the family of products with soul, we include in this analysis all products that
have played a major role in El Bulli, those that have warranted special attention
or have been important in our evolution. The N2O that we blow into siphons to
obtain foams meets these criteria, except in one crucial aspect that might be
debated for hours: is air a product? There are many preparations in which air
plays an important role, even though it has never been treated as a cooking ingredient,
but the creation of foams in 1994 certainly gave it star status.
in fact characterises foams is their airy texture, their lightness, and
the fact that they have more air than traditional mousses. The mission of
the siphon is to blow air into the preparation with the help of N2O capsules
that charge this utensil. Without the magic of the siphon, without the intervention
of this gas that is not only harmless but also tasteless, foams would not
be possible. Air is an essential element for obtaining these foams for which
we feel a particular fondness, and for this reason we think that it deserves
to be included in the family of products with soul.
| hspace="5" align="left">Foams |
arrived in 1994, but they had undergone a lengthy germination phase. The
only reason that this preparation did not come to fruition until then was
because of technical problems, as we did not know how to achieve this texture
that we dreamed about, and if we had the right tool, our dream would come
true. Early experiments were carried out in 1991-1992 in Xavier Medina Campeny’s
workshop, but after some amusing domestic disasters, the ony thing that
we knew was that gas was essential to reap success in this aspect. The appearance
of the siphon in our kitchen was to give us the solution, but even then
it was not so simple.
In 1993, our dear friend Antoni Escribà brought us back from Switzerland
a gadget that we called “the phantom siphon” because it was always getting
lost. After buying a set of CO2 capsules, we attempted to make our first
foams, but we knew nothing about gases at that time, and the foams we obtained
seemed fermented to us. Strangely enough, we went back to CO2 in 2001 for
our mojito and carrot soda. In any case, these discouraging results caused
the “phantom siphon” to be banished to the cupboard.
hspace="5" align="left"> In the winter of 1993-1994, while we were helping our friend Eduard Roigé
to draw up the menu of the restaurant Bel-Air in Barcelona, a customer asked
for a dessert with whipped cream. To our surprise, the cream was served
in the kitchen with a gadget they took out of the fridge, from which whipped
cream emerged by pressing a lever at the top. Suddenly we saw the light,
and we reckoned that this siphon might solve the foams problem. So we borrowed
the siphon, and in a matter of just a few days, our dream became a reality.
Now, when we look back on that time, it is hard to believe how long we used
this siphon "full stop," the name we gave it to distinguish it
from the ISI siphon that came to El Bulli in 1997. The siphon “full stop”
was charged from a bulky cylinder containing N2O, and it was a sizeable
gadget which meant that ease of service from it left a lot to be desired.
Even so, for three years we were inventing foams and serving them from that
lovable monstrosity. The ridiculous thing was that when the ISI siphon arrived
in 1997, we realised it was very similar to the "phantom siphon"
that we used to charge with CO2, and that if we had used N2O instead, we
would almost certainly have adopted it instead of our siphon "full
|align="top">|| hspace="5" align="left">At |
this stage of the game, so much has been written about foams in the gourmet
media (and even the general press) that it only remains for us to mention
the brief history of this preparation, which is a technique and a concept
at the same time. Cold foams were hatched in the El Bulli kitchen on March
19th 1994, the year the development squad project started.
Since 1990 we had been nurturing the idea of achieving a lighter mousse,
in which the product’s flavour would be much more intense than in traditional
mousses. The idea came to us while we were in a specialist fruit juice bar
and we noticed the foam that formed in the top part of the glass. Between
1990 and 1993 we conducted a good many tests, some as crazy as the ones
we did in Xavier Medina Campeny’s workshop (see elBulli1983-1993), but it
was not until 1994 that we reached a satisfactory outcome.
For this, the crucial moment was when the siphon came into our hands, the
utensil that enabled us to turn our dream into a reality (see The siphon
“full stop”, page 90). Our first test involved putting a consommé into the
siphon; when it came out, it had maintained its consistency, and we thought
that this was because of the natural gelatin contained in the consommé.
Therefore, if any product did not gel naturally, we could always add gelatin
leaves, something that had not occurred to us the year before during the
tests with the “phantom siphon” our friend Antoni Escribà had brought us.
this is what we did with a white bean purée on that fateful 19th of March
1994. The first foam served at our tables was this one, accompanied by sea
urchins. The same year we made foams out of beetroot, coriander and almonds.
These preparations began life in the savoury world, but once we discovered
their potential, their migration to sweet preparations was only a matter
of time. In 1994, we only made coconut foam, the first in a long series
that we began to prepare from the following year onwards.
Foams were born with the intention of using only the juice or purée of the
product in question, without the addition of cream, eggs or other fats that
might diminish the flavour. As time went on, we began to realise that on
the one hand there was the philosophy of foams, but on the other hand we
had a marvellous gadget, the siphon, which provided us with innumerable
possibilities: creams, meringues, extremely light mousses that were easy
to prepare, and so on. Today we would probably call anything that comes
from the use of the siphon, a “foam”.
Of course, foams are very well known today, and hundreds of chefs serve
them in their restaurants. It remains to be seen whether they will be so
important in twenty or thirty years’ time. As for the controversy surrounding
them, we still find it hard to understand why criticisms have been so harsh.
Current results lead us to claim, without hesitation, that there are good
foams and foams that are not so good, in the same way as there are mousses
with varying degrees of success.
This is the second part in a multi-part series. Part one is here.
El Bulli books may be purchased here.
Our thanks to Juli Soler for his invaluable assistance in this project.
Copyright Ferran Adria, Juli Soler, Albert Adria ©2006.
Photographs by Francesc Guillamet.
Art by Dave Scantland, after a photograph by Francesc Guillamet.
Introduction to part one by Pedro Espinosa.