For a sweet treat, how about apple ‘caviar’?
Yes, I am a geek who plays piano. I have played for many years and in truth, as a child I was fairly good. But as things happen in this life, I ‘saw a squirrel’ and my attention was drawn elsewhere around the time that I started working in restaurants.
Not one to sit on the bench and fight through countless hours of Czerny exercises, I just slam away at the keys hoping that something of a coherent nature will emanate from the ivories.
It is not uncommon to hear me begin Solfeggietto by CPE Bach (one of JS Bach’s many children) before running across a C-minor chord and breaking into a poorly phrased but fun Boogie Woogie riff from Dr. John. If I don’t watch it (which is often) I somehow digress into the theme song from H.R. PufnStuf, the eponymous children’s show so popular in my youth.
I am oft met by members of my family asking me to turn down the volume on our digital piano and I regrettably oblige them, more than willing to appease them. After all why should they suffer for my art?
When it comes to cooking, the same ennui slows down my production and it isn’t until something of interest pops up on my screen that my interest peaks and I am back with my nose in the books, using them to sate my Wanderlust and never-ending quest for knowledge.
I have played with Molecular Gastronomy, the name given to a food movement by Herve This (pronounced “Teece”) in the 70s or 80s. In this movement, chefs often deconstruct the recognizable and offer new and exciting ways to experience items that we know and love.
This week as we held our monthly robotics team fun-build, I brought along the sodium alginate, calcium chloride, sodium citrate and maltodextrin to try to show chemistry in the most beloved of all arenas; food. As the audience was comprised of teenagers, the food was eaten with great aplomb.
Using the sodium citrate, I made a creamy and decadent mac ‘n cheese without the floury roux that so often overpowers the star attraction, whether it be a sharp cheddar or a demure Italian hard cheese. Next on to the maltodextrin I made Nutella ‘sand’, which melted in your mouth releasing that beautiful Nutella flavor and allowing it to linger for a few seconds before disappearing into the background.
And as one of the other mentors had just finished baking pumpkin bread, I used the calcium chloride and sodium alginate to make some apple caviar, one of the oldest tricks in the book developed in the 90s by Spanish Superchef Ferran Adria at his lab in Barcelona.
This is a fascinating technique that lends itself to a new discovery in texture and taste when making sweet or savory ‘caviar’. All one needs is a relatively low-acid liquid and some basic molecular gastronomy additives.
In order to locate the additives, just visit any number of websites to begin your adventure in this modernist style of cooking. A couple of sites are molecule-r.com and chefrubber.com. The former is designed around the at-home foodie and the latter sells much larger quantities of the additives for restaurants and serious food chemists.
This is a great party activity now that we are full swing into the holidays. Apple caviar, sweet and tart, is perfect on ice cream, pies, cakes and anything that could easily be paired with apple.
And now that I have bored you to tears about food, I need to get back to my piano.
Apple CaviarMakes a large amount of caviar and a great party activity!
1 qt. Fresh apple cider
1/2 tsp. Algin or Sodium Alginate
1/2 tsp. Calcium Chloride
baking soda, only if needed
Bring the apple cider to a simmer and reduce it down to 2 cups. It will be extremely flavorful
Cool over an ice bath until ready to use
With an immersion blender, add the sodium alginate to the cider reduction until the Algin has dissolved. In the process you will have incorporated a good amount of air. Do one of the following to release the air bubbles: If you happen to have a vacuum chamber laying around, just suck out the air bubbles. If not, leave in the refrigerator overnight. Or if you are impatient, bring it to a simmer and then cool down. The air bubbles will rise to the top
Prepare your Calcic bath by dissolving the calcium chloride in 2 cups of water
Line up the apple mixture, the calcic bath and a cup of plain water
With a 30cc syringe drip the alginated mixture into the calcic bath and swirl with a spoon
‘Cook’ for 30 seconds to a minute and remove with a slotted spoon
Rinse in the water, dry and serve immediately as the caviar will continue to cook until gelled all of the way through
Serve on ice cream, pumpkin pie, apple pie or anything that could be accentuated with a sharp apple flavor
If you have extra mix, use a tablespoon and make a large ‘ravioli’, allowing it to cook for about 3 minutes. Remove and rinse as you did before and serve by itself on a spoon