“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.
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 :
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.
On “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.
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
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.
With 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!).
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…
About Molecular Gastronomy:
Video of Hervé This discussing Molecular Gastronomy
Books: Molecular Gastronomy by Hervé This and Malcolm DeBevoise
Where to buy ingredients:
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 Bazaar) Photos
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!