Modernist cuisine involves quite a number oftechniques. There are various food preparation and presentation methods that chefs use under the molecular gastronomy umbrella.
If you are new to the term, molecular gastronomy is a sciencethat is being incorporated in culinary arts for several years now. It is basically, the use of chemistry and specific additives to prepare and present food like in the case of deconstructed steak and fruit juice presentations. This science has significantly brought about change in the hotel and hospitality industry.
Among the many techniques of this scientific style of cooking, spherification is one technique that has stood the test of times. Although a challenging idea to bring out, top chefs and mostly chef Ferran Adria have managed to tell off critics and bad media that this is actually a culinary technique that can woo foodies and those that love to try new things.
Spherification by definition is a food preparation technique that involves turning liquid flavors into spheres using specific gelling ingredients that gel when they come into contact with certain molecules. This technique is one of the most talked about in modernist cuisine, and it is one that tends to leave many surprised especially those that get to experience it for the first time.
While spherification utilizes gelling agents together with calcium salts, sodium alginate is the most used additive in conjunction with thesaltsby chefs for this technique. Alginate comes from algae and is a proven additive that has for a long time been used to produce splendid spheres and gel outcomes.
It is also worth noting that although this sodium component is utilized in the culinary industry today, it was originally an additive used to thicken ink in the textile industry. Today a small percentage, about a quarter-share, is used to thicken and stabilize moderncuisines like soups, salad dressings, sauces and ice cream.
So how does alginate work?
Like it is previously mentioned, the spherification process takes place when gellingingredients come into contact with certain molecules. So when the sodiumcontentis dissolved, it helps to make the preparation thicker. And when it comes into contact with thecalcium mixtureespecially when cold, jellification occurs.
It is also important to know that spherification happens in two ways and under different conditions. There is direct spherification which takes place when you add the gelling ingredient into the flavored liquid. If using sodium, direct spherification occurs when the sodium is blended into the flavorful liquid. Reversespherification, on the other hand,happens when the gelling ingredient is added in the setting bath.
Often, reverse spherification works better and is easy to work on. This is mainly because the formed spheres can be frozen before gelling and also, gelling stops immediately spheres are taken out from the bath.
All in all, spherification is an excellent food preparation technique especially when an alginate bath is used as an additive. If you are careful and smart about the whole process, it can put you a notch above the rest. However, you should know that it doesn’t work well with acids and if you are to prepare an acidic sphere or when doing reversespherification, then you’ve got be very careful with the additive.