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Adventures with sodium alginate


Jonathan M. Guberman
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Hey everyone this is my first post ever. I am very happy to have found this mass amount of info. All my chemicals are in the mail and will be here shortly. One of my many many questions, is can i make a flavored bath to drop my caviar into. For example a chocolate calcium solution that you would drop alginated cherry juice into to form a chocolate covered cherry?

P.S. Youtube is an amazing source,to watch videos of MG, such as ferran making raviolis, achatz working with maltodextrin, and peanut butter jelly time.

Wait a minute Doc. Are you telling me this thing runs on Plutonium?

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Hey everyone this is my first post ever.  I am very happy to have found this mass amount of info.  All my chemicals are in the mail and will be here shortly.  One of my many many questions, is can i make a flavored bath to drop my caviar into.  For example a chocolate calcium solution that you would drop alginated cherry juice into to form a chocolate covered cherry?

Yes, but bear in mind the chocolate calcium bath will make it difficult to see your spheres. Also alginate is not a good flavor releaser so you may not get as much chocolate taste as you wish (perhaps use Gelan instead of alginate but not tried that)

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

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I think ermintrude understates the case -- I'd be very surprised if you could taste the chocolate at all, esp. given how thin you want the membrane to be. More plausible, I think, would be to embed a piece of chocolate in the cherry sphere, a la the ice-tea raviolo. But do let us know how your experiments turn out!

jk

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I think ermintrude understates the case -- I'd be very surprised if you could taste the chocolate at all

Me too. In fact, I'm sure it doesn't work that way. If it did, you'd be able to taste the calcium chloride when using that as the calcium source for a calcium bath and that would render it useless because it's some nasty tasting stuff. If you were to use lactate and/or gluconate and not rinse them you may get some residual flavor but you could just as easily hold the spheres in a flavored liquid until serving if you went that route.

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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Just finally got all my chems and will prob experiment tomorrow for the first time with spheres and maltodextrin powders. One question, if I make the spheres i hear that alchol is no friend to the process; so if I were to make a ravioli sized sphere and place it in a cup could i cover it with alchol to make the sphere burst by itself to mix into the drink? Does alchol break down the skin of the sphere?

Wait a minute Doc. Are you telling me this thing runs on Plutonium?

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Does alchol break down the skin of the sphere?

It does not break down an alginate skin. El Bulli makes several cocktails with spherified alcohol. A friend of mine just made spherified Cointreau in champagne.

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Does alchol break down the skin of the sphere?

A friend of mine just made spherified Cointreau in champagne.

Did your friend use "straight" cointreau for that ? I've had problems with getting 40% alcohol to form spheres ? I did some reading and thought that indeed tooo much alcohol doesn't work. From my experience around 20 to maximum 24% alcohol seems to work.

Can somebody shed some light on this ? I'm using the Biozoon alginate and calcium.

I also wanted to check on another thing as well.

I made Chambord liqueur caviar recently which was put in sparkling wine.

After a while the contents of the caviar seemed to be displaced by the sparkling wine. Is that just some sort of osmosis type process?

"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. " - Marie Curie Sklodowska
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  • 2 weeks later...
Does alchol break down the skin of the sphere?

A friend of mine just made spherified Cointreau in champagne.

Did your friend use "straight" cointreau for that ? I've had problems with getting 40% alcohol to form spheres ? I did some reading and thought that indeed tooo much alcohol doesn't work. From my experience around 20 to maximum 24% alcohol seems to work.

Can somebody shed some light on this ? I'm using the Biozoon alginate and calcium.

I also wanted to check on another thing as well.

I made Chambord liqueur caviar recently which was put in sparkling wine.

After a while the contents of the caviar seemed to be displaced by the sparkling wine. Is that just some sort of osmosis type process?

Try reverse spherification -- it seems less sensitive to the properties of the materials

Yes, it is some kind of osmosis process. :wink: But seriously, the membranes are permeable, and my guess is that if one waits long enough, the liquids inside and outside will be very similar. I've had this problem when I've tried to keep spheres for longer than a few hours - so if I need to keep spheres for a while, I put them in the same liquid that is inside them to hold them. Seems to work.

Best,

jk

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Is it possible to make pearls using a beer? Or does the carbonation prevent this?

It's sort of possible, but not pretty, as at least some bubbles seem to form in ways that muck-up the look of the spheres (e.g., they become part of the membrane). At least, I haven't been able to avoid that problem.

I doubt you'd really be able to taste the carbonation in a 'pear' sized sphere anyway, so I'd use flattish beer and take it from there. You could also use flattish beer to make the spheres and then re-carbonate them in a soda maker...

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  • 3 weeks later...

So I just got my shipment of stuff for spherification and have come to realize that I forgot to order any calcium chloride. I have calcium gluconate and calcium lactate for use with reverse specification after getting used to the method and so on.

What I was wondering is can I substitute either of them in place of the calcium chloride in the setting bath for normal spherification?

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I've kind of given up using "normal" sphereification, because the reverse method seems (to me) to be more flexible. The only downside is that the spheres will stick together sometimes in a way they don't do with the "normal" direction. So that would be one reason to try to get the normal direction to work, too, I suppose.

That said, my advice is to try it w/ the two calcium products you have. I guess I'd start with something like a mix of 3g/l of each, and see if that worked (. If not, I'd try 6g/l of each separately and see if that worked. If all those fail, I'd move up to a mix of 10g/l of each and see if anything good came of that. After that, I'd probably give up, but that's just me. :unsure: Oh, I suppose I'd probably just try to make sugar-water spheres for simplicity, using about 4g/l of alginate in that mix.

Let us know how it turns out!

jk

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You can use either of those calcium sources for the bath. It will work just fine. If you forget to rinse them thoroughly, you'll be glad you used one of those instead of calcium chloride. Shear the gluconate or lactate into simmering water at 2% by weight, chill and go to 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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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi, I just received my spherification kit and am going to try tonight.

I would like to know if anybody has tried it with tomatoe serum. I am wondering if the tomatoe ph will allow it to go without sodium citrate or if i need to increase the ph by using it

Edited by GMM (log)
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ok. So, as I had no answers from you guys, i decided to give it a try and... total flop!!

I tried with the proportions of alginate and calcium chloride as given by el bulli's site for the peas raviolli.

Then put my tomatoe "juice" into the water and... nothing.

I decided to increase the alginate quantities as well as the calcium chloride's in the bath and... nothing.

Then I tried using some citrate to correct the acidity (I don't have a PH measurer. Definitely need to get one) and... nothing.

So I decided I wouldn't eat the stuff anymore, but wanted to get the texture formed so I kept adding those products and... nothing.

Well not really nothing. My tomatoe "juice" started getting some texture, but really not forming any "raviolis" or "caviar". After a while I decided to get rid of it all and am now planning to follow one of the recipes that Adria's site gives (although I'm not really interested in any of them but I need to learn the process).

So, please tell me, where did I go wrong?

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ok. So, as I had no answers from you guys, i decided to give it a try and... total flop!!

I tried with the proportions of alginate and calcium chloride as given by el bulli's site for the peas raviolli.

Then put my tomatoe "juice" into the water and... nothing.

I decided to increase the alginate quantities as well as the calcium chloride's in the bath and... nothing.

Then I tried using some citrate to correct the acidity (I don't have a PH measurer. Definitely need to get one) and... nothing.

So I decided I wouldn't eat the stuff anymore, but wanted to get the texture formed so I kept adding those products and... nothing.

Well not really nothing. My tomatoe "juice" started  getting some texture, but really not forming any "raviolis" or "caviar". After a while I decided to get rid of it all and am now planning to follow one of the recipes that Adria's site gives (although I'm not really interested in any of them but I need to learn the process).

So, please tell me, where did I go wrong?

Tomato should theoretically be within the acceptable pH range for "regular" spherification, unless you added something else to the base. Generally, I think most spherification these days is done by dissolving a calcium salt into the base preparation, and preparing an alginate bath instead, so you could always try that... just not with calcium chloride, since this can produce a bitter taste.

What I'd recommend you do is start by reading the relevant section in Martin Lersch's recipe collection. Then, try an established recipe, whether from that collection or one of Adria's. That way, if something goes wrong, it's easier for us to help you diagnose it. Good luck!

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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So far I've done two spherification experiments. Both were technically successful. Neither tasted very good, at least on their own.

First I did mango standard spherification from the Textures recipes. They formed pretty well, but the mango was bland. The end result looked like raw egg yolks, but had little flavor and were only slightly sweet. The experience was popping what looked like raw egg into your mouth, and then getting a mouth full of vaguely sweet snot-textured blech. Ah well. (I think I brought the aligante mix up to a boil at some point mixing it in - that may have over-thickened the alginate and created the "snot" texture.)

This last week I did the Ginger spheres from the Alinea cookbook. This is a reverse spherification process, with the substance (ginger steeped in sugar water) frozen in sphere ice cube trays with calcium lactate, then thawed in a warm alginate bath. These worked pretty darn well. I wasn't very impressed with the flavor, and the texture of the interior was just, well, water. I think I'm looking for something between water and semi-thick alginate snot. Maybe a "creamy" texture. Hmm... which hydrocolloid do I "need" next?

Carol @ Alinea At Home recently posted about the Beet sphere recipe:

http://alineaathome.typepad.com/alinea_at_...-olive-oil.html

Those beet sheres are the same reverse/frozen process as the ginger ones I made. Read the post - she, uh, had a little trouble...

One thing I figured out about that process: you are dropping calcium-rich material into the alginate bath - if the frozen sphere just sits on the bottom, it can't pull alginate out of the bath to form a skin where it's touching the glass. Once you drop the frozen sphere into the bath, start gently rolling it around for a few seconds, so that all of the surface can be in contact with the alginate solution. That's how I did the first bunch. When I tried just letting them sit on the bottom with no stirring, I got "leaky" spheres, as I suspected.

Generally the frozen sphere/reverse system makes a ton of sense for making perfectly round "ravioli". Downsides are that you need a sphere mold or ice cube tray and that you are limited in the size that you can make to the size of the mold/tray. (oh... actually, I just realized that you could intentionally under-fill the mold. You would get partial spheres, with a flat side, that would be the same overall diameter, but less in volume, if that's appropriate for your dish. Just plate them flat side down/embedded in something else. Or the flat "top" might be interesting.)

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The frozen reverse sperification technique works well. So far I've found 1/2 spheres frozen if dropped into room temperature alginate make satisfactory spheres.

Even did some huge 3" ones filled with tomato soup once. Then after the alginate had set warmed in hot water and served in a bowl of parmisan foam with deep fried parma ham. The effect was great as my guests had a red sphere surrounded by white foam and spikes of parma ham and 'bingo' when they touched the sphere they had a bowl full of soup. The problem was the alginate skin that was left, it tasted of nothing and was just some horrid jelly in the soup so not so good. Going to try it again but next time plan to use a flavored alginate bath or perhaps a flavored gelan bath that is supposed to have better flavor release.

And also with frozen sphere's you can do things like this:-

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...ivided+Alginate

And for > Carol @ Alinea At Home recent little trouble...

When using frozen spheres, I've found it best to make the alginate up the night before and leave in the fridge overnight to remove the bubbles that will be introduced by the immersion mixer (These will cause weakness in the alginate wall) , then bring it up to room temperature or warm (say to 50C) but not boiling before adding the frozen things (You can heat them later as the gel is thermo irreversible) . Surface tension will try to make everything spherical anyway, perfection requires a sphere but you can get away with all sorts (including ice cubes) if your not doing this to perfection.

Edited by ermintrude (log)

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

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thank you Mkayahara. After my total flop, I moved to try again but this time with plain tomato juice and... it worked perfectly. I'm still wondering what went wrong with the first experiment but i'm happy that at least I could make some spheres.

Now I'm up to reverse spherification, and once again have lots of doubts/questions.

The most important one is: When I finished mixing the alginate with the water for the alginate bath (5gr for 1Lt) I ended with a very thick bath (more like a gel). Is this normal? Will it change after the 12h/24h rest in the fridge?

I'm so impressed that you guys make all this right at the first time

Edited by GMM (log)
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So I know what went wrong.

The sodium alginate is so tough to dilute, I tried to dilute it in a very small amount of water before adding the rest and I made a gel. While this gel was resting, I tried again but adding more water from the beginning and it worked perfectly.

There is a new (or at least one I hadn't noticed) part in Adria's textures site that talks about proportions. I'm wondering if it is so simple as they make it look (so far I'm at a 50% success rate), but I admit it is.

My next step is being able to make "perfect" (not really but close...) shapes. By the pictures I saw on this thread (as well as from Adria's films ) I know it is possible. For me it is very difficult, but I'll just keep trying.

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When I finished mixing the alginate with the water for the alginate bath (5gr for 1Lt) I ended with a very thick bath (more like a gel). Is this normal?

You will sometimes find that this happens if your local water is high in calcium ions (i.e., "hard" water). If this is the case in your area, try using distilled or bottled water.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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  • 2 months later...
How would you go about forming a gel around a different liquid, say encapsulating a tart blush wine inside of a sweeter white wine?

Mix the Alginate with one and say calcium gluconate with the other. You'd probably need to be carefull with the acidity and also probably need to add sodium citrate with one or both the wines to get a good jell. You also probably need a thickener (E.g. Xanthian gum) expecially if doing reverse spherification as you'd also have to do it the hard way as you could not freeze the wine, due to it's alcohol content, in small moulds and drop into the alginate bath.

Since your dealing with acidic liquids you may have more success with Gellan rather than Alginate some ideas here http://www.freepatentsonline.com/5456937.html

Edited by ermintrude (log)

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

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It would take more than that to achieve what I think you're after. While technically it may work, the outer gelled layer of most encapsulations is not of sufficient thickness that there would be any real taste benefit to using a flavored liquid (wine in this case) instead of water.

Doing two wines may make it tricky. If you were doing wine inside a non-alcohol liquid you could probably reverse-sphere the wine, put the spheres in molds, fill the molds with the other calcium-fortified liquid, freeze, then drop in an alginate bath. The white wine probably isn't going to freeze sufficiently for that but it might be worth a try (maybe do a white wine spritzer type thing for the outer layer if that would work for what you have in mind, that'd be easier to freeze).

Even if that works, the hold time probably won't be great due to syneresis. The inner red wine is going to turn the outer white wine pink eventually. How long that eventually would be, I have no idea but probably not long with alginate spheres. You could minimize the syneresis issue by trying a pectin encapsulation instead of alginate.

I've never tried this, I'm basically just brainstorming here, but it does sound kinda fun. It may be the "F#%k, what should I try next" type of fun, but fun nonetheless.

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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