Is it fruit? Or is it caviar? TRICK QUESTION!
In the future, things are not always what they seem. Science will change what we are capable of, and thus we will never quite be sure what we’re seeing.
Anyone watch the HBO TV show Westworld? It’s full of characters that are not at all what they seem. Are they humans? Robots? The show will keep you guessing! We’re sort of obsessed with that show here at Blazing Caribou Studios, so if you are too, make sure you check out the Brokebot Mountain podcast!
What Is Molecular Gastronomy?
It’s a fancy pants word, no? Well, simply put, molecular gastronomy is the food art of the future. Chefs use chemistry to take familiar flavors and transform them visually into something completely different, with the intent of fooling the senses and explore new sensations. Imagine a warm, creamy white spheroid on your place that once it hits the warmth of your lips, fills your mouth with the familiar flavors of a cheese ravioli. Or a blacker-than-night perfect cube of steak topped with a lighter than air foam with the intense flavor of bearnaise sauce? Or a delicate crepe, topped with sour cream and salmon roe, that tastes like grapefruit cheesecake? When the reality transcends the expectations, you have experienced molecular gastronomy.
Have I scared you off yet?
It’s Not Rocket Science
It’s more like chemistry, actually. Don’t panic! I swear to you that you can make fruit caviar, even if you failed high school chemistry. The recipe I’m going to share with you is super easy, and there’s only one ingredient you might not be familiar with: agar agar, also known as that stuff they rub the q-tip on when they swap your throat to see if you have strep. Fun, right?! Okay, maybe that doesn’t seem like food to you, but I guarantee you, it can be! The best part? It’s plant-based, therefore vegans can use it to make their own flavored gelatins with no guilt. (Meatatarians feel free to make meat jelly just to piss off the vegans, I give you permission.) I ordered my Agar Agar from Amazon.com.
In a lot of molecular gastronomy recipes, ingredients are measured by mere grams; however this fruit caviar recipe uses the simplest form of molecular gastronomy possible.
Cold Oil Spheriphication
The method I used for my Grapefruit Fruit Caviar is called ‘cold oil spherification’. It uses agar agar as the gelling agent in addition to cold oil to create the spheres. Cold oil spherification differs from standard spherification because it creates solid spheres as opposed to spheres with liquid centers. This method is perfect for trying with young kids with adult supervision: minimal cooking is involved and no sharp objects!
Grapefruit Fruit Caviar
You’ll need only three ingredients: your flavored liquid, agar agar, and a neutral oil (I used vegetable oil).
You’ll need a few basic tools, too: a jar or a whisk to evenly distribute the agar into your liquid, a clear freezer safe container, a small strainer and a bowl. Simple, right? Absolutely!
First of all, you’ll need to pour 1/2 cup of your oil into a clear, freezer safe container and place it in the freezer for at LEAST one hour, preferably longer. You really need it chilled.
Then, combine 3/4 cup of your flavored liquid (I used ruby red grapefuit juice because it’s soooo pretty) with 1/2 teaspoon of agar agar and give it a shake or a whisk.
Then pour it into a small saucepan and whisk gently until it comes to a boil.
Allow the liquid to cool slightly (it needs to still be warm to the touch) before pouring it into a squeeze bottle or using a straw to drip droplets of it into the icy cold oil. Go slowly here: if the oil warms up too much your liquid will clump into pieces resembling The Blob instead of pretty spheres. If you need to stop and strain and chill your oil halfway through, that’s okay.
At this point, feel free to store the spheres inside the oil in your fridge until you’re ready to rinse them.
When you’re ready to consume your fruit caviar, simply strain them gently from the oil and rinse with cold water.
Then you can store them in a jar in the fridge as needed.
I just ate mine from the spoon, but there are infinite possibilities: on Greek yogurt, in a cocktail, as a topping for vanilla ice cream – the list goes on! Not only is it a science experiment, it’s a delicious one!
Will you give making your own fruit caviar a shot? I have dreams of steeping shiitake mushrooms and using the intense broth as my liquid, thus creating an umami-filled delight to to cold sesame noodles. The possibilities are endless!
- 3/4 cup highly flavored liquid (I used ruby red grapefruit juice)
- 1/2 teaspoon agar agar powder
- 1/2 cup neutral oil (I used vegetable oil)
- In a freezer safe clear container, pour in the oil and store in the freezer for a minimum of one hour.
- In a jar or with a whisk, blend together the liquid and agar agar thoroughly.
- Pour into a small saucepan and heat to boiling, stirring occasionally.
- Allow to cool slightly (but still warm to the touch) and pour into a squeeze bottle.
- Going slowly, drip droplets of the warm liquid into the oil. If necessary, stop halfway to strain the spheres from the oil and re-chill the oil.
- Strain the spheres from the oil and rinse with cold water and spheres are ready to use!
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