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Adventures with sodium alginate


Jonathan M. Guberman
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from my limited experience i would definitely recommend the emulsion blender to emulsify the alginate cold, then cooked it will lose the bubbles anyway;

with regards to the temperature, perhaps a circulator just below the breaking point of the gelatin?

also, when making the spheres, if you are not very fast, then you need to follow the run of the measuring spoon;

I cooked out the alginate slurry I used with the peas but did not with the tea. I kinda liked the swirly look the occasional bubble gave to the tea orbs. Made it look kind of like a crystal ball or something.

What is the breaking point of the gelatin? At Alinea it was explained to me that it was "very high," thus they were able to serve a REALLY hot liquid butter orb.

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You might try putting your slurry under vacuum to remove the bubbles. If you got some canisters with your vacuum machine you can put the mix in a cup and put it in one of the canisters under vacuum.

I've made plastic molds in the past for sculpture and modeling and put the mold mixture under vaccum to remove the air whipped in by mixing. I had more vacuum than a Tilla machine can pull, but it might work.

Edited by pounce (log)

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

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BryanZ,

can you tell me what vac pack machine and water bath you bought? want to see if i can find anything similar here in the UK.

thanks - and your pea experiment looks very good.

-che

Che,

I'm in the same boat as you. Dunno if it's of any help, but if you're not looking to fork out for a chamber vacuum sealer, then Foodsaver's approved UK seller is Best Direct. I'm more tempted by the Reber over at Sausage Making, though. It's not cheap, but the pro-level billing and inclusion of suction capacity data is kinda reassuring.

As for water baths, I'm following the herd and regularly scanning ebay for a bargain. The tricky thing is not only getting one cheap but also getting it over to the UK without doubling the bid price.

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

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Does anyone have any good guidelines for when it should be alginate dropped in a chloride bath, versus when the chloride should be in the food, and the alginate in the bath?

--Dave

Supposedly that's an issue discussed a lot in Adria's most recent cookbook. I read that somewhere here on eG.

And how is this the first time I'm seeing this caviar-making product I also had no idea other people were selling reasonable quantities. Great find, pounce, for others who want to get involved.

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Does anyone have any good guidelines for when it should be alginate dropped in a chloride bath, versus when the chloride should be in the food, and the alginate in the bath?

--Dave

The key is the natural calcium content of what you are trying to "sphereize". If you try to mix alginate with say cheese or milk, it will react with the calcium in the cheese and it will start to gel and ruin the sphere. So if there is calcium in the ingredients, mix with calcium chloride and drop in an alginate bath.

Bryan, given that you already bought your iSi whip. Try the following: put the ingredients together that you would normally use to make a foam, and mix those with the alginate and put inside the siphon. Then, using the attachment that will give you the most uniform cylinder, empy the foam into the calcium chloride bath (you will get one long "noodle"). And cut the noodle with scissors. You will be left with foam spheres, which also have a very interesting texture. elBulli does it with potato foam to create gnocchi. Just remember not to use dairy in creating the potato foam for the abovementioned issue.

Arley Sasson

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That's a brilliant idea, but not using dairy certainly makes things more difficult if I want to create a proper foam. I've got some gelatin, but doesn't that break down at warm temperatures, and I doubt that my xanthan is poweful enough to create a true foam. Is the alginate strong enough by itself that it will create a decent foam in the iSi.

Any ideas?

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Che,

I'm in the same boat as you. Dunno if it's of any help, but if you're not looking to fork out for a chamber vacuum sealer, then Foodsaver's approved UK seller is Best Direct. I'm more tempted by the Reber over at Sausage Making, though. It's not cheap, but the pro-level billing and inclusion of suction capacity data is kinda reassuring.

As for water baths, I'm following the herd and regularly scanning ebay for a bargain. The tricky thing is not only getting one cheap but also getting it over to the UK without doubling the bid price.

you're right, the reber one seems more reassuring. thanks for the info - i might pick on up this week - if i do ill report back. (ill do so in the UK forum). been searching for water baths - foud clifton but haven't seen any pricing yet.

-che

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That's a brilliant idea, but not using dairy certainly makes things more difficult if I want to create a proper foam.  I've got some gelatin, but doesn't that break down at warm temperatures, and I doubt that my xanthan is poweful enough to create a true foam.  Is the alginate strong enough by itself that it will create a decent foam in the iSi.

Any ideas?

I think you have to experiment a little bit, but you will find that you can still make some decent foams without dairy and without gelatin. I tried the abovementioned potato gnocchi spheres and they came out great. Either way, you can always doing the inverse Alginate bath, CaCl into the foam.

Try 1lb cooked potatoes, 450g water in which you cooked the potatoes, 30g olive oil, 10g alginate, load into the iSi and have fun...

Arley Sasson

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The key is the natural calcium content of what you are trying to "sphereize". If you try to mix alginate with say cheese or milk, it will react with the calcium in the cheese and it will start to gel and ruin the sphere. So if there is calcium in the ingredients, mix with calcium chloride and drop in an alginate bath.

This is correct, but there are ways to avoid this by "sequestering" the calcium ions using something like sodium hexametaphosphate as the sequestrant. That is requried for a number of hydrocolloids.

This is discussed in several of the books on hydrocolloids referenced in various other threads.

Nathan

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Snapple Iced Tea? Hmmph.

But yeah, I did something similar tonight.  I followed Adria's recipe on the texturas site.  But before we talk about tea, let's talk about peas.

Peas with mint, boiled and shocked.

gallery_28496_2870_387835.jpg

Mmm, sodium alginate slurry

gallery_28496_2870_208480.jpg

Peas, mint, alginate, and some water.  Pureed then strained.

gallery_28496_2870_262495.jpg

The fruits of my labor.  Pea "caviar," "ravioli," "noodles." (I feel like I'm at per se with all these quotes)

gallery_28496_2870_209360.jpg

For the tea, I made a sweetened darjeeling and chilled it.  Made the orbs and heated them in simmering water.  The heating was really cool.  I served the orbs with honey, lemon zest, and a drop or two of lemon juice.

gallery_28496_2870_523860.jpg

For my first time, I was very pleased with the results.  Unfortunately, making these little bastards is a lot harder than they make it seem in the Decoding Ferran Adria video.  Also, I found myself leaving the orbs in the CaCl bath for much longer than recommended in the recipes.  1-2 min was simply too short for large items.  They weren't set and were faaarrr too fragile.  1 min is about right for the caviar, 30 seconds for the noodles.  I used a, umm, fryer-scooper-outer-thing and it worked well.  I also used a lot of paper towels to keep stuff dry and gunk free.  I also found myself snipping at the tails of the orbs while in the CaCl bath with a pair of kitchen shears to get a more spherical appearance.

By itself, the alginate does impart a detectable taste.  It reminded me of Japan (clarification: everything in Japan somehow tastes faintly of the sea and the orbs, by themselves, had that same vibe).  The addition of salt, mint, lemon juice, honey, etc masked this.

So what's next?  Alinea does a butter orb.  How cool would it be to make a little pancake then put a butter orb on the inside, so it looks like an egg.  Or perhaps a butter and syrup orb.  The possibilities are endless.

I've been making caviar scince last year when Alex Stupak of Alinea, @ the time Clio unveiled the mistery of the chemistry to me. Scince then ive been experimenting in the restaurant and at home with spherification. My most recent creation was maple syrup caviar w/blinis and quail eggs. Very curious that you should mention a similar concept. I love the irony and humor a chef can express when creating an avante garde dish. I was curious about Xantana or Xanthum gum and if the use of a thermomixer is necessary. If so what are the temperature perameters. Bon Appetitto

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This is a fascinating thread. I'm aware of Adria's techniques for making "liquid ravioli", and was thrilled to see that it's possible to try this at home.

Is there a thread on eGullet that I missed that discusses the basic techniques outlined here?

Are there some basic starter recipes that one can begin with? General ratios of food to sodium alginate? Discussion of when sodium citrate is needed? Fruits or other foods that won't work? Specific "cooking" times in the calcium chloride solution? Best way to heat the "spheres", if one wants to serve a food warm?

Thanks for any advice. I've got to buy the stuff and start playing with my food!! :rolleyes:

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Wow, I lost track of this thread for a bit and was amazed at how much has been added.

BryanZ, this may be completely obvious, but how did you shape the noodles? That's something I'd love to try!

Cookman, there are a few recipes here at the Texturas El Bulli site, and there are a few interesting entries in the Hungry in Hogtown blog. I may have linked to some others that got me started in the very first entry in this thread.

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This is a fascinating thread. I'm aware of Adria's techniques for making "liquid ravioli", and was thrilled to see that it's possible to try this at home.

Is there a thread on eGullet that I missed that discusses the basic techniques outlined here?

Are there some basic starter recipes that one can begin with? General ratios of food to sodium alginate? Discussion of when sodium citrate is needed? Fruits or other foods that won't work? Specific "cooking" times in the calcium chloride solution? Best way to heat the "spheres", if one wants to serve a food warm?

Thanks for any advice. I've got to buy the stuff and start playing with my food!! :rolleyes:

There's a link on page one of this thread to the texturas site and a blog entry that gives some basic ratios and "cooking" times. I've found that I've had to significantly increase the time in the alginate bath to prevent large orbs from rupturing.

The citrate is needed when the pH of the solution you're alginate-ing is less than 4. Therefore, acidic fruits and the like don't work easily.

Spheres are best heated in barely simmering water or a water bath.

ETA: see the previous post for the links

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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Wow, I lost track of this thread for a bit and was amazed at how much has been added.

BryanZ, this may be completely obvious, but how did you shape the noodles? That's something I'd love to try!

So I was rustling through a random drawer in my kitchen and came across the remains of a Ron Popeil marinade injector (you know the kind that came with the Showtime oven in the late 1990s or something). Well, the needle was nowhere to be found, but the plastic syringe part makes a great extruder for thin noodles or very small caviar pellets.

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I've been making caviar scince last year when Alex Stupak of Alinea, @ the time Clio unveiled the mistery of the chemistry to me. Scince then ive been experimenting in the restaurant and at home with spherification. My most recent creation was maple syrup caviar w/blinis and quail eggs. Very curious that you should mention a similar concept. I love the irony and humor a chef can express when creating an avante garde dish. I was curious about Xantana or Xanthum gum and if the use of a thermomixer is necessary. If so what are the temperature perameters. Bon Appetitto

I swear to god, I had the EXACT same idea. Damn. I thought I was being creative.

I'm not sure what you're asking in terms of the xanthan gum. It's a basic hydrocolloid that's a powerful and relatively tasteless thickener. In my experience it works at a wide range of temperatures from below room to boiling. Again, I'm not sure what'd you need a thermomixer for. Perhaps you're thinking of application I'm not, but I sure as hell don't have one.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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Last post for the night here, I promise.

I played with a fruit caviar today, canteloupe. I had planned on making this before discovering that this is one of Adria's signature. Shot down twice today for originality, rough.

Anyway, poached salmon with canteloupe caviar

gallery_28496_2870_422263.jpg

Obviously I chose canteloupe because it looks a lot like salmon caviar. They tasted good on their own, okay with the salmon itself, but very good floating around in the poaching liquid. The combination of the salty broth, licorice from the fennel, and subtle bursts of sweetness was quite pleasing.

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How fast do the various caviar and ravioli need to be served to prevent full jelling, or does the process stop cleanly (for non-calcium heavy ingredients) after the items are removed from the bath and rinsed?

--Dave

My experience is that you want to serve ASAP. Especially for the smaller "caviar"-sized spheres. It doesn't need to be done on the spot, but there is a noticeable difference of caviar that is 2 hours old and 1 day old.

Arley Sasson

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Yes, especially with the smaller spheres, timing is very important. Within even 1/2 hour they're more gel-like than liquid-like. The gelling process does not stop upon rinsing, a fact you must keep in mind when preparing accompanying dishes.

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I had a post deleted from this thread by accident so I'm adding it back here for reference.

Ok. I'm getting on board with the fun. Check out what I found. A product made just for making caviar:

http://www.chefrubber.com/shopping/shopexd.asp?id=1663

CaviarL.jpg

I picked up one of these guys will provide a review after I do a little spawning... :rolleyes:

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

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For anyone interested in the caviar making tool I posted earlier. The item is a "Vaccu Pette /96" from Scienceware If you search Google you can find them cheaper than Chef Rubber. I haven't used it yet and am going on a business trip for 10 days so I'll have to report back later if this things works. I can say that its design does not allow for an easy cleaning. I'll probably end up taking a dremel tool to it. The body with the droppers is glued together so the only way that liquid is getting in or out is through the little holes. Hmm.

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

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