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Adventures with sodium alginate


Jonathan M. Guberman
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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?

Things that naturally contain calcium, acid, or alcohol do not work when you add alginate to them. Yes there can be a slight after taste but with the mojito, olives and apple-red wine sfer you dont taste the chemicals at all because the flavorings themselves are so strong. The purpose of the xanthan is to keep the liquid from just running everywhere because the alginate bath is some what viscous. Like with the olives you pour just above the liquid and then tap the top of the olive liquid with the bottom of the spoon and they drop. The mojito you slightly submerge the spoon and then pour and with the redwine apple one we use a speed pourer submerged in the alginate water. For example when you make a sfer with a flavored liquid and alginate and pour it into calcium the sfer sets from the outside in it will continue to set even after you wash it off in water. That is why you make that method to order. When you make a sfer with calcium and a flavored liquid into alginate the membrane forms on the outside and sets out, so when you wash the sfer off in water it no longer developes anymore of a membrane. These can be made ahead of time and stored in a flavored medium and sit all day. It needs to be a flavoured medium becasue if left to sit in water, I think its osmosis, the flavor will leache out into the storing liquid. You can take yogurt and suck it up into a syringe with no chemicals added and make like little knots into a alginate bath and they will set upon there own. The natural calcium in the yougurt will work on its own without the addition of more calcium.

here is the recipe for Sferical yougurt knots.

Alginate mixture:

1000 g Water

5 g alginate

Mix 1/3 of the liquid with the alginate and blend until no more lumps pour in remaing 2/3 water and stir. let sit in the rfridgerator for 1 hour to loose some of the bubbles

For the yogut:

2 goats yogurts 200 g/u

1. pour the alginate mixture in a container that allows for a height of 4 cm

2. Beat the yogurt to obtain a smooth cream keeping out the air.

3. Fill a syring with a noozle 0.2 cm exterior diameter with the yogurt.

4. Put the syringe into the algin mixture & form knots 2 cm in diameter. 3 knots per person

5. Leave in the algin for 2 min.

6. take the knots out with a slotted spoon and plunge into clean water.

7. Drain the knots with a slotted spoon being careful not to break them and keep in a container on sulphurised paper so they can drain properly. and cover top.

8. keep in refridgerator until ready to serve.

This is using the products from texturas.

Edited by Chef T (log)
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Things that naturally contain calcium, acid, or alcohol do not work when you add alginate to them.  Yes there can be a slight after taste but with the mojito, olives and apple-red wine sfer you dont taste the chemicals at all because the flavorings themselves are so strong.  The purpose of the xanthan is to keep the liquid from just running everywhere because the alginate bath is some what viscous.

ChefT - thanks for all the info on the mojitos.

I guess the amount of Citras required depends on the acidity of each mix, but can I just ask what typical range of Calcic and Algin you're using for this and other reverse sferifications? Are they radically different from the amounts used in standard calcic bath recipes? Also, am I right in understanding that you're adding the Citras to the algin bath, rather than to the mojito liquid itself?

restaurant, private catering, consultancy
feast for the senses / blog

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Things that naturally contain calcium, acid, or alcohol do not work when you add alginate to them.  Yes there can be a slight after taste but with the mojito, olives and apple-red wine sfer you dont taste the chemicals at all because the flavorings themselves are so strong.  The purpose of the xanthan is to keep the liquid from just running everywhere because the alginate bath is some what viscous.

ChefT - thanks for all the info on the mojitos.

I guess the amount of Citras required depends on the acidity of each mix, but can I just ask what typical range of Calcic and Algin you're using for this and other reverse sferifications? Are they radically different from the amounts used in standard calcic bath recipes? Also, am I right in understanding that you're adding the Citras to the algin bath, rather than to the mojito liquid itself?

We use a set alginate bath recipe for all of the sfers. Which is best because you need a constant. The amount of calcic and xanthan changes from each recipe. You blend in the citras first and then blend in the algin. Now the citras is not always neccesary. As in the yogurt recipe. We add it because we are doing a couple of diff sfers. and it helps cover all bases. Our algin base recipe is the same as the yogurt algin base. For 500 g of water we use 1 g of citras 2.5 grams of algin. It is important to make a new algin bath every so often as the calcium build up in the algin bath with start to effect the process. This is something you can see yourself because all of a sudden the sfers wont set the same and start to break. I make the sfers in small batches and constantly skim the liquid with a very very fine mesh strainer like a tea stainer.

One other thing I want to bring to everybodys attention Not all digital scales are the same. Not long ago we bought a digital scale at a head shop for $50 and where excited by its cheap price but when we went to use use it it was off by 0.5-1 gram every time even after calibrating it. We have been using a Tanita Pro digital scale for the past 3 years and it has been very accurate. So be carefull when buying a low priced digital gram scale they are not all equal.

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We use a set alginate bath recipe for all of the sfers.  Which is best because you need a constant.  The amount of calcic and xanthan changes from each recipe.  You blend in the citras first and then blend in the algin.  Now the citras is not always neccesary.  As in the yogurt recipe.  We add it because we are doing a couple of diff sfers.  and it helps cover all bases.  Our algin base recipe is the same as the yogurt algin base. For 500 g of water we use 1 g of citras 2.5 grams of algin.

Brilliant, thanks - those figures seem broadly in line with the standard (non-reversed) Texturas recipes. Does that mean for that mojito around 2-3g of calcic per 500g would be about right, or is it possible to use less when doing the reverse sferification?

restaurant, private catering, consultancy
feast for the senses / blog

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We use a set alginate bath recipe for all of the sfers.  Which is best because you need a constant.  The amount of calcic and xanthan changes from each recipe.  You blend in the citras first and then blend in the algin.  Now the citras is not always neccesary.  As in the yogurt recipe.  We add it because we are doing a couple of diff sfers.  and it helps cover all bases.  Our algin base recipe is the same as the yogurt algin base. For 500 g of water we use 1 g of citras 2.5 grams of algin.

Brilliant, thanks - those figures seem broadly in line with the standard (non-reversed) Texturas recipes. Does that mean for that mojito around 2-3g of calcic per 500g would be about right, or is it possible to use less when doing the reverse sferification?

Each sfer recipe is different you are just going to have to experiment. The numbers for the mojito are close.

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London has hard water.

So for Sodium Algiate I make it up with distilled water esp when trying to do reverse SP.

I've had occasions where things have got to jelly like - am I being paranoid?

I'm only playing at home, but what do the pro's do ?

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

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The Sodium Alginate bath should be 5% of the total grams of water it's dissolved in. My question is, what are the ratios needed to form vodka or liquer caviars? So far it just spreads out across the surface of the bath and gels into gunky sheets. Are there certain ratios based on Alcohol-by-Volume?

Edited by isotelesis (log)
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Maybe you know that there is another way of making pearls with the advantage that you can make it some hours in advance, you don't need CaCl2 (so no problems with the bad taste), gives you flexibility in forms,...

the product is gelatine vegetale from Sosa (a spanish company. You can buy it in belgium by Cnudde Cnudde ). It has nothing to do with gelatine itself. It is a combination of seaweeds and plant extracts.

How do you use it. For example you want to make a pearl of crême brulée.

Step 1: make a sauce anglaise

Step 2: freeze the sauce in a silicone mat with shapes

Step 3: Make caramel, add water and gelatine vegetale (50 g per 1000g liquid)

Step 4: heat the liquid to 90°C

Step 5: place the ice on a needle

Step 6: drop the ice in the hot caramel (the more you do this, the thicker the membrane)

Step 7: leave the pearl so the ice can melt to give you a liquid filling

You have to freeze it because it is the cold that solidify the gel into a membrane. If you want to make a filling, it is sometimes necessairy to add xanthane to thicken , but not in this case.

Here some pictures:

gallery_47703_3523_969339.jpggallery_47703_3523_1263757.jpggallery_47703_3523_984447.jpggallery_47703_3523_1013201.jpg

Link to more pictures and recipes, my website is:

Website on MG and design

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I've been thinking... since you can freeze things for spherication, has anybody tried doing anything but spheres? Doughnuts, mobius strips and other topological oddities. How would this affect the eating?

Could you do a riff on keller's coffee & doughnuts with a doughnut shaped, doughnut flavoured ravioli and then a spherical coffee ravioli on top?

PS: I am a guy.

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If you want to be really geeky, you could refer to the aformentioned coffee & doughnuts dish as "coffee in a coffeecup" since, in topology, doughnuts and coffee cups are the same thing. I've been thinking about this a bit more and here are some of the things I would like to see done:

A Alinea inspired "hot tomato, cold tomato". A cold ravioli or either tomato water or gazpacho in some sort of hot tomato soup. You could even go campbells tinned soup if you want to play around a bit with nostalgia. The entire thing is assembled tableside by dropping the chilled tomato ravioli into the soup, garnishing with a bit of fresh basil and a sliver of good parmesan, and then eaten like an oyster.

"Eggs and Toast on Bacon". I don't know how one would go about making liquid toast but if you could, take a quail egg yolk and place it in the centre of a frozen toast liquid sphere, aliginate it and then cook it sous vide until the egg yolk is soft boiled. Serve on a piece of crispy pancetta.

Ravioli within a Ravioli. Same sort of principle as the egg dish. First make a ravioli, then freeze it inside another liquid and alignate that to make a two layered ravioli.

PS: I am a guy.

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Shalmanese. It's been found that after melting most frozen shapes assume a circular form. So while I think a pyramid might be out of the question, a doughnut shaped thing could be cool.

In terms of the liquid toast, Chef Cantu has done the doughnut soup though I'm not sure how easy that would be too alginate and spherize.

I do like the idea of the hot/cold tomato. People have made tomato caviar, but the acid might cause some problems.

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In terms of the liquid toast, Chef Cantu has done the doughnut soup though I'm not sure how easy that would be too alginate and spherize.

Think it should work dropped right into an alginate bath in much the same way as yoghurt.

Each sfer recipe is different you are just going to have to experiment.  The numbers for the mojito are close.

Cheers for the help Chef T. Still fumbling with larger shapes - finding it hard to get the mix heavy enough (without using too much xanthan) to balance against the viscosity of the algin bath - but am getting smaller cocktail spheres working very nicely.

restaurant, private catering, consultancy
feast for the senses / blog

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  • 2 weeks later...

Okay, I was no slouch in school, but still this topic makes my head hurt a bit, probably because it seems like there really isn't a text that I can go to that lists everything out.

I know it's difficult to figure out exactly what's going on without starting simple first ... I'm getting my first set of chemicals soon and I'm very excited. Eventually, I want to work my way up to a creamsicle-like cocktail, with a vanilla/orange vodka garnished with vanilla flavored cream pearls, but I have some questions and I wonder if, with my understanding of things, a cream-based caviar would work? I've seen that other people here have had difficulty ... would reducing the cream and then using a reverse alginate bath have enough natural calcium to activate the alginate?

In any case, if it works in theory, here's how I'm thinking of progressing to get practice:

* Practice the regular apple recipe from Adria

* Practice a reverse apple (calc in the apple, alginate in the bath)

* Practice a creamsicle cocktail

Line Cook and Food Geek, Seattle, WA

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Well, this is just lovely. Kudos to all, particularly for having the same problems I had, and then solving them!

I particularly appreciate the tip about chilling your alginate/puree before the calci-bath. I didn't freeze mine completely (left it in for about 5 minutes, per Adria and enthusiasm), but it helped a whole lot with the appearance of the orbs. Also, I've noticed that once the orbs are out of the bath, the appearance is much more forgiving. Yay, gravity!

My other note: it really, really helps to start with something that tastes good. In my enthusiasm, I've tried three flavors: yellow pepper, blueberry, and carrot. The colors were gorgeous, but all the flavors left much to be desired. Still, proof of concept.

Except for the blueberry. Puree of blueberry turns out to be some freaky stuff, all jellylike and non-liquid. Do blueberries have that much pectin? (I mean, it was a happy accident, but I seriously checked my supply of Agar to make sure I hadn't dropped some into the blender by accident.)

The bright colors make me wish for bright, acidic tastes. I'm going to have to experiment with how much lemon juice a puree can take and still sferify. Also whether adding calcium citrate to lower pH will screw up the lemon juice. I want these flavors to pop!!

Thanks again to all for the discussion.

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  • 1 month later...

Bringing a thread back from the dead... anyways, one of my current projects is creating a MG themed set of dishes for thanksgiving this year, one dish i really want to try to create is a spiced apple cider orb, served on a bed of flavored whipped cream. here is my question, a is there anyway for me to really enhance the flavors, ( im thinking maybe reduce the cider bass slightly) and other than calcium citrate is there anything else i can use to balance the Ph, on the grounds that as a broke teenager i cant get ahold of any calcium citrate in time.

Thanks

Tyler

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In light of the upcoming Thanksgiving, I'd like to make cranberry caviar. I know that cranberry is naturally very acidic, so do I need to adjust the pH for proper spherication? Is there an ideal pH in general that one should shoot for?

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There are philosophical issues to consider when creating a MG-themed Thanksgiving. But that's neither here nor there.

You shouldn't have much trouble with apple caviar. I've made a similar dish to marginal success. I'd say reduce slightly, sweeten more than you think you have to with honey, simple syrup, agave nectar, etc, and spice judiciously.

ETA: Cranberry could get tricky. Shoot for, umm, not-acidic.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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I made cranberry caviar using off the shelf cranberry juice and the same amout of alginate as used for melon caviar in the Texturas recipe.

It worked but the flavor was very weak and it didn't work that well - I guess the amount of sugar in the bought cranberry juice.

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

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Anyone tried this......

Was thinking about reverse where you freeze in moulds what you want to turn into spheres then dip into chilled CaCl solution, re freeze then drop into an alginate solution.

I've not tried this but my guess would be that the calcium would impregnate the surface of the frozen spheres, then when dropped into the alginate would allow the gel to be formed around the outside. But when the frozen solution melted the CaCl would diffuse into the liquid and as only a small amount not change the taste.

If no one has tried this then I'll give it a go when I get a chance and report back.

Edited by ermintrude (log)

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

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Jonathan, I wanted to thank you for this thread and for your pioneering as well as everyone else's. It inspired me to create this

gallery_19538_3851_1602618.jpg

for a challenge in the Iron Baker series here in egullet in pastry & baking forum. My challenge was to make a plated dessert using Sweet Southern Tea with a welcoming Southern hospitality feel.

So my idea was to deconstruct sweet tea ie., tea, lemon, sugar, ice cubes, sweat on the outside of the glass and the glass.

The tea caviar represents the sweat glistening on the outside of the glass, the cake cubes with which you grab up the caviar represents the ice cubes and there's various other goodies there. But I wanted to thank you as you were my inspiration to try this.

This is the entire thread. Pictures of the plated dessert start on page two and my demo of how I did the caviar are on page three.

Thanks, Dude!

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K8memphis,

those caviar are beatiful... mine always come out with a very wet appearence, yours are dry and individual and glisten, fantastic. So last night i tried my first version of my apple cider orbs, i trippled the amount of mulling spices than in normal spiced cider, and added a good amount of amber agave syrup which i think complemented the cider. i froze about have of the cider to try that approach and did the others by hand. The taste was dead on, tasted great, but i couldnt get orbs ...they were sloppy and un-appealing. the mixture i froze turned into... jello which didnt form a membrane and in boiling wter didnt revert back to liquid. so any one have suggestions on forming better orbs and or the freezing technique.

P.S. Bryan in terms of philosophical problems... most of the dinner will be classic, im duing six very small courses that are MG themed for my senior project and becuase i find it cool.

Edited by skidude72 (log)
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