Monday, 11 May 2009

Inverse Spherification - Mozzarella Spheres

You want to do what to my sphere? Inverse it? Well, that’s quite enough of that, thank you very much.

Despite sounding like the name of a prog rock group from the mid 70s or the title of an obscure drum and bass album, inverse spherification is a rather nifty culinary technique.

It may sound scientific (partly because it is) but fear not. There is as much chance of me boggling you with science as there is of George Bush being named Iraq’s Man of the Century.

Spherification is a principle whereby a flavoured liquid is encased in a flavourless skin. Imagine ravioli with invisible pasta and you’re somewhere close. It is a technique perfected by Ferran Adria and one he uses to great effect with his ‘olives’.

Here fresh olives are juiced then strained before being mixed with calcic gluconolactato. The mixture is then spooned into an algin bath where the two chemicals react together, instantly forming a translucent skin which holds in the liquid.

Phew. Still with me? Good.

The effect can be repeated with almost any liquid thus creating a tasty burst of flavour with near infinite possibilities. Imagine dishes that ‘self-sauce’ at exactly the right moment or cocktails that mix in the mouth rather than the shaker. Oh what fun to be had.

For the cauliflower cheese dish, the inspiration came in the form of incredible buffalo mozzarella from Laverstoke Park Farm (A British made mozzarella? Believe it).

Whilst it tastes superb unadorned, oozing freshness from within the delicious pale orb, I was desperate to try Adria’s method for making mozzarella spheres.

Previous attempts at spherification had yielded mixed results varying from partial failure to complete and utter failure. Only when I found a thread on eGullet about the effect of hardwater on algin baths did I realise what was going wrong. The natural lime present in the water was setting the algae extract and creating a jelly.

Enter bottled water and, huzzah! Success. No more jellies.

The cheese (125g) was blended with a little cream then passed through a sieve before being mixed with about 2g calcic gluconolactato. Spoonfuls were then dropped into the waiting algin bath and fingers were crossed.

The excitement of seeing the spheres set for the first time was truly palpable. I couldn’t hide the smile from my face, neither did I want to. Half expecting the white liquid to ooze out, it was fantastic to see it set instantly into a neat little orb that looked exactly like a mini mozzarella cheese.

The surprise comes when you bite into it – instead of the slight resistance of a semi-solid cheese you get a burst of mozzarella flavour in liquid form. A real revelation and certainly one to try again.

For more bursts of flavour, follow me on Twitter .

For UK supplies of the necessary bits and bobs to re-create some Adria inspired dishes try Cream Supplies who have a incredible range.


Elaine said...

That looks extremely interesting. Avant-garde cuisine is sometimes so profoundly different I have a hard time grasping its purpose but I can definitely see the fun factor of it. There's nothing like a burst of goodness in a bite :) What did you do with your inverse spherified mozzarella balls beside biting into it?

Amy C said...

This is REALLY cool. I'm always fascinated with Molecular Gastronomy.

matt wright said...

blimey mate, this is pretty hardcore! good on ya for trying it I have to say.

Su-Lin said...

Thank you so much for the link to Cream Supplies! I'm tempted to get one of the cheaper kits (the El Bulli ones are expensive!).

Love your mozzarella spheres!

Anonymous said...

wow interesting. You're def getting into the tech stuff. But I keep checking back to see if you're going to blog about lamb breast as promised in one of your previous nose to tail tuesday pieces? i've got some in my freezer and can't wait to use it!

Anonymous said...

What is it that makes the spherification 'inverse'? Is this a different process or simply the full name?

Just Cook It said...

Elaine - I agree with you. It is hard to draw the line between innovation and pointless experimentation. Something that MG needs to work out. I used them in a version of cauliflower cheese, detailed on the blog. Thanks for the comment.

Thanks Amy

Matt - Thanks very much. It honestly isn't that difficult. It's not a technique I'll use regularly but one that is great for adding an element of surprise to a dish.

Anon - please accept my full apologies. Lamb breast recipe is on the way!

Anon - Good question. There are two different methods to acheive the same effect. I'll go into a little more detail in another post. Thanks for asking though

La Motte Valois said...

hey! thanks.
what a great coinscidence, i m designing a new template for my blog and i chose this type machine style for the main fonts. great blog, great stories. Shame im a real bad chef! I only know how to make some delicious thai chicken nothing else!!!!!

Ash said...

Very VERY cool!!!