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Adventures with sodium alginate


Jonathan M. Guberman
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Freezing spheres.

Any one tried this?

What happens when you freeze a sphere does it break the integrity. E.g the water expands and you end up with a mess as the sphere has been ruptured.

Freezing and then dropping into an alginate solution works and can make things easier if you have the time, but anyone tried to make say caviar and then freeze these in a larger volume of another liquid and then reverse sphereify that?. Would the small spheres survive the freezing process? (Thinking a tomato juice sphere with Parmesan and basil pearls inside). While I could try this, as a home cook and hate to waste food would like to know if anyone has tried this before.

Also as knowing I could make spheres and freeze them would help loads as I could make a batch and use whenever. If know one knows, I'll make extra next time and see what happens.

Edited by ermintrude (log)

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

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I think they were freezing the spheres at WD50 with nitrogen. You need freeze fast if you want to block the cross linking after spherification. There are some references up thread.

My soup looked like an above ground pool in a bad neighborhood.

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I think they were freezing the spheres at WD50 with nitrogen. You need freeze fast if you want to block the cross linking after spherification. There are some references up thread.

I was thinking of freezing the liquid containing the calcium and droping into an alginate bath - i.e. reverse spherification - and as they started to thaw they would spherify.

If say these spheres could then be frozen in a larger calcium containing solution would the spheres survive - thinking of making say strawberry and cream - cream pearls in a strawberry sphere this way. Any one tried before I have a go and make a potential mess!

Edited by ermintrude (log)

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

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Sure, spheres in spheres are totally possible. You don't need to freeze, but I'm sure it would help make it easier to handle. Post some pics if you do it. I never get a chance since I'm usually too messy ;)

My soup looked like an above ground pool in a bad neighborhood.

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  • 2 months later...

I have been pretty successful at making other MG items but spherification always alludes me. What is the alginate solution supposed to look like after blended? Mine always becomes a thick gelly goo. Is this right? I guess I never blended it throughly enough because before it used to be really loose (not incorporated). Now that I am using a blender, I get this goo. The upside is that when I drop it into the bath, it's already so thick it holds it's shape. I am follow recipes exactly. Right now, I am trying reverse spherificatin with 2.5 grams of alginate in 500 grams of water to make the bath. I mixed it with a stick blender and now the bath is all thick. I wouldn't think of dropping anything in it.

Is anyone else having this problem? Can anyone show a video or picture of what an alginate solution should look like?

Thanks.

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How thick is thick?

I use a 5g/l alginate bath, mixed in an ordinary blender. Even once de-aired, it is pretty slimy -- about the thickness of heavy cream perhaps? I blend it well, and put in the 'fridge overnight to de-air. It is pretty thick out of the blender, less so the next day. I guess that the incorporated air makes it into, in essence, a kind of foam, and that letting it rest un-foams it.

The fact that it is pretty thick does mean you have to modify the techniques a bit from "normal" spherification. Dropping small drops from a height does not reliably produce small spheres, for example. But after playing around a bit you'll see what works. Oh, but I do find medium-sized spheres *much* easier to make in the reverse mix, in part because the alginate bath is thickish...

Hope this helps!

jk

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Hi Jonathan,

Thanks for the reply. I used the 5g/l alginate bath just like you and it is quite thick adn slimy. I am letting it de-air overnight in the fridge. Can you elaborate on the changes that need to be made from normal spherification? If I can't drop from heights, what do you suggest?

My main concern is it does not seem like there is a consistency in the solution. That is, some parts are thicker than others. I assume this would affect any spherification because some drops may hit a thick section of the alginate bath while others may hit a looser part.

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"My main concern is it does not seem like there is a consistency in the solution."

That's odd. I wonder if it isn't getting well enough mixed? To make 1 liter, I usually start with about 500ml of water in a standard blender with 5g SA, whirl until it seems well dissolved (often over a minute), and then slowly add the additional 500ml with the motor running. My reason for this is the initial blend tends to leave some small bits of alginate stuck to the blender walls; the additional water seems to smooth things out.

I guess I would suggest vigorous re-mixing of the varied solution, and then let it rest and see what happens..?

You *can* drop them from a height, but I sometimes find that they "splash" into the surface rather than sink. Too low and they end up with "tails." My only suggestion is to just try a couple different heights / sizes until you get the shape/size you want...

You might also try reducing the % alginate. Rather than .5%, perhaps try .4% and see what happens? You might have to leave the sphere in the mix longer, but other than that it really ought to work...

jk

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Thanks, I am using gluco as well. I tried making the alginate bath solution again yesterday. This time using 1.5g/500ml and it also is a jelly mess. I dropped the gluconate grape juice solution into it and nothing happened. I wonder if my alginate some how expired or went bad.

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  • 4 weeks later...
Thanks, I am using gluco as well. I tried making the alginate bath solution again yesterday. This time using 1.5g/500ml and it also is a jelly mess. I dropped the gluconate grape juice solution into it and nothing happened. I wonder if my alginate some how expired or went bad.

I have found that a calcium trace in my water source caused over thickening of the alginate solution - changing to a "soft" distilled / or bottled water fixed the problem - might be relevant..

Its only food...!

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Thanks, I am using gluco as well. I tried making the alginate bath solution again yesterday. This time using 1.5g/500ml and it also is a jelly mess. I dropped the gluconate grape juice solution into it and nothing happened. I wonder if my alginate some how expired or went bad.

I have found that a calcium trace in my water source caused over thickening of the alginate solution - changing to a "soft" distilled / or bottled water fixed the problem - might be relevant..

WOW! Very relevant. My dishwasher has been putting calcium deposits all over my glases and dishes. I forgot if I used the Brita filtered water or tap water in my experiments. From now on I'll only use filtered.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 3 months later...
Anyone any ideas of how you could coat an alginate sphere with chocolate?

It won't stick on it's own

Are you trying this with a "standard" or "reverse" sphere. "reverse" (gluco in mix, fixed in an algin bath) are a bit "stickier" so they might work where "normal" spheres don't.

Are you trying to coat them with melted chocolate? Might powered chocolate work?

And: what effect are you going for? If you just want a liquid coated in chocolate, why not freeze the liquid into a sphere, dip it in chocolate, & let it melt in the 'fridge? Why bother w/ alginate at all?

Best,

jk

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You could use molds. Fill your molds with tempered chocolate, pour out the excess and let it set just like you would for any filled chocolates. Drop in your spheres and bottom the molds and you're set. I'd definitely use "reverse" spheres though. If not, you'd have to use them pretty quickly or they would gel completely. Just coating the soft, wobbly spheres in chocolate by dipping sounds like an exercise in frustration to me... but I've never actually tried it.

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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Anyone any ideas of how you could coat an alginate sphere with chocolate?

It won't stick on it's own

Are you trying to coat them with melted chocolate? Might powered chocolate work?

And: what effect are you going for? If you just want a liquid coated in chocolate, why not freeze the liquid into a sphere, dip it in chocolate, & let it melt in the 'fridge? Why bother w/ alginate at all?

Best,

jk

Was thinking of making some alcoholic reverse spheres - and freezing's a problem there. But you've got me thinking perhaps I could freeze the spheres - the alginate should freeze even if the alcohol does not - and the cold temp would cause the chocolate to quickly solidify.

Also a divided alginate sphere 1/2 coated in chocolate was another idea.

Just coating the soft, wobbly spheres in chocolate by dipping sounds like an exercise in frustration to me... but I've never actually tried it.

It is - out of 16 I managed to coat 2 and not very pretty at that!

Think I'll need to play one weekend and see what happens. Perhaps rolling in one of coco, cornstarch, maltodextrin may give the chocolate enough traction.

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

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Just coating the soft, wobbly spheres in chocolate by dipping sounds like an exercise in frustration to me... but I've never actually tried it.

It is - out of 16 I managed to coat 2 and not very pretty at that!

Think I'll need to play one weekend and see what happens. Perhaps rolling in one of coco, cornstarch, maltodextrin may give the chocolate enough traction.

It's not just a problem of traction, it's the difficulty of getting the chocolate to set on a wobbly surface without cracking. I mucked about with both methods a good while back and would say if the freezing and enrobing method doesn't work for you then the molded chocolate method is the way to go. It's easier, less messy and prettier :wink:

Here's a pic taken after cutting into a molded chocolate with a wine sphere...

gallery_16895_2915_167399.jpg

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

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have a question about the temperature that you are adding the Alginate, and the temperature that you are adding the calcium to to make the gels. and how long you are leaving the liquids in the calcium before pulling them.

Much to my delight the sodium alginate and calcium chloride that I ordered in the mail arrived yesterday. I've been waiting to make my first eGullet post a good one, and this seemed like the perfect topic.

First, a little personal background. (Feel free to skip this paragraph. You won't miss anything.) I've been a life-long kitchen-phobe: when I started working on my PhD and no longer had parents or dormitory food I relied mostly on take-out and the occasional hand-out to sustain me. Recently, however, I realized that if I can manage in the laboratory at work, then I should be able to manage in the kitchen at home. Hence, I've been teaching myself to cook and, though I'm still a novice, I've been happy with my progress. My tastebuds (and my friends') have been reaping the benefits. I find that I now spend most of my free time reading about cooking or playing around in the kitchen. (Incidentally, if there are any people within a reasonable radius of Princeton, NJ who feel like showing a novice a thing or two in the kitchen, PM me! I'm always looking to learn.)

When I read about "fruit caviar" and "liquid ravioli" I was dying to taste them. As I read more, it seemed like something that wouldn't be too hard to do at home. Thanks to this thread, I learned that Will Goldfarb's Room 4 Dessert in New York was selling both sodium alginate and calcium chloride. I called the restaurant on Monday, and the packets arrived on Wednesday.

gallery_44870_2836_779982.jpg

(Apologies for the blurry photo; either I was shaking with excitement or I'm just a terrible photographer.) The powders came in nice re-sealable packages and are labelled www.willpowder.net. It's just a "coming soon" page as of this writing, but I look forward to seeing what other goodies they will offer.

I was eager to play around with my new toys, and so I rushed to make something. I was somewhat worried about acidity since I don't have any calcium citrate to balance the pH, so I decided to do a simpler variation on the tea ravioli recipe from the Texturas web site (the simplification being the omission of the lemon ice centres). I also used this post about liquid pea ravioli from the Hungry in Hogtown as a reference.

In my zeal I made at least one silly mistake. I added all of the alginate that the recipe called for to the water at once and then attempted to blend it in, rather than adding a little powder at a time and then blending, which led to gooey chunks that were difficult to dissolve (which you can sort of see in the picture.)

gallery_44870_2836_799239.jpg

I probably could have dissolved these chunks by heating, but I was doing this for fun, not for serving, and I was eager to get some mixture into the calcium chloride bath.

And that's exactly what I did.

gallery_44870_2836_69949.jpg

Here you can see a couple of tea balls floating in the calcium chloride bath. You can see the remains of an unsuccessful one on the right side in the middle. I definitely got better at forming the spheres as time went by, but I can't say I got a perfect shape every time. Still, even the deformed looking ones at the top look much more spherical once they're out of the bath.

Finally, here's a picture of the finished product. It's not much for presentation, and certainly wasn't the nicest one of the batch, but it's the only one that I took a picture of.

gallery_44870_2836_898236.jpg

What did they taste like? Well, not to be glib, but it tasted exactly like iced tea. The texture was pure liquid. I experimented with leaving the balls in the bath for shorter and longer amounts of time. If I didn't leave it in long enough, they were very delicate. The longer they were left in the more durable they were, because they had a thicker skin. However, the skin has a bit of an odd feeling in your mouth and isn't nearly as flavourful. It seems to me that the goal of this particular preparation is to make the skin as thin as possible while still holding together.

The whole thing was definitely a lot of fun, and I can see what it delights people so much. I'm looking forward to experimenting further, and am curious to hear what others have done with this. In particular, I'm wondering if I can use baking soda rather than calcium chloride to change the pH of fruit juices without compromising flavour. If anyone has recipes for alginate dishes (other than the ones linked to in this post and the ones on starchef.com) I'd love to know about them, and any tips would be much appreciated. If I can, I'd be happy to answer any questions people might have (although I've put most of what I know in this post!).

Cheers!

Jonathan

Tell me what you eat, and i will tell you what you are!

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I add all the chemicals at (roughly) room temperature.

Depending on the size of the sphere and what it is made of, I find that most of the time I end up wanting it in the bath for between 10 seconds and 1 minute works. But the only way to tell where in that range is to try a few a different times and see what works -- as above, you usually want the 'skin' as thin as possible w/o too many breaking while being plated!

jk

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  • 3 weeks later...

Another attempt to make Spherified Pomodoro Caprese. This time I consider it to mostly be a success.

At first I wanted to make spherified tomato water, but then I realized that we had absolutely perfect, sweet currant tomatoes. So these were placed into a spoonful of liquefied bufalo mozzarella, which was then spherified, using the El Bulli recipe. This resulted in a tomato floating inside the mozzarella.

I carefully placed these onto a spoon. I made some tiny, olive oil soaked, crunchy croutons; one went onto each spoon. I then added some Extra Vecchio Balsamic Vinegar (Sereni), a pinch of Hawaiian sea salt, and a small pile of basil dust (homemade basil oil into tapioca maltodextrin).

Of course, you had to eat it in one go. You got the mozzarella pop, and then the tomato pop; everything blended in your mouth. The textures worked well, and the flavors were perfect. I only wisht that the tomatoes had not been visible inside the mozzarella.

spherified caprese

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