Caviar, day 1
posted by andrew, Jul 30, 2007
After the Xantham Gum explorations, I decided to start toying with the instant classic technique of making caviar. Everyone either eventually starts playing with ravioli or caviar early on in the process of fooling around with food chemistry, because it’s just so shockingly cool.
Anyway, when I first started working on this, I was still trying to use volume based measurements to work out the magic ratio to make small spherical pellets any liquid. Also, I’d read some brief mentions that reversing the typical formula of sodium alginate plus ingredient into a calcium chloride and water bath yielded better results.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the horrifying monsters that resulted from this round of tests. Part of the reason for failure was a lack of a proper ratio. Like xantham gum, sodium alginate is an emulsifier, which means that in high enough quantities, it turns liquid into a gel. Apparently, I had way too much alginate in my bath because the coffee and calcium chloride I shot into it with a syringe was just … awful. The ravioli would form on the surface of the bath and then shatter from the increased surface tension. This breakage results in a transparent, stringy goo with coffee floating on top of it. Horrible. I can honestly say I’ve never made anything in the kitchen that made me ill just looking at it before this horror. I had to throw it away in the trashcan, because it plugged up the drain when I tried to wash it away.
I went to bed feeling as though my spirits had been crushed.
The next afternoon, I came home determined to rectify the failures of the previous day. First, I did some Google searches and came up with an article on how to use this reaction to teach K-12 students about chemistry. While the article offers interesting insight into the process by which the reaction happens, he suggests a 2% by mass solution of sodium alginate for the beads. While that reaction produces really big beads that would work well as a demonstration technology, the caviar that resulted were gummy and thick when eatten. Vile:
So, I tried lowering the precentage to 1% and produced spheres that were gooey on the inside but not as liquidy as I would have liked. As you can see in the picture below, also, I had trouble producing regularly shaped spheres using a syringe. I was interested, at this point, in using less thick solutions and also experimenting with delievery methods.
Anyway, I started playing with the material, after producing enough caviar to satisfy my faith in the success of the technique. I produced some interesting and scary looking stuff:
So the method, as of now, is to produce a 1% by mass solution of calcium chloride in water. This can be done with a whisk, as the calcium chloride will dissolve under minor agitation. Then mix whatever you want to spherify with sodium alginate, at 1% by weight. You will have to use some kind of blender for this, as its pretty difficult to get this stuff to dissolve. I used a regular blender, but, as you can see in the picture below, this produced quite a mess. It was a pain to clean, and it made me start to understand why so many molecular gastronomy blogs and home chefs mention owning an immersion blender.
Next time (I’m getting Internet at home, so I think I can remove this huge post backlog), I’m going to be discussing more of my caviar experiments, including the method I’ve actually put into production for dessert making.