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Spherification


In spherification, alginate is contained in the flavored droplet and hence gellification proceeds from the outside boundary of the droplet inwards. The color of the encapsulation in regular spherification is that of the droplet.


ADVANTAGES:

Small "caviar" sized encapsulations can be made since the viscosity of the calcium bath remains thin.


LIMITATIONS:

Rinsing will help slow the gelling process, however spherification may proceed until the entire droplet becomes solid jelly. Mass producing spheres using a caviar maker helps narrow the difference of exposure time between the first drop and the last drop improving the texture consistency of your caviar batch.


Q: Why is the texture of the juice in the caviar thick and foamy?

A: The solution should be allowed to sit for 1-2 hours after mixing in sodium alginate to allow bubbles to escape before encapsulating them. You may also subject your solution to a vacuum to help speed up this process.


Q: How can I avoid getting flattened or oval shaped caviar?

A: Ensure that the droplets have enough distance from the calcium chloride bath such that they have enough time to cohere into a sphere. However, too high up and the impact into the bath will deform them into flattened caviar spheres. You can also try a more dilute bath of calcium chloride to allow the caviar to cohere in the bath.


Q: How do I avoid getting caviar spheres of different sizes?

A: Tapping the syringe as you dispense the liquid may break the droplets early resulting in smaller spheres. Therefore the size of the sphere then depends on your tapping consistency. Allowing the spheres to break away from the syringe on their own may be an easier way to ensure a consistent size.


Q: Why am I having difficulty in getting sodium alginate to dissolve into my juice solution?

A: If your solution is acidic with a pH less than 4, you'll need to use sodium citrate to help neutralize it and promote sodium alginate solubility.


Q: How much powder should I use?

A: Typically, the ratios of powder to liquid is about 1% by weight (1oz of powder for every 100 fl oz of liquid). This may vary slightly, for example with your acidity levels and alginate solubility or the thickness of the encapsulation you're trying to achieve, but that's a good starting point.


Q: My caviar spheres are solid jelly, what happened?

A: For caviar-sized spheres, encapsulation will typically take less than a minute. Once the desired encapsulation thickness is reached, rinse thoroughly with water to slow the reaction down. Serve within 1-2 hours as the reaction may still continue (now at a slower rate) until the entire sphere becomes jelly.


Q: Why am I getting inconsistent results from batch to batch?

A: Use a digital scale with at least 0.1 gram accuracy and be sure it is calibrated properly. Also, try using distilled water in all your processes to better manage calcium levels in your solutions.


Q: Any ideas on how to create other shapes beside spheres?

A: Depressing the syringe under the calcium chloride bath will allow you to make spherified noodles!

Reverse Spherification


In reverse spherification,alginate is contained in the water bath and hence gellification proceeds from the outside boundary of the droplet outwards. The color of the encapsulation in reverse spherification is that of the bath (clear).


ADVANTAGES:

The entire droplet will remain as a liquid indefinitely with the encapsulation thickness dependent on exposure time to the alginate bath.


LIMITATIONS:

Since the liquid media bordering the droplet gellifies, the droplet must be heavy enough to push itself into the bath and be viscous enough to cohere into a ball. Therefore, reverse spherification typically results in large encapsulated orbs that have been thickened (usually with xanthan gum).


Q: My sodium alginate bath is thickening even before introducing my caviar mixture to the solution; why?

A: Tap water varies greatly based on the area it's coming from. Calcium levels vary and can affect your sodium alginate bath. For the best and more consistent results, try using distilled water.


Q: My orbs are oddly shaped; how can I ensure they are consistent spherical shapes?

A: Try reducing the sodium alginate concentration in your bath. You can also try thickening your flavored solution using xanthan gum which will help your orb cohere into a ball. Submerging your solution into the sodium alginate bath with a spoon that has a circular rim and a deep bowl will also help preserve a spherical shape. Some chefs opt to freeze their calcium fortified solution into a ball over using thickeners to preserve a thin liquid consistency while securing the sphere shape they're looking to achieve.


Q: The outer encapsulation is colorless and flavorless, what can I do to change this?

A: Your orbs can be marinated to introduce color and/or flavor into your encapsulation.


Q: Can the reverse spherification orbs be cooked?

A: Spherified encapsulation can withstand high temperatures. Try sprinkling sugar and taking a brulee torch to your spherified orb or even pan searing or deep frying your orb creation.


Q: Why is calcium lactate gluconate used in reverse spherification and not calcium chloride?

A: In reverse spherification, your flavored orb will contain more calcium ingredient by volume than in spherification. Calcium chloride is very bitter whereas calcium lactate gluconate is milder.


Q: Why is calcium chloride used in spherification and not calcium lactate gluconate?

A: In spherification, only the skin is exposed to the calcium chloride bath and therefore your caviar will have less calcium ingredient by volume when served than in reverse spherification. Calcium chloride is a low cost ingredient compared to calcium lactate gluconate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Photo Credit: Chef Stefan Czapalay

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