Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Molecular Gastronomy: Rice Pudding With Apple Caviar, Part 2

Continued from yesterday's post on Molecular Gastronomy

So, once again, we’re talking about molecular gastronomy, or, as it’s sometimes called, modernist cooking.  When I hear that term, I wonder what will come next, maybe post-modernist cooking?  Will we be debating the existence of food?

But I digress...

As I said last time, the first attempt My son and I made at Basic Spherification failed miserably, and we chalked it up to a learning experience. We made some adjustments the second time and it all turned out.  I’m sure that as we do it more and more, we’ll get better and better and understand it more as well.

As I begin to list the ingredients, you’ll notice that the amounts are in grams, not in cups or tablespoons.  That’s because this is chemistry, and chemists don’t measure in teaspoons. Accurate measurements are very important in this process.

Here’s what you need:


At least 1000 grams Apple Juice
5 grams sodium citrate
5 grams sodium alginate
About a liter of clean water
5 grams calcium chloride


Ph test strips
a scale that measures with an accuracy of 0.1 grams
small cups for measuring and dispensing the chemicals
a blender or a whisk
4 clean bowls, preferably clear glass
a large plastic medical syringe
a small strainer or spoon with small holes.

I started out with a lot of the apple juice, and to intensify the flavor, I boiled it and reduced it down to about half. To do the spherification, you’ll need exactly 500 grams, so I started with more than double that. Confession: I did this step with a saucepan on my stove. I know I should have done it on coals in my Dutch oven. I hang my head in shame.

Then, I let it cool in the fridge. When it was at about room temperature, I pulled it out and tested the Ph with the test strips. There were two possible reasons why the first one failed. One was that the juice might have been too acidic. The best results happen when your Ph is more than 3.6. The first batch tested at 4, so it should have been OK, but it was really close. Also, many fruit juices have added calcium which can begin the spherification reaction too soon. In either case, sodium citrate is the answer. So, the second time, I added some to the juice. This measurement is not so critical, I’d read.

Once that was dissolved, it was time to make the sphere base solution. I measured exactly 500 grams of the reduced juice. For the spherification to work, you have to have accurate measurements. My scale wasn’t so accurate, and that also caused problems the first time. I was much more careful, but I think I also got lucky the second time.  I also measured out 5 grams of the sodium alginate

Then I got the blender (the instructions say you can use a whisk, but I was a bit nervous, so I did the blender). While blending the juice, I gradually tipped in the sodium alginate. The first time, it got very thick. I think we had added too much, and I think it also reacted with the juice. The second time, it did get a little thicker, but it was still very runny.

Even though the sodium alginate looks dissolved, it needs some time to fully hydrate and to be fully absorbed into the juice. Also, the air bubbles have to dissipate.  I set it in the fridge for about an hour, or longer.

After a time in the fridge, the liquid looked clear, but there was still some bubbles on top. I scooped these away with a spoon.

While I let the sphere base solution get a bit warmer, I made the setting bath. I set up three bowls.  In the first, I put 500 grams of water. I used tap water, but the instructions also recommend using distilled water. I think next time, I’ll do that. While whisking, I gradually added the calcium chloride, and stirred until it was fully dissolved. I filled each of the other bowls about 3/4 of the way with water.

I had bought a molecular gastronomy chemical kit to do this and it came with a big plastic syringe. I have a son with special health care needs, so we actually have these things all over the house, anyway. I sucked up the sphere base solution into the syringe and, from a height of about 2-3 inches, began dribbling it into the setting bath.  It’s important to not press too fast, or you’ll get a worm, not a sphere. I like having a clear glass bowl, because it was easier to see the resulting caviar spheres from the side of the bowl than it was from above. The fact that the apple juice was a light color didn’t help much either.

Once I’d squeezed out about a full syringe of juice, I gently stirred up the water to see what we had. I stirred over the spheres, rather than through them, and let the water motion move them around. I let them set in the bath for about a minute or two, and then lifted them out with the strainer. I poured them immediately into the first water bath, rinsed them, and then into the second water bath.

I got a small bowl and put a heaping spoonful of rice pudding into the center, and then placed the apple caviar beads around and on top of it. It was a really elegant presentation, and the flavor was wonderful. It was a lot of fun to try and a great learning experience!

By the way, the spheres keep gelling even though they’ve been rinsed off, so It’s important to serve them as quickly as possible.  A great video instruction series can be found at

Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

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