“Reverse Spherification” – Adventures in Molecular Cooking [2]

“Reverse Yogurt Spherification” 

Until very recently, Alginate and Spherification were two words that were never spoken in my kitchen. That was of course until I attended a mind-altering, WTF, OMG I-need-more-kitchen-counter-space “Molecular Gastronomy” class.

Yogurt Spherification 12, MyLastBite.com

After posting an article about the experience, I received an email from Hervé This, the French scientist and FATHER of Molecular Gastronomy. He kindly corrected me on the use of the words “molecular gastronomy”, and wanted me to understand that what I was doing was actually “molecular COOKING”, not molecular gastronomy.

Well…whatever it is I’m supposed to call it… “It” has taken over my thoughts, my bank account, and now my very crowded kitchen counter.

Before I continue, here are a few descriptions:

Sodium Alginate for Yogurt Spherification, MyLastBite.comSodium Alginate : 
Extracted from brown seaweed, sodium alginate is a stabilizer for ice cream, yogurt, cream, and cheese. It is a thickener and emulsifier for salad, pudding, jam, tomato juice, and canned products. In the presence of calcium and acid mediums, it forms resilient gels. It is a cold gelling agent that needs no heat to gel. It is most commonly used with calcium chloride in the spherification process.

Calcium Chloride : 
Food grade pellets used in post-harvest treatments of fruits and vegetables. Calcium chloride is also used in food and beverage processing, high fructose corn syrup production, and dairy foods processing.

Spherification consists of the controlled gelification of a liquid which, submerged in a bath, forms spheres. There are two kinds: Basic Spherification (which consists of submerging a liquid with Alginate in a bath of Calcium Chloride) and Reverse Spherification (submerging a liquid with Gluco in a bath of Alginate). These techniques can obtain spheres of different sizes: caviar, eggs, gnocchi, ravioli… In both techniques, the spheres produced can be manipulated, since they are slightly flexible. 

Reverse/Inverse Spherification. By inserting a product that already contains calcium into an Alginate bath, you can make spherical preparations with dairy products, olives and other foodstuffs. Instead of adding Calcium Chloride to the preparations you would use gluconolactate in proportion to the product’s natural calcium content, then conclude the technique by bathing the result in Alginate. Furthermore, inverse spherification allows the item to hold its jellification, which you would be unable to control in basic spherification. As the Alginate fails to penetrate the sphere in this method, jellification only occurs on the surface.  Read more about the History of Spherification.

I thought it would be EASY to find and purchase these ingredients online, but it wasn’t. The first “molecular cooking” ingredient I tried to buy was calcium chloride, which we used in class to make fruit caviar and pea ravioli. I searched Google and Amazon and ended up buying calcium chloride for aquarium use. What I needed was “food grade” calcium chloride, not a fish tank additive! 

Next I tried to purchase “Sodium Alginate” and came up empty, so I emailed my chef instructor and he sent me to the Le Sanctuaire website. Thankfully he noted that I should be searching for the word “algin” as well as “alginate”. For calcium chloride, I should also search for “calcic”. Jackpot! I ordered both and impatiently waited for their arrival by watching Ferran Adria and José Andrés video clips I had saved on DVD.

Yogurt Spherification 3, MyLastBite.comOn “Jose – Made in Spain”, chef Andrés did a spherification of yogurt. He explained that since yogurt had a high calcium count, it would be easy to do a reverse (or inverse)  spherification using the Algin. 

Anticipating the arrival of the Le Sanctuaire package, I had a large container of plain yogurt stashed in the fridge. I didn’t have an actual recipe to make the yogurt spherification, but I did have the “Made in Spain” video clip…. which I obsessively watched in slow motion to get the right measurements.

Yogurt Spherification 2, MyLastBite.com

Ingredients for  a “Reverse” Yogurt Spherification:

1 cup of plain yogurt

1 teaspoon of sugar

1 teaspoon aliginate

24 oz water

Fresh fruit of your liking


Yogurt Spherification 6, MyLastBite.com


In a large bowl blend the water and alginate with a hand blender until completely dissolved.

Strain the alginate water into another bowl and let rest for 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl, gently mix the yogurt and sugar together.

Next to the alginate bath, prepare another bath of plain water.

Yogurt Spherification 13, MyLastBite.comWith a round spoon, scoop out a ball of yogurt and submerge into alginate water.

Gently shake the spoon so you see a ball or dollop of yogurt drop beneath the surface.

Wait a few minutes then scoop out the spherified yogurt balls into the fresh water, to remove the alginate.

IT WORKED! Except for the fact that I made the balls too big at first, I was thrilled with the texture and mouth-feel of the yogurt. I could easily “pop” the skin with my tongue (after playing with it in my mouth first!).

Yogurt Spherification 10, MyLastBite.com

I served the yogurt balls with fruit and drizzled the top with honey. Terrific little dish for breakfast or dessert.

What’s next?? Well I recently ordered the elBulli Texturas Mini Starter Kit, and can’t wait for my next molecular cooking adventure! In the coming year I’m certain my kitchen will be filled with lots of tasty balls and scrumptious spheres…


“Adventures in Molecular Cooking” [1]

About Molecular Gastronomy:

Video of Hervé This discussing Molecular Gastronomy

Books: Molecular Gastronomy by Hervé This and Malcolm DeBevoise

Where to buy ingredients:
Le Sanctuaire

Texturas elBulli

elBulli Texturas Mini Kit, MyLastBite.com

Infusions LTD sells an elBulli “mini starter kit”. If the website states that they are out of stock (due to popular demand), just email them and they will contact you when they have more available.


Books about Molecular Cooking:

Under Pressure: Cooking Sous-Vide by Thomas Keller

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee

A Day at el Bulli by Ferran Adria

Alinea by Grant Achatz

Kitchen Chemistry by Ted Lister and Heston Blumenthal

The Big Fat Duck Cookbook by Heston Blumenthal

About the Chefs:

Ferran Adria (el Bulli)
Grant Achatz (Alinea)
Wylie Dufresne (wd~50)
Jose Andres (The BazaarPhotos


Decoding Ferran Adria: Hosted by Anthony Bourdain


Ferran Adrià’s team demonstrates how to make fruit caviar


Ferran Adria’s Pea Ravioli


Molecular Gastronomy & Molecular Cooking  on TV:

Be sure to look out for a terrific molecular cooking episode of “Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie” titled “The Inventors” (the series is currently in reruns). It features Herve This, PolyScience inventor Philip Preston (Anti-Griddle and Immersion Circulators) and Nathan Myhrvold, a former CTO of Microsoft turned Sous-Vide master.  Short video clip here.

José Andrés Made in Spain. If you missed it the yogurt spherification episode, it’s titled “Paella Day”

Read more about Spherification here

A recent Time Magazine article about Ferran Adria

Very excited to meet Ferran Adria!

Yogurt Balls Aka “reverse” Yogurt Spherification on Foodista


Filed under Food Stories (written by me), Molecular Cooking, Recipes

20 responses to ““Reverse Spherification” – Adventures in Molecular Cooking [2]

  1. Uh, oh. Now you’re making this actually look approachable. How cool is this? I can’t wait to see more. I can hardly afford to give up any more counter space, but I think I see this in my future. 🙂

  2. Hi Phil, I think it’s very approachable and most of all… it’s so much fun!

  3. OK Jo – you hooked me. I ordered Sodium Alginate from Le Sanctuaire this morning. They should give you a commission.

    Thank you for your posts. I’ve been lurking the waters of molecular “cooking” for a long time, afraid to get in the pool. I just needed to be shoved in I guess.

    Cheers, and have a great Christmas.

  4. Pingback: calcium chloride in cheese | Digg hot tags

  5. Tim

    Awesome, I’m by no means an accomplished cook but I watched Jose’ piece on the yogurt spheres and Bittman’s Best Recipes in the World piece on El Bulli’ and got hooked. I just received my pound of alginate from SF bought a case of clementines a pint of Stonyfield Farms yogurt poured a drink and went to town.
    The results though tasty weren’t great. I don’t know if it was the yogurt or my technique but it was so thin and I couldn’t get a nicely shaped dollop into the bath. also Stonyfield isn’t all that tasty to begin with. I will get this right, its to unique not to and I’ll be one of how many doing this.

  6. Hi Tim, I don’t know if this would solve the problem but I used Greek yogurt (which is thicker than traditional yogurt). Thanks for reading my blog. Much appreciated. Jo

  7. Tim

    Thanks Jo, I’ll give that a try. Also, in reading up on spherifacation and reverse spherifacation I noted that the former needs to served toot sweet or the gelification will solidify the food but with the latter things are more stable. Do you have any idea about hold times?

  8. Hi Tim, You are exactly right about the solidification. The yogurt balls didn’t change at all after, even after thirty minutes. The fruit caviar continued to get thicker and harder. When I made the caviar (standard spherification), after about 45 minutes they were almost “gummy bear” like!

  9. Tim

    Thanks Jo;
    I’ll let you know how it goes with the Greek style yogurt, I’ve got to make up a couple dozen servings for a Ground Hog Day party this monday. I’m thinking disposable champaign glasses yogurt spheres, clementines and bananas with honey and a sprig of mint.
    Next I have to order calcic for more adventures.

  10. Scott

    Hi Jo,

    The yoghurt looks very cool. How does it stand up to heat? Will it hold together if I placed it on a soup? Cheers, Scott.

  11. Hi Scott, I haven’t tried it on anything hot yet! Cheers.

  12. Scott

    Hi Jo,

    Well, I can now answer my question…. yes it will withstand heat. Made a raita with greek yoghurt, dropped it into the algin etc, and served it with an oxtail mulligatawny, delicious!! The spheres held together nicely, so I guess the applications are huge!!

    Regards, Scott.

  13. Scott,
    That’s great news! Thanks so much for letting me know.
    The next time I make chicken korma, I’ll definitely try raita balls on top!

    : )

  14. Piper


    Thanks for this–I want to make creme fraiche balls to put into chestnut soup for Christmas, and I didn’t understand why I needed to use reverse spherification, now I do. You mentioned using gluconolactate in your description, but I didn’t see listed in the ingredients. Is this something else I need to look for before Christmas? Yikes!

  15. JMP

    There are several types of youghurt… The thick ones I suggest you dilute with as much volume of cordial or anything liquid at hand you like drinking : I found yoghurt/custard/honey or caramel treacle bubbles were delicious atop vanilla ice cream especially when served warm). Stirred yoghurt can be used as is to replace the lactate or calcium chloride bath (You might also dilute it a little). This saves buying “expensive” salts. This also means you can make pearls and bubbles directly in the yoghurt. You might also want to make spaghetti the same way… Your kids will prefer to make ugly worms in the yoghurt but drops of all kinds including multiple colours (use two pipettes or two shots of different liquids in one same spoon) are also possible.
    Or puff balls by using a cream whip -“siphon”- and a thickened alginate solution you extrude into the yoghurt like a long sausage and then cut under the liquid into smaller lengths (not as cheap as calcium chloride but defintely sounds better). Don’t forget you can eat the yoghurt afterwards…
    I was first worried the fruity pieces in the yoghurt would make things a bit tough. In the end, the yoghurt bubbles came out as round as the other ones (stirred, flavoured). I found most important is to drag the bottom of the spoon on the yoghurt rim to remove dangling yoghurt that makes everything messy and never dip the spoon into the alginate twice. This means you need one spoon to drop the yoghurt blobs into the alginate and one to remove the bubbles from the alginate afterwards. I then drop the bubbles into clear water and change the spoon to remove and lay on a dish. This gives flattened eggyolk shapes but with a very pretty shine whereas if you store in liquid, you can get stringy veils from the alginate reacting with the water’s calcium.
    These bubbles can be boiled and used in cakes though they tend to melt if baking temperatures exceed 180°C.

  16. Thank you so much for this post! I’ve been looking for an article about inverse that i could really understand at once ! :9

  17. Marion

    You rock -thanks

  18. J. Martinez

    Fascinating! Great stuff. I’d like to try it someday but I am still trying to master regular cooking:)

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