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Adventures with sodium alginate


Jonathan M. Guberman
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Hrmm... what about dropping liquids into LN2 to freeze them before spherification? Would that help with service?

unless the surface tension and viscosity of liquid nitrogen matches that of the product you're putting into it, you would not be able to make perfect frozen spheres, and if you cant do that, then i dont see a point.

secondly, from experience, when i freeze portions, even though my mold isnt round or oval in any way, i get perfect ravioli because the outer layer is gelled first and then the liquid inside disperses against the sides of the gell evenly so you get a perfect sphere, reguardless of if your frozen shape was spherical.

hope that makes sense...

Doesn't your second point conflict with your first? The whole point of freezing them is that they dont need to be perfectly round. Then again, caviar might work differently to ravioli in this respect.

I was thinking more in terms of freezing a batch pre-service and then just being able to drop them all into the alginate solution at once which would help speed up service.

i do understand what you are saying, and the only point that i am making is that if liquid nitrogen doesnt do any better of a job freezing solutions than, well...the freezer than it wouldnt be cost effective enough to warrant using...

on the other hand, if liquid nitro helped define shapes better, or has other pluses, like it being quicker than traditional freezing, i would rethink

sorry for the confusion

Edited by djsexyb (log)

Grand Cru Productions

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my recent adventures with alginate caviar. This is a dry run of a dish im doing for a customer in a few weeks...

Deconstructed Mocha Cappuchino-- Espresso Caviar, Steamed Milk Foam, Almond Butter, Drawn Ganache, Shaved Bittersweet Chocolate, and Cinnamon Crystals

EspressoCaviar2.jpg

EspressoCaviar.jpg

man i need a better camera

Grand Cru Productions

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just want to make sure you know how im doing it. i freeze the solution that has the alginate in it, not the finished sphere.

You were pretty clear from the beginning; first thing is to successfully make an orb. Afterwards I start playing with frozen starters.

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dj how do you make the caviar so "dry" when i make mine anbd serve them they always are kinda wet  and look sloppy

when i take the caviar out of the calcium bath, they go into a fresh water bath with a fine mesh strainer (aka chinois), where as i can then drain the water and i also place the strainer with the caviar in it on a few paper towel and let any residual water drip off before serving.

That looks awesome, how did you make the foam?

the foam is bascially a 1/2 vitamin D 1/2 heavy cream, which is steamed lightly (for that steamed milk taste) and then buzzed with an immersion blender untill soft/medium peaks (for structure). when i do this for customers, i will put a little bit of lecithin in there to make sure the structure stays longer (so i can transport the finished foam.)

Guess the colour and ph of expresso make it an obvious candidate for caviar-making.

Went through a bit of a panna cotta phase a couple of months back and came up with 'coffee and donuts'...

yeah, espresso in an ideal candidate. i want to note that after brewing, i seasoned with a little sugar and salt. Again i am trying to emphasize, dont just make spheres, make finished products that taste great instead of mediocre. I like the donut panna cotta ideal. i do a donut soup (ala Moto) and have done the pairing also to great review. whats your orange sauce? one thing too, throw a spig of mint on top of that thing or if you're more advneturous put some mint paint on one side of your bowl, the color combos would really make it pop.

Edited by djsexyb (log)

Grand Cru Productions

Private High End Dinners and Personal Chef Service

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I’ve been lurking on this thread for sometime. I’ve the full set of things from http://www.texturaselbulli.com/ENG/index.html and have been having great fun playing with them. (so far my favourite things are Sucro + Glice (combining fat soluble and water soluble ingredients that don’t normally mix) and Xantana for texture and suspension).

The recent info on frozen alginates to make raviolis has been very interesting but I’d not got around to trying it and also a lot of time to make a mess if it didn’t work (the amount of glue paste I’ve made while experimenting has been horrific) but some great things to compensate.

I was on the cocktail thread and from that wondered is there away to reverse an alginate (or other) gel. E.g. sodium alginate does not gel in an acidic environment but will acid reverse the gel – idea - a Martini with an “olive” that shortly after presentation foams the drink. I.e. sodium bicarbonate base in the alginate (or other gel) in an acid drink that reverses the gel and once the gel is broken and the bicarbonate hit’s the acid fizz/foam city.

If I hear nothing, next time I make some alginate spheres I’ll drop them in vinegar and let you know what happens (from searching I don't think this will work but you never know until you try.)

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

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I was on the cocktail thread and from that wondered is there away to reverse an alginate (or other) gel. E.g. sodium alginate does not gel in an acidic environment but will acid reverse the gel – idea - a Martini with an “olive” that shortly after presentation foams the drink. I.e. sodium bicarbonate base in the alginate (or other gel) in an acid drink that reverses the gel and once the gel is broken and the bicarbonate hit’s the acid fizz/foam city.

If I hear nothing, next time I make some alginate spheres I’ll drop them in vinegar and let you know what happens (from searching I don't think this will work but you never know until you try.)

Well, ive tossed this around abit, but no experiments yet. what i do find is that the spheres are semi-permeable. (leave a sphere out for a while and the liquid inside will eventually (though slowly) leek out, dont know if that leak would be suffiecient enough to fizz/ foam like Moto's hurricane.

secondly, i do think that if you made the alginate sphere, and just broke it while in this drink, that would be more appealing (if the whole thing didnt fizz over!), and i thought i should add that Chef Cantu told me that their base in the hurricane drink is powdered egg whites and not sodium bicarbonate.

i think its WD-40 that places algiante spheres in an airtight container and carbonates them, which i think is also genius....kinda like MOTO's carbonated fruit...

further experimentation is certainly needed, though..

keep us posted...

Grand Cru Productions

Private High End Dinners and Personal Chef Service

in Chicago, Illinois

For more information email me at:

grandcruproductions@hotmail.com

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In my experience, I've found the sphere solidifies before it leaks out. I hadn't though of carbonating spheres or caviar but it's a cool idea. Doesn't the presence of CO2 change pH, so might that mess up the gel matrix? I'm just hypothesizing.

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In my experience, I've found the sphere solidifies before it leaks out.  I hadn't though of carbonating spheres or caviar but it's a cool idea.  Doesn't the presence of CO2 change pH, so might that mess up the gel matrix?  I'm just hypothesizing.

i have also heard that CO2 changes pH, but since the spheres are already formed, then carbonated, it shouldnt be a problem. Like i said i have seen this done before.

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Once I get a chance to start playing, I'm going to have to see how frozen individual servings will work. I can see that as the best way (for me anyway) to transport to the site. I don't think I'm that inclined to lug two slurries.

The egg yolk idea is to create something which looks like a yolk. I know several people who are put off by the sight of sunny-side-up eggs and ondo tamago so evil side says it might be interesting to play with their perceptions (I am ready to serve them in real egg shells and use red tobiko to make them look fertilized).

The straight egg yolk ravioli would be interesting too, but let's see how well I can do spherification.

Time to look up photos of Mr. Dufresne's creation.

As far as the egg yolk idea, and not having to worry about raw eggs(which i am not opposed to) you can do a TFL recipe we used alot. Its an egg emulsion. Take some 9 minute yolks and emulsify EVO, sherry vin, and S&P. Its still a bright yellow, and tastes of egg and olive oil. Great sauce too. Im going to play around with that idea soon. Hopefully have my Egg "ravioli".

-John

John Maher
Executive Chef/Owner
The Rogue Gentlemen

Richmond, VA

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hey i was browsing the minibar thread and i read this

"Also, the mojito was really cool. It was mojito mixed with calcium chloride. then spherized in alginate and charged in an ISI-whip for 3 hours. I mentioned that it seemed the carbonation process would break the alginate spheres, and apparently the chefs did not try this dish for a long time after thinking it up because they never thought it would work. Anyway, it does work, and this was definitely a highlight for us."

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I still have a hard believing how the reverse spherication using CaCl is a viable method. In my experience, you have to add CaCl to the extent that its taste is very noticeable and unpleasant. Maybe they were using that calcium lactate stuff?

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I still have a hard believing how the reverse spherication using CaCl is a viable method.  In my experience, you have to add CaCl to the extent that its taste is very noticeable and unpleasant.  Maybe they were using that calcium lactate stuff?

Hey Bryan,

I believe that minibar quote was from my post...I'm pretty sure they said CaCl, but maybe ChefT can comment on this. I remember being surprised because I had been reading this thread, and noticed the comments about CaCl tasting bad. There was definitely no noticeable taste as far as I could tell.

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yeah, espresso in an ideal candidate. i want to note that after brewing, i seasoned with a little sugar and salt. Again i am trying to emphasize, dont just make spheres, make finished products that taste great instead of mediocre.

Indeed, though I suspect anyone here that's mucking about with this stuff already has an appreciation of the value of seasoning. Not sure about the addition of salt in this instance, though - I prefer my expresso just bittersweet.

I like the donut panna cotta ideal. i do a donut soup (ala Moto) and have done the pairing also to great review. whats your orange sauce? one thing too, throw a spig of mint on top of that thing or if you're more advneturous put some mint paint on one side of your bowl, the color combos would really make it pop.

The sauce is a chilled strawberry soup - a play on the fruit centre in a solid donut. I wanted to stay true to the original coffee and donut flavour combination, hence no mint or other additions. A coffee or strawberry tuile might add a nice texture addition, though.

hey i was browsing the minibar thread and i read this

    "Also, the mojito was really cool. It was mojito mixed with calcium chloride.      then spherized in alginate and charged in an ISI-whip for 3 hours. I mentioned that it seemed the carbonation process would break the alginate spheres, and apparently the chefs did not try this dish for a long time after thinking it up because they never thought it would work. Anyway, it does work, and this was definitely a highlight for us."

That caught my eye, too. Maybe ChefT could give a demo as a taster for that upcoming Minibar book. :smile:

restaurant, private catering, consultancy
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Sorry i havent been able to answer any questions latly but I have been out of the counrty. Regarding the freezing or what ever of sferifications doesn't make any sense. I have been doing this technique fro 2 years and have never needed to freeze any step of the process.

As for the carbonated mojito: Mojito + alcohol+ xanthan gum + calcium chloride into a sodium alginate bath with a small amount of sodium citrate. All of the sferifications at the minibar are made this way right now and you can make these ahead of time and they will not gel any more once you take them out of the alginate bath which they are in for only 2 minutes. To carbonate the sfers we put them very gently into a isi bottle and a small amount of mojito into the bottle to just cover the sfers. Charge for three hours with one charge of CO2 and right before we serve them we release the gas and quickly put them on a spoon with a garnish of lime zest and a mint leaf. This needs to be done right away.

Now this realy has no practical application for a restaurant because the carbonation goes away so fast. It works at a place like the minibar because we are doing 6 people at a time and can control when we serve them.

And we have said this before if any chefs would like to come into the restaurant and spend a couple of days working with us we would be able to teach them about making sferifications or any of the other countless techniques that we do at Cafe Atlantico/minibar.

Edited by Chef T (log)
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Sorry i havent been able to answer any questions latly but I have been out of the counrty.  Regarding the freezing or what ever of sferifications doesn't make any sense.  I have been doing this technique fro 2 years and have never needed to freeze any step of the process. 

As for the carbonated mojito: Mojito + alcohol+ xanthan gum + calcium chloride into a sodium alginate bath with a small amount of sodium citrate.  All of the sferifications at the minibar are made this way right now and you can make these ahead of time and they will not gel any more once you take them out of the alginate bath which they are in for only 2 minutes.  To carbonate the sfers we put them very gently into a isi bottle and a small amount of mojito into the bottle to just cover the sfers.  Charge for three hours with one charge of CO2 and right before we serve them we release the gas and quickly put them on a spoon with a garnish of lime zest and a mint leaf.  This needs to be done right away.

Now this realy has no practical application for a restaurant because the carbonation goes away so fast.  It works at a place like the minibar because we are doing 6 people at a time and can control when we serve them.

And we have said this before if any chefs would like to come into the restaurant and spend a couple of days working with us  we would be able to teach them about making sferifications or any of the other countless techniques that we do at Cafe Atlantico/minibar.

Freezing as a step in spherification is simply another method to make spheres bigger than caviar. Bigger spheres can sometimes get unruly. Rather than having to carefully drop a liquid - even a viscous liquid - into another liquid to create a desired form, it's easier to just drop in a frozen solid. And you can use a warm gelling bath.

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Freezing as a step in spherification is simply another method to make spheres bigger than caviar. Bigger spheres can sometimes get unruly. Rather than having to carefully drop a liquid - even a viscous liquid - into another liquid to create a desired form, it's easier to just drop in a frozen solid. And you can use a warm gelling bath.

bingo! Thats why i do it, that and since my business is mobile (meaning i have to have as much control as possible over my dishes, even though i am in a foreign kichen) its more consistant for me.

$.02

Grand Cru Productions

Private High End Dinners and Personal Chef Service

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Chef Cantu told me that their base in the hurricane drink is powdered egg whites

My first thought when I read this is that the foaming is being induced by rxn with peroxide (think hydrogen peroxide on a cut). H2O2 tastes a bit salty and I wouldnt want to drink much of it, tho it is used as a dental rinse.

Now Im extremely curious what Chef Cantu uses in that drink.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Chef Cantu told me that their base in the hurricane drink is powdered egg whites

My first thought when I read this is that the foaming is being induced by rxn with peroxide (think hydrogen peroxide on a cut). H2O2 tastes a bit salty and I wouldnt want to drink much of it, tho it is used as a dental rinse.

Now Im extremely curious what Chef Cantu uses in that drink.

Quoting Chef Cantu...,"There are many ways one can create this reaction. For the advanced home cook, you can separate a mixed drink into 2 inert liquids. One contains an acid and one contains a base. The one that contains a base should have the foaming agent, in this case we use egg white powder. Just be sure to allow the egg white powder to dissolve and strain out any lumps as egg white powder pockets are less than tasty. Use a hand blender rather than a cup blender because the cup blender will create a foaming mass that will spill all over. The only thing one should taste is the drink, not the elements added to create the effect, so only use what is necessary. Depending on the beverage you want to create, you have to adjust the acid vs base. Also bear in mind items like lemon flavored spirits alter the formula and should be taken into consideration. We chose the hurricane because as the base is ejected into the acid, it swirls around in the martini glass thus producing a "milky way" like effect that looks like a satellite image of a hurricane. Any beverage can be adapted to this technique. Cheers."

From the horse's mouth....

Grand Cru Productions

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First off it is NOT NECESSARY to freeze a sfer. It is novel idea but one that I feel is just too time consuming. Secondly what flavor are you trying to make? I would like to help you. You mentioned that anything above caviar size is very difficult to work with. If you could tell me which liquids have the alginate or calcium i am sure that I could help you.

Edited by Chef T (log)
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First off it is NOT NECESSARY to freeze a sfer.  It is novel idea but one that I feel is just too time consuming.  Secondly what flavor are you trying to make?  I would like to help you.  You mentioned that anything above caviar size is very difficult to work with.  If you could tell me which liquids have the alginate or calcium i am sure that I could help you.

Thanks for your offer to help.

It's not necessary to freeze a finished "sfer" but it can be more efficient as a step in the process - for example, for a large quantity or for much larger "spheres". This of course depends on your base product - if it contains alcohol - your means of freezing - standard freezer, liquid nitrogen, etc. - a number of factors. I've done numerous experiments over the last two years with various flavors and products, as well as factors such as sizes, textures, temperatures, layers, viscosities, carbonation, etc.

I think it's important to be open to novel ideas and to explore them.

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First off it is NOT NECESSARY to freeze a sfer.  It is novel idea but one that I feel is just too time consuming.  Secondly what flavor are you trying to make?  I would like to help you.  You mentioned that anything above caviar size is very difficult to work with.  If you could tell me which liquids have the alginate or calcium i am sure that I could help you.

Thanks for your offer to help.

It's not necessary to freeze a finished "sfer" but it can be more efficient as a step in the process - for example, for a large quantity or for much larger "spheres". This of course depends on your base product - if it contains alcohol - your means of freezing - standard freezer, liquid nitrogen, etc. - a number of factors. I've done numerous experiments over the last two years with various flavors and products, as well as factors such as sizes, textures, temperatures, layers, viscosities, carbonation, etc.

I think it's important to be open to novel ideas and to explore them.

In my experience, when making sferifications I found if done properly ie correct ratios they come out perfectly round. Thus, I don't believe that freezing is neccesary to create a perfectly round sferifications.

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ChefT, can you explain more clearly the reasoning behind the reverse spherication process. In my experience I've found that mixing CaCl with the liquid being spherized introduces an unpleasant flavor.

In the case of the mojito why not just alginate the mojito mix rather than add the xanthan. It seems that the xanthan is just being used to thicken the mojito mixture, so why reverse spherize when the alginate will do the thickening just the same?

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