Strawberries and Science

I have always been interested in the scientific elements of modern cooking, what many people would call “molecular gastronomy”, but I never thought I would do any of it myself. Recently after cheering for Richard in the latest top chef, and reading playing with fire and water a lot, I have had the itch. It was actually Mandi who pushed me over the edge to finally buy some of the stuff. One day she was bored at work and kept sending me cool pictures of different plates people had made. It was her who originally found playing with fire and water and she really wanted to start trying some stuff. Finally the packages came in the mail, methylcellulose, sodium alginate, and calcium chloride. A few new salts and a syringe. The first thing we were going to try was sphereification. This is kind of old news and sometimes considered a gimmick these days, but it is one of the easiest methods in this modern cooking world so I thought it would be a fun place to start. Also, even if it isn’t quite as cool in the food world anymore, I feel that it still has a place in the emerging “molecular mixology”.

Whoops! I forgot to take the picture of the whole strawberries in the blender. There was a bit of simple syrup in there as well. Anyways, after you blend them, strain them to remove pulp and seeds.

While I was slowly draining the strawberry puree in batches, rich got bored and decided to make a strawberry version of a mimosa for everyone. It was ok though because I had plenty.

This was yummy.  we bagged on the science plan that day because we were lazy in the hurricane. The next night after rich and Kim left, Mandi and I started playing ourselves.

Here are the chemicals needed to make these spheres. Calcium Chloride and Sodium Alginate. We got them from here.

Gotta measure everything when working with these sort of ingredients.

The sodium alginate goes into the thing becoming a sphere.

one site just said “mix” but another said blend. We were unable to mix by hand so the blender helped. We did this with 1/3 of the puree, then mixed it back into the other 2/3s.

It wouldn’t come out easily. This was very thick. Mandi and I think it is because we started with a puree and while it was pretty thin after straining it, it still had some viscosity to it. Next time we want to try with something more watery and see how they come out.

The calcium chloride looked way different then I expected.

Yea, this was a bit too thick. It still worked for our first experiment.

dissolve the calcium chloride into the weighed water. These were like rocks and I really did not expect them to dissolve. I was about to clean the blender but then they dissolved fine.

Suck the stuff into the syringe.

This isn’t right!!! They are supposed to be dripping out into tiny strawberry caviar! The mixture was way too thick and that is why it is coming out like angel hair.

These looked pretty cool but were fragile and un useful.

Mandi started experimenting with bigger sizes by putting them onto a spoon and dropping them in.

The goal was to put these balls into vodka with soda to make a grown up imitation of bubble tea. These balls were a bit too big and the soft shell broke and only the center went up the straw.

It was actually a pretty cool feeling doing this, but not what we were going for and not really cool for a group of people.

This was a bigger more perfect looking one Mandi made.

If the strawberry puree was thinner, the inside of this sphere would be oozing out like a crazy pink egg yolk.

As you can see, the sphere DID form, but it is harder to tell because of the thickness of the liquid.

New idea.

This worked great for the size we wanted.

For more spherification info, check a short recipe here, here, a couple here (scroll down), and the store I bought the chemicals here.