Attention home schoolers! …and anyone who likes to play in the kitchen!
Molecular gastronomy does not have to be all that difficult. (This is not said to discredit the brilliant minds who created these techniques in the first place.) You need only the right tools and ingredients. And although much of it involves test tubes and chemicals, there is indeed still some dabbling that a holistic home cook can do. And it is so worth it! Plus. if you make beet juice caviar, your kids will at least try beets because it is just that cool!
Modern molecular gastronomy (a.k.a. “modern gastronomy” “food science” ‘cucina molecolare”, etc) – when well conceived and executed – is not just about trickery. It is a cerebral blend of art, science, and psychology. While there is the obvious element of surprise, which is delightful in itself, it must also be transformative. For example, while what you see on the plate may be highly stylized, familiar flavors may invoke nostalgic memories of childhood. At its best, this cuisine should tease all of the senses in an interactive experience which transports the diner to another place and time.
A great way to begin – Spherification
How I wish I knew about this when my little boy was preparing a science project for school. We wanted to make edible faux salamander eggs. How perfect would this have been! Today, I have no need for science project salamander eggs, but I do have three teens set up for a sci-fi movie day. So what could be more fun today than a little food science? In any event, this should keep them off electronics for a bit. There is a method to my madness.
Another suggestion: make this for your friends but don’t tell them how easy it is… just say you are skilled in molecular gastronomy cold oil spherification. And ask them to repeat that 20 times.
Cold Oil Spherification
You will need:
- 1 c Juice
- 1 t. agar (more if your liquid is acidic)
- oil, vegetable oil works
- tall clear container (freezer safe)
- small sauce pan
Place oil in a freezer safe container in the freezer for about an hour. Oil must be very cold.
Pour juice and agar into sauce pan off heat. Whisk together. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes. Turn on heat and bring mixture to simmer. Simmer about 5-10 minutes. You can check to see if mixture is ready for spherification by putting a small drop on a plate. It should solidify in about 20 seconds or so.
When mixture is ready and oil is cold, remove mixture from heat and allow to cool just a bit. You want it somewhere between a simmer and warm. Then simply fill the dropper with the mixture and gently squeeze one little drop at a time into the cold oil. Little spheres should form, break through the surface of the oil and collect in the bottom of the container. It is delightful!
If you feel an urge to do too much too fast – resist it! Be strong! About half way through, you will probably need to strain the oil and get it (the oil) cold again, as the agar-liquid mixture will gradually warm the oil. If you do not watch the temperatures, you may end up with clumping instead of pretty little spheres.
When you have a good little collection of spheres, gently strain them from the oil. Very gently rinse caviar by dipping them (in a strainer) in cold water to remove oil. Use immediately or refrigerate.
Notes on agar-agar
- Agar-agar is a dried seaweed, used often in Asian cuisine as a thickener. Purchase it from and Asian grocer, some health foods stores, or online.
- Flake form agar does not dissolve easily. Powder form often has chemicals added. So I buy flakes and grind them myself.
- Amounts of agar you need will depend on the acidity of the liquid to be gelled, more acidic liquids may require more agar
- Standard ratio – agar 1% of liquid. Example: 2 g agar to 200 g liquid
- I use 1 cup (about 226 g) liquid to 1 t (2-3 g) agar powder.
- Balsamic vinegar is a bit more tricky to make as it wants to simply thicken. FYI This is a delicious alternative to a balsamic reduction. For spheres, I doubled the amount of agar; this worked well. If you play with these ingredients and find ratios and methods which work well for you, let us know!
- Alternative: Sodium alginate is used to create spheres which are liquid-filled. These are quite delightful! They burst with flavor. Cold-oil spherification creates a solid gel caviar. Equally delightful, and I love being able to make caviar with more healthful ingredients.
- Pictured on the page are spheres made from apple juice, beet juice, and balsamic vinegar. Yum!!!
Check out a video of this process made by the girls on my Facebook page. Be sure to Like my page while you are there! 🙂
Music by Bill Parsons