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Problems with red wine spherification


abadoozy
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I just got my Ariste Molecular Gastronomy kit in the mail today. I don't have my copy of Modernist Cuisine yet, but heck if I can wait, so I decided to do a simple spherification.

I found a recipe for Red Wine Caviar, from here.

INGREDIENTS:

9 ounces red wine

18 ounces water

2 grams Sodium Alginate

2.5 grams Calcium Chloride

METHOD:

1. Mix the sodium alginate with 1/2 of the red wine and blend until dissolved.

2. Mix in remaining juice, strain and allow to sit to remove any air bubbles.

3. Dissolve the calcium chloride in the water.

4. Fill syringe or squeeze bottle with the juice mixture.

5. Softly expel mixture into calcium chloride bath drop by drop.

6. After a minute, remove gently with a strainer and rinse gently in cold water.

All good, until I start dropping the wine into the calcium chloride bath. It simply dissolves! If I drop it very, very gently, some stay in a sphereish shape, but immediately dissolve when I lift them from the water bath.

I checked the documentation that came with the Ariste kit, and their water bath had slightly different ratios - 6.5 gr of calcium chloride to a liter of water. So I tried that, and if anything, my drops dissolve even faster.

So... what am I doing wrong? My scales could be slightly off, as they're rated only down to 2 grams (got a better one on order), but other than that, I did everything to the letter.

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Download this file and look under spherification/sodium alginate and see the note on the pH of red wine and see if it is of any help. I have no experience to offer but this might be a start:

My link

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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Modernist Cuisine's "Best Bets for Spherification" table doesn't list any acid-level cautions for direct alginate spherification, only for reverse spherification. They do suggest adding a little xantham gum to the sphere base, however: I think that will make it hold together a bit better. You can also adjust the density of the water bath by adding up to 22% sugar to it, to get it to match the density of the sphere base.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Download this file and look under spherification/sodium alginate and see the note on the pH of red wine and see if it is of any help. I have no experience to offer but this might be a start:

My link

I tried - adobe says there's an error in the PDF. If i try to view it in the browser, it opens, but trying to go to any page but the first page gives an error. Is it just me? Can anyone else view it?

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I'm able to access the PDF and read it: the page on sodium alginate says that if the pH is lower than 3.65 alginic acid may precipitate out: to counteract, add sodium citrate to the base. For red wine with an approximate pH of 3.5, you want to add 0.082 grams per liter sodium citrate.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I'm able to access the PDF and read it: the page on sodium alginate says that if the pH is lower than 3.65 alginic acid may precipitate out: to counteract, add sodium citrate to the base. For red wine with an approximate pH of 3.5, you want to add 0.082 grams per liter sodium citrate.

I tried this. My .082 gram measuring spoon was in the dishwasher, so I added just little bits of sodium citrate to about 2 T. of the base until the spheres seemed to come together better. The base is now VERY thick - almost like honey - and the spheres definitely stay together better in the bath.

However, they still just fall apart when they're taken out, and the base now has an unappealing salty taste.

Grrr. This was supposed to be an easy "beginner" recipe. Now I feel like a mad scientist.

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All good, until I start dropping the wine into the calcium chloride bath. It simply dissolves!

Just to echo what everyone else has said, my first try at direct spherification behaved exactly like this, and it was pretty acidic. I think that must be the culprit. I'd give it a try with someone non-acidic just to get a feel for how it behaves under normal circumstances!

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As I discovered making the mojito spheres, this is a whole different kind of cooking: "easy" is relative! I think if you can taste the saltiness from the sodium citrate, you added too much. The pH of the red wine is just barely out of range, you only need a very very tiny amount of the SC to adjust it. I'm not sure if that will affect the gelling, though. I take it it seems like there is no gelling reaction taking place. That's odd, because those ratios are very similar to the ones in MC, so I think the recipe is OK.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I tried - adobe says there's an error in the PDF. If i try to view it in the browser, it opens, but trying to go to any page but the first page gives an error. Is it just me? Can anyone else view it?

What browser are you using? I tried to download that document a couple weeks ago and had no success until I switched browsers - something in Firefox hangs it up, but it downloads fine in Internet Explorer. That book is is really worth having.

Patty

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I tried - adobe says there's an error in the PDF. If i try to view it in the browser, it opens, but trying to go to any page but the first page gives an error. Is it just me? Can anyone else view it?

What browser are you using? I tried to download that document a couple weeks ago and had no success until I switched browsers - something in Firefox hangs it up, but it downloads fine in Internet Explorer. That book is is really worth having.

I was indeed using Firefox. I did end up getting the book - downloaded it on my Mac, then copied it to my Windows box, works fine.

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Modernist Cuisine's "Best Bets for Spherification" table doesn't list any acid-level cautions for direct alginate spherification, only for reverse spherification.

I'm able to access the PDF and read it: the page on sodium alginate says that if the pH is lower than 3.65 alginic acid may precipitate out: to counteract, add sodium citrate to the base. For red wine with an approximate pH of 3.5, you want to add 0.082 grams per liter sodium citrate.

Am I reading this correctly that Modernist Cuisine and the Khymos collection give conflicting information on the acidity question? That's interesting. I always assumed that the sodium citrate was added to recipes such as Ferran Adria's mango spheres as a buffer, though I suppose it's possible it was being used as a sequestrant. (I'm not sure of the calcium level of mangoes.) If you can really use direct spherification with acidic bases, then that opens up a whole new playing field for me that I'd never considered before.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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Modernist Cuisine suggests that reverse spherification is their method of choice, but there really isn't that much info on spherification in there at all: Khymos has far more detail. But MC doesn't list sodium citrate as an optional addition in the direct, and they do in the reverse. It's not clear to me if this is an oversight or a statement that it's not needed.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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