A very popular technique in modern fine dining is spherification. This technique allows us to encapsulate a liquid, such as cherry and raspberry puree, inside of itself. The key players are calcium and sodium alginate, which is a seaweed-derived gelling agent. When sodium alginate comes into contact with calcium it quickly forms a delicate but resilient skin that cannot be de-natured by freezing or excessive heating. However, when you apply light pressure to the orb with a fork or your teeth, the membrane breaks, releasing the liquid interior. This is illustrated in the photo below.
I made these orbs by first making a cherry and raspberry puree. I then thickened and seasoned the puree. I added calcium lactate to the puree and froze the mixture into spheres. Meanwhile I combined water, sugar, and sodium alginate to make a slightly sweet mixture. I boiled the mixture to expel the air bubbles and kept it warm. I dropped the frozen spheres into the warm alginate bath. The heat melted a thin layer of water on the outside which was immediately gelled. After a 2 minute soak, I carefully removed the orbs and rinsed them in a water bath. I then transfered them to a holding bath of cherry juice. Although the skin is resilient to heat and cold, it breathes and is permeable by the process of osmosis. Keeping the orbs in a flavored liquid adds to the overall flavor and prevents liquid migration from the orbs.
For a complete recipe with helpful information on where to buy and how to use sodium alginate and calcium lactate, please subscribe to my bi-weekly mailing list. Simply click the link below, enter your email address, and I will include the recipe in my next mailing (12/1/09). You can unsubscribe at any time and I will not flood your inbox. With each mailing you’ll receive a friendly update of what’s going on at Garrett’s Table with exclusive, subscriber-only recipes and content.
Stay tuned in the coming days to see how I use these cherry-raspberry orbs with the flavors of a classic New York pastry
Photos by Justin Kern.
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