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Reverse Spherification Question

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 

Hey all,


I recently purchased some food additives and was really excited to give them a go this evening. I am semi-familiar with the concept of reverse spherification, did some reading and watched some videos before attempting it. I failed....4 times...and I have no clue why. I am using a ratio of 5g alginate to 500g water (about a litre), I blitz it in my blender, let it rest for 1/2hr, spoon out about a teaspoon of a calcium rich product (I have used milk and cream) and drop it in the bath. The main problem is the sphere walls seem to be really thin; they spherify, albeit somewhat flat and  when i try to scoop them out they split and ruin the alginate bath. Does the milk/cream need to be thickened prior to dropping them into the alginate?


any tips would be greatly appreciated.










post #2 of 36

Not sure of the chemistry, however, 1 Liter of water is 1,000 grams or 1 kilogram, not 500 grams.


5 grams in 500 grams is a 1% solution, 5 grams in 1,000 grams is a 0.5% solution

Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
post #3 of 36

Generally speaking, in reverse spherification the alginate bath is set to .5-1% by water weight and the liquid to be spherified usually has an additional 1-3% calcium lactate gluconate added (depending on how much calcium the spherifying liquid had to begin with). If a skin is forming at all, then at least your headed in the right direction.


How long did you leave the milk/cream in the setting bath? The reason why reverse spherification is sometimes used over regular, (alginate solution dropped into calcium bath), is because once a reverse spherified liquid is removed from an alginate bath and rinsed, the gelling process stops. In normal spherification, even if the spheres are rinsed, the gel will work it's way from the outside in until you have a hard pebble that taste like nothing (flavor release is poor for calcium/alginate gels).


A good starting point would be to experiment with letting your "sphere" stay longer in the setting bath and possibly adding some calcium lactate gluconate to the spherifcation solution. Other forms of calcium (mainly calcium chloride) will leave an extremely bitter after taste.

Also, do you have an end result in mind that you're trying to achieve? There's more then one way the spherify a cat...I mean liquid.

post #4 of 36
Thread Starter 

Thanks guys. Jacob: I left it in for about 5mins. I just want a gelled ball that has flavored cream inside -- its going with a brownie, raspberry-orange sauce, frozen raspberry that is broken up and hazelnut dust.


I have heard about mixing agar with the product to be spherified and dropping it into oil that has been left in the freezer. But I figured since i bought these additives I may as well learn how to use them.


Also, in one of the videos I watched the person advocated letting the alginate bath rest 24 hours and the product to be spherified (thickened with xanthan) to rest for 12. Does this really make a difference?



post #5 of 36

"I have heard about mixing agar with the product to be spherified and dropping it into oil that has been left in the freezer. But I figured since i bought these additives I may as well learn how to use them."


In my (albeit limited) experiences with cold oil spherification the texture of the spheres is quite different than the results you get from doing traditional spherification or reverse spherification.   Although you can get the same visual effect, the spheres are loaded with agar which changes the texture considerably.

post #6 of 36

Twyst nailed it on the agar texture. Any water based gel that is set by a temperature drop can be dripped into cold oil which will set it into a sphere shape. The texture however will resemble the properties of the gel used. Agar, although room temp stable, tends to have a more brittle texture.


Xanthan gum is added sometimes to both increase viscosity and to act as a suspending agent. Generally speaking, you want the viscosity of your liquid to be the same as your setting bath. At around .5% by weight, Xanthan has the ability to "suspend" objects in a liquid, in this case not allowing your sphere to drop to the bottom of the container and pancake. The reason why it is generally suggested that both liquid and bath are allowed to sit, is because alginate and most other hydrocolloids need shearing force from a blender or hand mixer to fully hydrate. If there is too much oxygen in your solution, the liquid you're trying to spherify will just float on top of your setting bath. If you have a chamber vacuum sealer you can solve the problem immediately by running both of the liquids through a cycle.

post #7 of 36

the website has some help. i have always used some extra calcium mixed in when doing olives and motzerela spheres. the main thing you are looking for is the right balance so that you get the proper reaction. this is based on your calcium+alge+time=the product you want you will have to adjust these and test. one of the things i was taught was to leave both the algin water and batter for whatever you wanted overnight to properly set or run through the vacum machine a few times to remove the bubbles and fully incorporate. all i can say is being careful adding calcium because of the horrible taste if you have too much however the algin is typically tasteless. What i will do is to fill one bowl) hopefully flat bottom) with algin and 2 more with cold water followed by a storage container of light oil or oil flavored with something fitting for what your doing. Drop in your mix to the algin in balls the size you want spreading them and not letting them touch by the time you have a few in ( 10 -15) you can touch the first ons and move them to the next bin rinsing in cold water through 2 cycles then getting as dry as possible and storing in oil one layer deep. 

good luck! practice and error. remember he man who started this practiced this 6 months a year day in day out for quite some time. 

post #8 of 36

Sorry I  should have read more from jacob before writing in. 

post #9 of 36

@ Pirate-chef,


You bring up a good point about the storage liquid. The spheres will slowly leach their flavor into their storage liquid. Like you said, whenever possible it's always a good idea to store the spheres in a liquid with the same flavor concentration as the spheres. I've never tried storing them in oil; seems like that would work while also possibly keeping food cost down. I'll have to experiment with that a bit.

post #10 of 36

The best i have used this for is doing olive spheres ( black and green) and storing in nice olive oil honestly stored one layer thick they rarely break and just slide off of eachother blott before serving and your golden. 

post #11 of 36
Thread Starter 

awesome. very helpful thanks so much. i was playing around with my maltodextrin last night and think thats my favorite so far. by the time i have tried all the products I think I will have sperified/dustified/fluid gelled everything in my apartment, much to my girlfriend's dismay

post #12 of 36

foie gras + malto = gods powder :) 

post #13 of 36
Thread Starter 

Oh momma. Ijust made white chocolate powder out of the white choco chipits in the cupboard. I am finding that despite the instructions that are on the website (product should be chilled liquid), if its the texture of butter it can still be powdered. Once I am able to afford some foie I'll hack off a chunk and turn it into powder, thats a for-sure.


Also, once something is powdered does it have to be stored in the same manner? Ex. powdered cream (or foie) would need to be stored in the fridge.


I have purchased the Ideas In Food book that just came out as well. Looks like I'm going to be jumping into this area with both feet.

post #14 of 36

@ Pirate Chef,


++++++100 on the foie powder! Also, rendered bacon fat is lots of fun. For our mignardises at the restaurant we serve chocolate truffles rolled in de-hydrated peanut butter. Has turned into a accidental signature of sorts.


@ ChefBoyarG,


I've never bothered with refrigerating the fat before mixing it with the Malto. Also, usually store the "dehydrated" fat at room temp in an airtight container, out of direct light. Never had any issues. Some things that have worked great for me in the past were dehydrated brown butter served with scallops and dehydrated sesame oil served on a sashimi plate. The sesame oil was one of my favorite applications because it allowed us to add sesame oil to the plate with out it running all over the place and mixing with the other ingredients.

post #15 of 36

OK, time for some "educatin'", I was not aware that "oils" contained any measurable amount of water so how does "dehydrating oils" work? I was under the impression that "dehydrating" meant removing water, am I incorrect???

Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
post #16 of 36

You're absolutely right Pete, that's why I put "de-hydration" in quotations, because I'm loosely using the term. Tapioca Maltodextrin is an extremely light bulking agent that has the ability to "absorb" oils and fat. It's usually listed as an "anti-caking agent" on the back of many "seasoning packets" like french onion soup powder. That's because all the water based ingredients can be fully dehydrated, but any fat present in the seasoning packet will cause these ingredients to cake and possibly go rancid.


The thing about Tapioca Maltodextrin is that it dissolves almost instantly when it comes into contact with even a tiny amount of moisture (like the saliva on your palate). This allows you to serve a powdered fat that gives you the sensation of re-hydration when it is placed in your mouth. Oils will turn back into oil, peanut butter back into peanut butter, etc.

post #17 of 36

Here are two photos of a our hamachi sashimi dish that utilize both alginate/calcium spherification and tapioca maltodextrin.


Below you can see cantaloupe "caviar" served on top of the sashimi. Fresh cantaloupe juice is mixed with 1% alginate by weight and dropped into a 1% calcium chloride bath, allowed to set for 60 seconds, strained and rinsed. The spheres will continue to gel from the outside in until they form a hard pebble (about 20-30 minutes), so these must be made to order and served immediately to insure a proper texture. The orange of the cantaloupe reminds me of fresh trout roe.


Hamachi Sashimi with cantaloupe caviar.


We also put "dehydrated-hydrated" sesame oil in opposing corners of the plate. This allows us to add a classic flavor to the sashimi without the sesame oil running all over the plate and interfering with the rest of the components. Guests really enjoy the sensation of the sesame powder "re-hydrating" back into sesame oil when it hits their tongue.


Hamachi sashimi with dehydrated sesame oil.

post #18 of 36
Thread Starter 

Very nice. What are the green noodle-y items under the sashimi?

post #19 of 36

Seaweed Salad.

post #20 of 36

im guessing you have one of the machines that helps you squeeze out about 50-100 perfect caviar at a time or a pissed off intern. Love maltosec it still surprises me frequently it makes great white chocolate rocks too. 

post #21 of 36

im guessing you have one of the machines that helps you squeeze out about 50-100 perfect caviar at a time or a pissed off intern. Love maltosec it still surprises me frequently it makes great white chocolate rocks too. 

post #22 of 36

Yep, I use one of these; much lower maintenance then a pissed off intern. smile.gif




post #23 of 36

yep, however if you can combine the two your golden. have you seen the youtube video from alinea talking about the spherification gin and tonic? worth a watch along with alinea in 24 hours. just popped into mind. 

post #24 of 36

Yes, I have seen those. I love the Alinea videos. In "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" they talk about Ferran Adria's signature "olive" using the reverse spherification technique and how it is one of the most dreaded prep tasks in the kitchen, based on repetitive monotony. One of El Bulli's greatest assets was the huge amount of free labor it could utilize, giving them the ability to do certain prep techniques that would bankrupt a normal restaurant.

post #25 of 36

I know what you mean my first 2 tasks at my current restaurant for weeks were olive spheres, and peeling grapes. yes..... peeling green seedless grapes. 

post #26 of 36

I feel your pain. There are certain food items that I won't serve in my restaurant just because I'm so traumatized from my days as an unpaid apprentice. What are you guys using the peeled grapes for (besides a right of passage/initiation)? 

post #27 of 36

The grapes are poached in a syrup we have made from cooking rose leaves sugar and some other things then soaking for months. they turn pink and if you miss any outside it turns pale white. This is surved with a foie terrine and rose ice cream. among a few other things. 

post #28 of 36

It sounds delicious! Interns exist for a reason.

post #29 of 36
Thread Starter 

Hey all,


I have another question.I tried to spherify some orange juice the other day and thought it would require normal spherification (alginate+item being spherified into a calcium bath) I came across this method and decided to try it instead: I mixed 750g H20 with 3.25g alginate, blended, let it rest 24hrs. Mixed 200g OJ with 2g calcium lactate and enough xanthan to make it about as viscous as the alginate bath and let that sit overnight as well. When I dropped the spheres in the alginate they remained right on the surface and the resulting skin was EXTREMELY delicate. (Pretty much the opposite problem of my reverse spherification). I adapted the recipe from one I saw by Jose Andres, though his used watermelon juice. Advice?

post #30 of 36

Sounds like you still had some trapped air in the juice or their is too much alginate in the bath. Don't have my tables handy for that, so I couldn't say for sure.


As far as the delicate skin goes, a few things occur to me. 1) not enough time in the bath, 2) sometimes if they are trapped at the surface, the gelling is uneven, 3) ph is too low from the oj, 4) citrate from the oj is sequestering too much Ca++ so there is not enough to properly gel the alginate skin.

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