creates  air bubbles in the  liquid. Air bubbles are also a problem because they will create weak points in the sphere membrane that will break or leak easily.

Step 2: prepare the calcium bath

While the alginate mixer is chilling you can prepare the calcium bath. Calcium Chloride is the preferred calcium salt to create the bath for "Basic" spherification. The ratio of calcium chloride to distilled water is  0.5 g per 100 g of water. This creates  a 0.5% solution of Calcium Chloride. To begin, using a clear glass bowl, measure out and dissolve calcium chloride into distilled water . 

Here is a tip, to prevent spheres from dropping to the bottom of the bowl and creating flat spots, You can dissolve sugar into the bath as well (you should heat the water, add the sugar, and then cool to fully dissolve it all)- this will help regulate the density of the bath to prevent your spheres from sinking.

Step 3: the basic technique

To create the spheres of faux caviar, carefully drip droplets of the cold alginate solution into the calcium bath you have prepared using a syringe. In about two to three minutes a membrane will form around the droplet.  Now the skill is in your timing as the longer spheres remain in the calcium solution the thicker the skin will become. If you leave them in too long, it will completely  gel all of the way through. So the trick is to be alert and once you observe that a skin is formed, remove the spheres from the bath. Rinse the spheres in two clean bowls of distilled water to halt the gelling.

Flavored Liquid Mix
A one percent of sodium alginate (5 g per 500 g of flavored liquid) is added to the cold  liquid along with a few drops of food coloring. Sodium Alginate. Flavoring can also be added at this time.

Forming the Spheres
After the liquid is chilled for at least two hours, the flavored liquid is drawn up into a food syringe. Then drop by drop it is added to a 0.5% calcium chloride and water bath. Spheres  form in 2-3 minutes.

Completed Spheres
As soon as membranes are formed around the droplets, they are removed from the calcium bath using a specially designed spoon with small holes to allow the water to drain.

Step 5: double dipping

Have two clean bowls of distilled water at the ready. After removing the spheres from the calcium bath, dip the spheres in each bowl of clean water. That will clean of the calcium salt from the spheres and slow the spherification process.

The spheres must be used right away as the gelation, though slowed will continue. If you cannot use them immediately it is best to store the spheres in the original fruit juice without any of the added ingredients such as the alginate. Place the container in the refrigerator to prolong the life of the delicate spheres.

Basic Sperification Ingredients

Sodium Alginate

14-Oz package of Cape Crystal Brands Sodium Alginate. Food Grade and Kosher. Gluten and Lactose Free

Calcium Chloride

14-Oz package of Cape Crystal Brands Calcium Chloride, Food Grade and Kosher. Gluten and Lactose Free

Sperification Syringe

Syringe need for the Spherification. Used to add drops of liquid to calcium bath to form decorative spheres 

Step 5: serving the finished product

The final results are beautiful and flavorful spheres filled with liquid bursting with flavor. This spheres can be further enhance by adding mint or peppermint flavoring. No what  the flavor they are bound to be the star of any dish you serve. But please remember, that those delicate spheres made need to be served immediately or they will eventually convert into a compact gel ball. That is because even though rinsed in pure water, the spherification process will continue


Chef Edmund 
based in Summit, New Jersey, USA

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