When some chefs head into the kitchen, they using science to their full advantage to bring you things like spherical ravioli, spiraled olive oil or faux caviar. It’s taking tastes you may be well acclimated with and presenting them in such a unique fashion that it not only surprises you, but allows you to take very exciting journeys along the way in creating it.
It has been my goal to not only further my own knowledge base and challenge what I know, but to do the same for you- a request on what I should blog from you guys can help us both out! When I asked for things to investigate, Lacey, a friend and EYTO reader responded with “molecular gastronomy.” It’s one of the newer revelations in the culinary world taking science experiments and putting them to play on our plates. Also known as modernist cuisine, it’s really taking hold in many cities across the world with Wylie Dufresne of wd-50 and notable chef, Ferran Adria of El Bulli being the more common names you’ll come across in the field. Lacey presented me with a huge challenge as I don’t have the gadgets or supplies, let alone with knowledge of what molecular gastronomy in the kitchen was really about. Off I went to deconstruct and give you guys a great experience.
Molecular gastronomy, or modernist cuisine focuses on investigating why different foods behave the way they do, and applying that theory in order to stretch the boundaries of what has been done, or simply to apply those concepts to other ingredients. Ferran Adria, created a martini roughly the size, shape, and consistency of an olive. It is a spherical “gel-capsule filled with olive juice and vodka that bursts in your mouth. Things like that push the boundaries of food as we know it. In terms of the home chef, these practices can garner new ways to approach cooking and test your own boundaries for an appreciative crowd. Want to eat coffee in the form of an egg for breakfast, well then by all means- do so.
I procrastinated on this task simply because there was so much to take in. Theory is a huge part of understanding and making things work in the end so I set out to garner a basic knowledge of how certain foods perform with various techniques. Overall I was able to take chemistry concepts that were long forgotten, and look to applying them in real life scenarios. If you’re a bit of a science geek or you are really interested in learning how to cook better, then the Modernist Cuisine series is for you.
The real goal I set for myself with Lacey’s request was to investigate how a person without all the gadgets and specialty ingredients is able to get over the barrier of molecular gastronomy and make practical use of it. I also wanted to consider giving Lacey something she could actually eat with an ending experiment free of sugar, dairy and gluten. With my research combined with some helpful tips from Sprinkle Bakes, I was able to create something that was easily accessible and really cool- dessert caviar. Caviar that holds the look and texture of what we’re used to, but tastes like chocolate, coffee or balsamic vinegar.
The molecular concept I used in creating a faux caviar was the basic spherification technique. This technique is ideal for obtaining spheres with a thin membrane that easily “explodes” as if there is no solid substance between your palate and the liquid. Because I omitted all the extra ingredients called for in this technique, my caviar was going to be less liquid exploding in your mouth and more of the texture that caviar has with the “bite”. If you’ve never actually tried caviar, then you may have tobiko on your sushi roll.
Taking away all the fuss and complication, the craziest ingredient I used gelatin. I also made sure in my little experiment to use tools and ingredients that home cooks had available. All in all, there was tons of success for me, and I hope for you too! For a full recap and recipe, please visit Sprinkle Bakes as she really refined this technique and should get credit for her hard work and easy directions!
In summation, you’re taking a hot liquid and thickening it with gelatin. Before it can setup and create a uniform texture that is similar throughout, you add droplets of your mixture into a cold oil (oil and water don’t mix). The oil cocoons your tasty liquid and helps it to keep it’s shape. The liquid slowly drops to the bottom of your container and in a few short minutes your liquid becomes faux caviar.
The process starts with really cold oil, and hot liquid. The cold oil you use should be refrigerated for at least twenty four hours prior to embarking on this experiment. I like grapeseed oil because it’s not only GMO free, but it also has a very mild flavor. To keep the oil cold during your procedure, you end up using an ice bath with salt to keep the temperature really cool. If you’ve ever made ice cream with rock salt and ice, you know how well this concept works in keeping things chilly.
From there your hot liquid is up to you. In Sprinkle Bakes‘ recipe, she uses hot coffee to go along with her cappuccino mousse. I was trying to come up with something for Lacey, so in the end I opted for strawberries that would be topped with my faux caviar. I went safe with balsamic vinegar, and also tried a chocolate liquid concoction where I used sweetened cocoa powder and water. The balsamic vinegar was very potent in the end, whereas the chocolate caviar was very mellow in flavor- definitely fun to trial though!
Sprinkle Bakes‘ directions take you to stirring together the gelatin with cold water and allowing it to setup while you heat your hot liquid of choice. Once that is done, you pour your liquid into the gelatin to dissolve. From there it goes into a small squirt bottle, or a pastry bag like I did (ziplock bags work too). In order to achieve the “pastry bad method,” I poured my gelatinous liquid into the bag while I setup my ice bath. Once I was ready, the gelatin liquid mixture was room temperature and ready for me to proceed to the next step. I snipped the end off the bag and carried out making my droplets of faux caviar. Sprinkle Bakes said that about three droplets makes a good size caviar, but I enjoyed experimenting as I am sure you will too!
After piping my faux caviar, I let everything set for a few minutes. The next step was simply to strain, store and of course, use. Sprinkle Bakes recommended mason jars, but any airtight container should do.
I have to say, by themselves they’re so unique and cool. It’s kind of like trying Bertie Bots or Jones Soda for the first time- it’s uncanny how to they are to the flavor your expecting although they’re weird flavors like Earwax and Bacon. Atop of something like strawberries, the texture was quite cool with little bursts of flavor. I’m really looking forward to using up my extra dessert caviar on pudding and other creamy concoctions. Maybe even topping dessert sushi with mango would go well- who knows!
Thanks Lacey for the challenge and great learning experience! I look forward to hearing about all of your adventures that you take with a modernist cuisine approach, or your recommendations for my leftover dessert caviar!
To Full Plates and Eating Your Tarte Out!