Watermelon Caviar, an Introduction to Molecular Gastronomy

Watermelon Caviar 2.jpg

Molecular gastronomy is the scientific study of food and cooking processes. More widely recognized are molecular gastronomy’s applications in the food world. Avant-garde chefs have begun to apply molecular gastronomy to combine unconventional textures and flavors. Of course, molecular gastronomy also has its role in the food industry’s desire to create diet versions of traditional foods.

Molecular gastronomy has attracted a small following of foodies who try to replicate the dishes created at restaurants such as Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli and Wylie Dufresne’s wd~50. Some of these dishes include chocolate mousse made from only water and chocolate, flavored foams that don’t collapse as easily has normal foam, spaghetti made from parmesan cheese, cold cooked meat, and artificial caviar.Watermelon Caviar.jpg

While one of the most popular and easy-tomake dishes is artificial caviar, molecular gastronomy poses no limits for the imagination. This article by the Harvard magazine includes pictures of some of the most mind-blowing works of molecular gastronomy to date.

It is important to note that molecular gastronomy is the study of cooking processes. The actual application of molecular gastronomy to create the aforementioned dishes is known as molecular cooking.

Spherification

Spherification is the term given to the process of turning liquid juice into juice-filled pearls—think caviar. Through the precipitation reaction between calcium ions—basically calcium particles in liquid—and alginate—a substance derived from algae—a solid, clear film can be formed. By manipulating this reaction, we are able to create fake caviar. Simply dissolve some alginate in a juice. Then, drop droplets of the juice in a calcium water bath. The calcium from the water bath will immediately react with the alginate in the juice to form a film around the droplet. Thus, spheres of juice are created.

The juice I used was watermelon juice. Before dissolving the alginate in the juice however, I condensed the juice into a more concentrated juice by boiling some of the water off.

Concentrated Watermelon Juice.jpg

When conducting molecular cookery, it is important to make exact measurements because molecular cooking is science. Using too much of one ingredient will ruin the recipe. Measurements in molecular gastronomy are as important as measurements in baking because, yes, baking is science and, in a sense, molecular gastronomy.

Adapted from the Texturas website

Ingredients

  • 250g Watermelon juice
  • 2g Sodium alginate source
  • 500g Water
  • 2.5g Calcium chloride source
  • Use a needle-less syringe or eye dropper to create droplets. I also recommend an immersion blender to mix the alginate in watermelon juice.

    Directions

    1. Mix alginate with watermelon juice.
    2. Dissolve calcium chloride in water.
    3. Drop droplets of watermelon juice solution into calcium chloride water.
    4. Use strainer to remove droplets from calcium chloride bath after 1-2 minutes into a separate cold water bath.

    Edit: Here’s a great video made by ScienceFix that demonstrates the process.

    About Earl

    Hi, my name is Earl. I am a student who loves to analyze food and eat healthy. My careful eye for food has caused me to become interested in the science behind food and cooking, and I write about my explorations into food on my website Toastable.com. While I believe in sticking to whole, natural foods, I'm not afraid to work with avant-garde ingredients and equipment such as constant temperature water baths and sodium alginate. I also love photography, technology, and journalism.

    04. August 2010 von Earl
    Categories: Favorites, Molecular Gastronomy, Recipes | Tags: , , , , | 35 comments

    • handson wu

      wacca wacca

      i'm eating yellow watermelon right now

      • http://toastable.com earl lee

        What does yellow watermelon taste like?

    • handson wu

      just less sweet

      • http://toastable.com earl lee

        Ahh, I see. I bet yellow watermelon would be great to decorate dishes with!

    • summer

      Were can the calcium and sodium be purchased

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    • http://www.moleculargastronomynetwork.com ChefGérard

      Hey! The best tip ou can have with regards to basic spherification is that you have to choose very tasty ingredient as it will be diluted almost 50/50 with the alginate solution.

      Canned frozen juice is great, any flavors as it is concentrate. Form other tric, on molecular gastronomy:

      http://www.MolecularGastronomyNetwork.com

      For kits with best value on the market:

      http://www.MOLECULE-R.com

      Enjoy!

    • Jansi Sheeba Rani

      May I know the nutritive value of this artificial watermelon caviar?

      • http://toastable.com earl lee

        While I cannot get you a precise value, I can attest to the fact that watermelon caviar is low-calorie. 100% of its calories come from the watermelon juice used to create the caviar, since the calcium alginate film is not absorbed for energy in the body and, thus, has no calories.

        I suppose one way to gauge the calorie count would be to fill a cup with the watermelon caviar and assume that the cup is filled with pure watermelon juice. According to this source, watermelon juice contains 110 calories per cup, so you will definitely have less than that in a cup of watermelon caviar.

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    • Eicnaf

      Could I add alcohol into the mix?

      • http://toastable.com earl lee

        Yes.

    • http://www.caviar.bc.ca/ caviar

      Good food is something that tends to melt and win hearts. A delicacy like caviar scores wonderfully in this aspect, it has managed to achieve recognition and appreciation from across the world. The taste of the dish is indeed something that is retained in the mind for a long time. The Sturgeon variety occupies the zenith position in terms of the roe quality and flavor. This authentic taste and flavor is simply unsurpassed. The lovers of the mouthwatering roe however now need to compromise to some extent with the specificity of the fish variety and producing country.

      The downside of the popularity and demand for the cuisine is the declining number of fishes. The sturgeons from the Caspian Sea are the ones that are most desired. The mounting demand of the fish roe has resulted in increased harvesting of the species. Incessant fishing has led to falling density of the variety. To fill the gap for the authentic variety, numerous countries have introduced farmed caviar. The most desired farmed caviar is from the Baerii sturgeon, which is farmed in Germany, Italy, and France.

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    • liam blake

      would this practice work with a caramel or chocolate ?

      • http://toastable.com earl lee

        Possibly, it’s an interesting idea, one that I might want to try in the future. The thing with chocolate though, is that because chocolate hardens at room temperature, there really would be no point in having a film encasing chocolate. You could, however, have chocolate milk encased by the film to have “chocolate milk caviar.” To do this, you would have to create an alginate bath, since chocolate milk has calcium ions already in it.

        I’m not sure of the molecular composition of caramel, but I feel like caramel caviar would not work out well, since caramel is very viscous and ions inside caramel may have trouble moving around. As a result, you would end up with insufficient precipitation reactions on the surface to create a film.

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    • Laurey

      How long can the caviar be stored? Similar in life of the juice it came from (obviously storing in fridge if a juice) – if done with alcohol or tea/coffee, would fridge be necessary?

      Thanks for the info :)

      • http://toastable.com earl lee

        Hey Laurey,

        The shelf life should be similar to that of the juice, and I would refrigerate them when using alcohol, tea, or coffee. Have fun!

    • http://www.howtocookthat.net ann

      Your recipe has been featured on BEST OF THE WEB: Spherical and Caviar Recipes. To tell the world go to the bottom of the page http://www.howtocookthat.net/public_html/?p=979
      and copy and paste the code.

    • jordyn

      Can you use any juice or flavoring to replace the watermelon, as long as it is the same total volume? And are thereany non-internet stores where the chemical ingredients may be purchased that you may know of? Thank you and love your site!

      • http://toastable.com earl lee

        Yes, in most cases, any replacement liquid will work. You’ll have to experiment and try, though. Sometimes, the acidity of the liquid—in this case watermelon juice—prevents encapsulation.

        Unfortunately, I do not know of any brick-and-mortar stores that sell alginate or calcium chloride.

    • jordyn

      I attempted this yesterday and was unabsorbed to achieve the medium sized circles in your picture. Is there any tips to getting larger “caviar” in particlular? Can you use a larger syringe?

      • http://toastable.com earl lee

        The size of the caviar is actually pretty small. The picture may distort a sense of scale because there really isn’t anything in that picture besides the caviar. If you do, however, want to try making larger spheres, use a syringe with a larger nozzle or even just a eye dropper. Increasing the viscosity of the liquid will also allow larger droplets to form before it drips, but I would avoid doing so because that compromises the taste/texture of the final product.

    • interested

      Im just soo interested with this! If you wanted tiny droplets, could you use a syringe with a needle?

      • http://toastable.com earl lee

        Yes, tell me how it goes!

    • interested

      Will do!

    • evelyn

      Hi,

      where can I buy Calcium Chloride ? besides in the internet ? do local stores sell them ? also can I use any fruit juice ? do they all have to be boiled to reduce ? I am here in California. I have called some pharmacies and they don’t even know what I am talkign about. thank you

      • http://toastable.com earl lee

        I’ve never been able to buy ingredients for molecular gastronomy online. Try:

        http://modernistpantry.com

    • Vaughn

      Hey I can see your last reply was a while ago, however will try anyway. Wat is the best way to store molecular Caviar and how long can it be stored for..

      • http://toastable.com earl lee

        Hi Vaughn,

        From personal experience, faux caviar made using this method should be served immediately, but if you store it in the fridge in a sweet solution (juice, water mixed with sugar, agave nectar, etc), the faux caviar should hold for at least 1-3 days.

    • dee

      can i apply this to a black tea? or do i have to add something

      • Earl Lee

        Just use the same recipe, except watermelon juice is black tea in this case.

    • Natt

      What’s the difference between calcium chloride and calcium lactate? Can i use calcium lactate instead? Will the amount (2.5g) still be the same? Thank you so much!