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Layered liquids - techniques


gfron1
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Fresh off of this 12-course tasting menu, I'm already planning my next one in late October. One idea that I want to play with is a layered soup. I'm thinking I would have the soup bowl, and set in the bowl would be a clear glass tube about 3 inches across. Inside the glass would be two or three layers of broth/juice/etc.. I would then have the guest lift the glass to release the soup. A reconstruction of deconstruction.

Right now I'm thinking about two things. First, maintaining a seal where the glass meets the bowl. That could probably be done with a light layer of gelatin.

Second is the layers of the liquids. I was going to ask the cocktail geeks but the few posts on layered drinks say that its very 80s. So...any thoughts?

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If all else fails you could get some gellan (or use agar) and do fluid gels. Those would layer easily. Not that a fluid gel is a last resort type thing but I realize it's not exactly what you have in mind.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I'm thinking that viscosity/density are the keys here, and I've also thought about creating layers through time. ie, pour a layer in the glass and freeze it. Then pour a layer on top of that. And what if I put a base layer in the bowl (but not in the glass) that was very hot which would allow me to add gelatin (very lightly) to the layers, and have the layer melt into the rest. Maybe a layer of foam on the top.

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I think heat will mess things up. Unless you have something like fluid gels, heat will create convection that will stir the layers together.

Edit: On the other hand there is that Heston Blumethal hot/cold drink (drinking from a glass and getting hot and cold liquid simulatenously) so there is definitely some way of solving it.

Edited by TheSwede (log)
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On the other hand there is that Heston Blumethal hot/cold drink (drinking from a glass and getting hot and cold liquid simulatenously) so there is definitely some way of solving it.

Yep, he solved it by using gellan fluid gels.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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You want to layer liquids, it's going to be tedious and complicated. The trick is that you need to know the specific gravities of the liquids you want to layer, you have to layer them extremely carefully, usually by slowly trickling the liquid down a spoon onto the previous layer, in order of specific gravity with the higher gravities on the bottom. Once you've done that, you must be extremely careful about moving the glass or the bowl or whatever. If you agitate the liquids, they will mix and ruin the effect.

--

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Yep, he solved it by using gellan fluid gels.

Can you get a fluid gel liquid enough so it feels more like a liquid than a gel? I do have both gellan and a blender so I guess I could go and find out myself...

Edited by TheSwede (log)
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I haven't personally played with that one (I've only done agar/xanthan based fluid gels) but in his christmas special Chef Blumenthal served it in cups and they were drinking it, no spoons or straws included.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I will make a suggestion about the tube itself since this popped into my head....if you have a lighting store nearby...I know you have nothing nearby but...

mini hurricane lamp covers/glass

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Rooftop, that was exactly what I was thinking. I bought 18 of them for the tasting menu that I linked in my original post. They were used for the course called Tuna Tempura...it would be a very stunning effect.

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Are you layering them purely for visual reasons, or do you have another reason for preventing their premature mixing (i.e. some kind of reaction that will take place)? If you are looking for a reaction you will have a tough time avoiding at the interface, I would think, no matter how carefully you layered them.

If you have items with different densities, is it something you can serve chilled? I am thinking that you could be somewhat cavalier in the layering if you could do it 24 hours ahead and let the ingredients naturally separate into layers (thinking here of the way a stock separates into the fat/clear stock/solids layer resting in the fridge overnight).

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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I'm just throwing ideas out and need to start playing in the kitchen, but... what if you used sodium alginate. Make your layer, in the serving container, then spritz the calcium chloride bath onto it - enough to forum the gel layer, but not so much that it becomes its own layer. Think it would work? I'll find out :)

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I have no idea if that would work, never tried anything remotely similar, but you might be better off trying calcium lactate-gluconate in the mix and spritzing with the alginate. Alginate in a calcium bath keeps gelling once it starts and I'm assuming you'd need to set these up well ahead of time, calcium in an alginate bath just gels where it makes contact. Plus, spritzing with calcium chloride means you wouldn't be rinsing it off and that stuff tastes really bad. If the structure did hold, once you released it all into the bowl I'm thinking you'd have little gel skins floating in you soup. I'm not trying to sound negative, just thinking it through the way I would if I were considering doing it myself. I'm interested in seeing what you discover.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Here's an idea: add a layer, freeze until the top is solid, pour on a thin layer of gelatin and let it chill. add another layer and repeat until filled. This can then safely be stored in the fridge until serving time, the gelatin should for a barrier to prevent mixing. Before serving, you need to figure out some way of warming the mixture just slightly so the gelatin melts, maybe throwing them in a low oven or wrapping a warm towel around them. Perhaps steaming them might also work.

PS: I am a guy.

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First, maintaining a seal where the glass meets the bowl.  That could probably be done with a light layer of gelatin.

Second is the layers of the liquids.  I was going to ask the cocktail geeks but the few posts on layered drinks say that its very 80s.  So...any thoughts?

The smaller diameter of the glass cylinder will make layering easier (compared to layering in a soup bowl for instance). A slight increase of viscosity will prevent mixing of the layers.

The glueing part is tricky as you want something which tolerates water (at least for a couple of minutes), yet it shouldn't stick to hard to the plate (or the soup would end up everywhere else than in the bowl when guests need to use force to release the soup. I agree that gelatin might work, but probably only with cold soups. Remember that gelatin melts around 40 °C. Your options then are to use agar (80-90 °C), low acyl gellan (does not melt), high acyl gellan (70-80 °C) or high methoxyl pectin (does not melt). For all the hydrocolloids you'd probably need to use higher concentrations than for normal gelling.

Caramellized sugar could also work as it doesn't dissolve that fast.

Martin Lersch, PhD
Chemist and food enthusiast

Visit Khymos, a blog dedicated to molecular gastronomy and popular food science.

Follow me on twitter @tastymolecules

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