One of the perks of taking culinary classes is being able to experiment with techniques I would otherwise never have a chance to practice at home. This week, we had the opportunity to practice “spherification” with Chef Crawley in our spa cuisine class. I don’t know about you, but prior to this class the only “spherifying” I could do was use a melon baller. Look at me now!
Sadly, I can’t provide any specific recipes for these dishes because we made them up on the go and adjusted spices to taste, but I did want to talk a little about the technique of spherification and some of the nerdy science behind it all.
***CAUTION: FOOD SCIENCE AHEAD***
Spherification involves the use of something called hydrocolloids which are polysaccharides/proteins that have an affinity for water. Translated practically, they are used to gel/thicken. There are many examples of these substances which include agar, carrageenan, alginate, pectin, xanthum gum (which apparently is a byproduct of microbial fermentation), and gelatin. Deciding the exact proportions of each to use can be very nitpicky. Chefs pick and choose which one to use based on many factors which include personal preference, pH, and reversibility.
There are various techniques of spherification the scope of which is a bit beyond that of this blog, but suffice it to say, you can end up with some really cool textural and flavor components in a dish. The outside of the sphere has a somewhat gummy texture but breaking the membrane releases a torrent of flavor.
Unfortunately, this is probably not one of those things you will be replicating at home anytime soon. The ingredients are expensive. The technique takes some practice. I’d personally feel a little bit pretentious serving spherified food at a dinner party. Leave this one to the fancy restaurants.