- Experiment #1 Spherical Yogurt
Mom always told me not to play with my food. But mom had never seen Wiley Dufresne on top chef! I have long marveled at molecular gastronomy but as a busy ad executive with little experience in the kitchen I left fancy stuff to the real chefs. Now that I’m taking a work break to spend more time with my daughter I’m doing what any suburban mom would do, I’m experimenting in molecular gastronomy.
Last night I surprised my husband with a fantastic meal of fennel crusted ahi and a spherical yogurt experiment. Luckily my husband is way more of the chef than I am so he’s really into the experiments. Here’s how my day went…
In the afternoon while entertaining kids on a play date at our house I pulled out my agitate bath from the fridge (previously the bubbly snot). Now totally smooth it was ready to make spheres. I got out my shitty imperfect scale and made the yogurt mix I found on molecular recipes . I followed the recipe to a t this time but I will riff on it next time, using this as a base. It makes enough yogurt mix for approximately 50 yogurt balls which was really overkill for a Thursday night family dinner. Next time I will half it and still have too much. After my yogurt mix was made I followed the instructions placing small spoonfuls of the yogurt into the bath. At first I thought I had done it wrong because they sort of hung on the surface but eventually they sunk into the agitate to form balls. I set my timer for 2 minutes and gingerly fished them out. This is trickier than I had anticipated. I had a 3″ fine mesh strainer but the mesh was so fine the agitate (again, think consistency of snot) barely went through and took a long time. I was also getting lots of agitate in the water bath and I found fishing them out of a square bowl challenging because the strainer was too big for the corners. I tried a slotted spoon I had but the slots were big enough the spheres slipped right through like magic. They are slippery little suckers! I will be making a trek to William Sonoma tomorrow for the perfect slotted spoon. Once in the water bath I gently stirred a bit and fished the first one out. It was far from a perfect sphere in the bath but once I got it on the spoon you couldn’t tell. I tried it with some key lime syrup and it was yummy. The yogurt is tangy and sweet and the texture is perfect. A little pillow that bursts in your mouth. The experience is sensual. I can really see building a meal around this for parties.
Making these was really a small time investment once i had all the right tools. the agitate bath took maybe 15 minutes to make the night before, the yogurt mix came together in a few minutes and making the spheres took about 5 minutes. there was maybe 10 minutes of prep time getting all the tools lined up and the water bath prepared. its also fairly efficient and would be easy to do for a party. I was able to make about 10 at a time in my 5″ x 7″ container. The depth of the bath is important. Mine was about 4″ deep and that seemed perfect. I would not go less than 3″ in depth or your balls aren’t going to drop properly. Ok that probably sounds wrong but you get the picture.
Now that i had been ignoring the kids for 15 minutes (after explaining that private parts are to remain private), I thought I’d surprise the them with a treat. It’s sweet, it’s yogurt, it’s cool. Kids should love this right? No. They took one look at the shiny little white balls sitting in pale green syrup and said ‘no’! I should have colored them blue and called them dinosaur eggs. What was I thinking? I was once a great advertising exec, have I forgotten already? Oh well, I loved it. More importantly I saw the possibilities that this blank canvas presents. Suddenly I’m ready to open up my restaurant. I’ll call it chez play dough.
That night when my husband got home I had the first trial waiting. Before dinner I started us with a cocktail of lemoncelo yogurt spheres on cute little spoons I got at restaurant supply. We thought it was ok but the strong vodka taste really overpowered the yogurt. Our search for a perfect pairing continued. After dinner I made a bunch more yogurt spheres and brought the water bath over to the table with the spheres rinsing inside. Then I place sliced fruit, mint, syrups and liquors on the table for us to try mixing. They key lime syrup with tiny mint leaves was a hit but our favorite pairing was putting it in a spoon with a few drops of something called liquid love by Tobin James. It’s essentially chocolate flavored desert wine. The mix tested a bit like an ice cream Sunday. We also tried it with ice wine which was not great and Bailey’s which was surprisingly bad. Then we tried it with star fruit which was good and kiwi which was better. I think it might be best with mango I was just too tired to slices a mango. We also experimented with previously made balls and ones made ala minute. I had read that even after you stop the process in the water bath the gel continues to form so you need to serve them right away. We found that after several hours in the fridge in a water bath they were ok but a bit more firm. They lacked a little of that pillowy texture that was so sensual. They could hang out in the bath for 15-30 minutes without too much loss in quality but beyond that was definitely a compromise.
By the end of dinner we were talking about ways to turn this savory by eliminating the sugar and putting in some herbs or pairing with spice. I saved the bath so that we could see if it can be used twice and tonight I want to do some non sweet versions and maybe the mozzarella spheres. This weekend I think my husband will be showing me how to sous vide so that I can make sous vide octopus.