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Adventures with sodium alginate

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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.

Thank you, SkiDude, let me make it clear I am not an expert. However I do have some thoughts for you. I screwed up my measurements and had dismal results at times. Sounds like you need to tweak your amounts. I mean you can do it as you go too. Just test it and start adding more of whatever you used. Did you strain your product to be sure all the alginate dissolved properly and did you add additional to make up for that?? Did you add any sodium citrate if you needed it to get the right ph balance?? Are you dropping drops straight down with a food baster??? You can get syringes at the drug store too that work great, but the ones I got made very small cavis*.

And on the freezing, I read somewhere that they did not fully freeze the substance just stored it in the freezer to chill. I have no idea how they did that but I remember reading that it was not fully frozen if that helps at all.

Good Luck! Happy Cavis* to you!!

*more than one non-fish caviar sphere

pronounced A like apple, CAVhees :biggrin:

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actually for cavis ive had decent success, ui ordered 30 syringes off a web drug store, and built a contraption to make large quantities of cavis (by copying you i feel smarter :wink: ) the area were im having issue is creating egg sized orbs.

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Does anyone know the difference between Calcium Chloride and Calcium Lacatate?

Calcium Chloride is an inorganic salt.

Calcium Lactate is an organic salt.

CC has a higher calcium content than CL – something like 36%.vs. 13%

They are both highly soluble at various PH levels though inorganic salts

generally have a tendency to be less soluble than organic salts - properties

which are taken advantage of to form gels by other techniques involving the

delaying of the reaction with a slowly soluble calcium salt – especially in acid PH.

Lots of good information available on the FMC Biopolymer site, on properties and techniques - the largest producer of alginates – such as this section on forming a gel:


There are philosophical issues to consider when creating a MG-themed Thanksgiving. 

Considering the process involving dropping a flavored solution of sodium alginate into a calcium salt solution to form a sphere was patented in 1946 by William Peschardt to manufacture artificial cherries, it would seem we’ve been eating MG for the holidays for some 60 years… in our fruitcake.

Manufacture of Artificial Cherries, Soft Sheets and the Like

William Peschardt - July 9, 1946

U.S. Patent # 2403547


Basic Stock:

“A syrup is made up from 100 parts by weight of sugar to 20 parts by weight of glucose and into this syrup is dissolved a quantity of best grade sodium alginate such as known under the registered trade mark “Manucol” representing about 1% to 2% by weight of the final solution. If desired to form a very soft sticky center in the final product .5% to 1% invert sugar or equivalent may be added. Any suitable coloring or flavoring may be added to the basic stock.”

Setting Bath:

“A 20% aqueous solution of calcium chloride is added to glucose in a proportion to yield 2.5% by weight of calcium chloride in the total bath. The basic stock is in the state of a viscous treacly mass sufficiently fluid to be dropped as globules of requisite size into the setting bath or into molds before immersing in the bath.

To make “cherries” for instance the basic stock may be fed from a suitable dropper such as a pan having a plurality of nozzles of requisite diameter… each controlled by an extrusion piston whereby the stock may be dropped as detached blobs of predetermined weight into the setting solution. An airt-tight skin is immediately formed on the blobs and the latter may be removed from the bath within one minute if the “cherries” are to have a tacky body contained in a very thin skin. For more solid bodies having a thicker and somewhat tougher skin merging inwardly into a more jellified body having only a small tacky core, a period longer than one minute, up to say three or four minutes may be allowed for the immersion… as this time factor depends upon the exact composition of the basic stock (itself dependent upon the grade and percentage of sodium alginate) and also upon the strength of the chloride setting bath… shapes and forms other than the spherical imparted by a direct dropping process may be secured by molding.”

Edited by sizzleteeth (log)

"At the gate, I said goodnight to the fortune teller... the carnival sign threw colored shadows on her face... but I could tell she was blushing." - B.McMahan

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  • 3 weeks later...

Looks like the inverse spheres just got a whole lot easier. Calcium gluconolactate - Gluco - has just been added to El Bulli's Texturas line.

There's also a new 'Surprises' range, featuring crystalised honey, popping candy, and tapioca maltodextrin. Lots of recipes for the new ingredients at the site, too, along with a handy reference guide summing up which products are useful for each application.

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

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I really wish I would have not forgotten the camera the other day, but for a party the restaurant did other day I did wild mushroom caviar with creme fraiche on potato blinis. I was quite pleased with how well it turned out. I'll have to make it again soon when I have the cam

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Chef Banta, I'm not sure if you were cooking when I was at the Metropolitan a couple years ago but you actually served me my first ever savory foam. It was a potato puree that I realize is quite pedestrian now, but it opened my eyes to potatoes+lightness=tasty in a way gnocchi or Robuchon-style potatoes never could.

Anyway, did you do a normal s'fer or an inverse for the mushroom? Do you mind sharing your proportions?

It's great to hear of people using modern techniques in SLC. I've spent a lot of time out there for family reasons and always thought your restaurant was leading the way in creative cuisine in the city.

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I was sadly not there when you last ate there. As for the ratio I used a roughly 1-1.3% alginate solution in the mushroom broth (actually our menu consommé) and ~2-3% Chloride solution. While they turned out well I felt I needed to tighten up the ratio a bit. This of course meaning that I need to break down and buy a better digital scale. (like I need incentive to buy new kitchen gadgets!)

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  • 4 weeks later...

For new year's eve I did (or at least tried) two spherifications. One was porcini mushroom and thyme and the other was acorn squash and smoked ham (no actual ham solids in the spheres - just in the stock for flavoring). As you can see the mushroom one worked really well, the squash did not, but the squash one tasted better.


I didn't measure the pH of either, but i figured that the squash wasn't too acidic yet it still failed miserably. I even put some more SA in the stock to see if that would help - didn't. Any ideas why?

Anyone who says I'm hard to shop for doesn't know where to buy beer.

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Looks like the inverse spheres just got a whole lot easier. Calcium gluconolactate - Gluco - has just been added to El Bulli's Texturas line.

There's also a new 'Surprises' range, featuring crystalised honey, popping candy, and tapioca maltodextrin. Lots of recipes for the new ingredients at the site, too, along with a handy reference guide summing up which products are useful for each application.

Does anyone know of any benefits of using calcium gluconate? Is there better flavor release?


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I've had chocolate caviar at an Herve This molecular gastronomy seminar in Paris made with a chocolate soup - chocolate and water - and sodium alginate in calcium chloride so it does work fine.

Texturas' Gluco is still awaiting FDA approval in the US - along with Malto, Crumiel, and Fizzy. They should be available soon - through Koerner and La Tienda.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here my results on my experiments with Texturas (after 2 evenings):


- small and big sized pillows of coffee colored water, using a CO2 device (dunno the English). Used a scissor to cut

- port caviar in a big ball of water.

For the port: I added the algin first. It mixed extremely well but would not react with the calcic (because of the alcohol). Therefor I boiled out all the alcohol. Then everything went smooth. This brought to me the idea of using alcohol to mix algin with another fluid, then to boil in order to get it well.

I did all my initial experiments with water and water only, so I could see the effects of less/more algin, heating (microwave, au-bain marie), taste, gelling etc. Later I would try using flavours (apple-juice etc).

Another idea (maybe already posted here?) is to use a needle to suck out the liqued while the bal is in the calcic. Then reinject another liquid. I won't be trying this out, cause it's to tedious if you ask me.

And I am still curious to know how to do olive oil sferifications. I browsed through the thread and probably missed the answer?! Any could help me out? Added a lot of algin to olive oil did not do the trick for me (for probably obvious reasons).



Edited by tomtom11 (log)


Een dag niet gekookt is een dag niet geleefd.

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  • 3 weeks later...

OK - this thread feels so 2006 after having read it again :smile: but, my equipment is finally in and I'm ready to try out my idea. No pressure, but the event I'm preparing for is in 10 days!

So my concept is to take a basic tuille dusted with cinnamon, allowed to harden/cool over a dowel to give it a spoon shape. I'm going to then dip the bottom of the tuille in tempered chocolate for flavor and sturdiness. A mango mousse on top of the tuille. The mousse will then be decorated with chocolate caviar.

Alright, that said, I have read and re-read this thread and with only one posting that says you can do chocolate, no one else has tried it yet. If dairy and chocolate are problematic, I can do chocolate extract and soy or rice milk possibly. Anyway, I'll be playing nightly starting tonight, and any comments/thoughts/warnings not previously posted here are appreciated.

And for the record, my head hurts trying to sort through all of this info.

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Alright, that said, I have read and re-read this thread and with only one posting that says you can do chocolate, no one else has tried it yet.  If dairy and chocolate are problematic, I can do chocolate extract and soy or rice milk possibly.  Anyway, I'll be playing nightly starting tonight, and any comments/thoughts/warnings not previously posted here are appreciated.

Just a quick note, I'd try doing the caviar inverted, which is dropping calcium rich liquid into a algin bath. You'll might notice that dropping can be difficult because of the thickness of the algin bath. Making the choco calcic rich can be done by using yoghurt. I also see people posting here and adding the actual calcic to the liquid.

My 2 cents.

Did you find any info on how to make sferes with oil? I printed out the whole thread in pDF, but it's indeed a nightmare to consult.


Een dag niet gekookt is een dag niet geleefd.

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