Thursday, November 26, 2009

Size Does Matter!!!

Grain size that is. Working in an application lab/kitchen and with people that have a lot of technical information on food processing really does provide a lot of interesting facts. For example, mesh size a.k.a. the size of the powder particles. Well, depending on the size, the powder can have different colours, dispersion rates, gel products, textures/mouthfeel, and flavour release! Yup, size matters after all. Texture due to mesh size is a no-brainer, it's self-explanatory. It's the flavour release that is more interesting. Bigger granules require more chewing before the flavours are detected. With that said, the flavour can be gradual, BAM-in-your-face, or only comes out in the end, depending on the mesh size.

This is an image I took using my iphone, so pardon the lower-than-usual image quality. All these came from the same dehydrated yams, just grinded to different mesh sizes. Notice the colour difference?

Arranged from left to right, largest mesh size to smallest.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chicken Tempura Lollipop

I grew up loving chicken lollipops. So it's about time I made some of my own, with some added variations of course. The tempura batter is taken from the Alinea cookbook, though I used plain water instead of carbonated. Inside the lollipop is the chicken breast, and a small piece of goat cheese.

Chicken breast tenderized with GPI carrageenan blend.
Goat cheese
Sundried tomato

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

White Chocolate and Raspberry puree truffle

A perfect marriage! What else can I say? First, I must give credit to my incredible Vita-Mix blender. This thing is just amazing. The smoothest raspberry puree I can imagine. I added a little bit of ginger in the puree, just to give it a bit of a twist.

Next step, add a blend of carrageenan from GPI, heat the puree to fully incorporate the carrageenan. Place in a silicone mold and freeze. Here you have it!

When it is frozen solid, coat it with white chocolate and leave it at room temperature, or the fridge for the puree to thaw.

When it thaws inside the white chocolate coating, what you get is something that has a jam-like texture, but extremely, extremely soft. Just what I wanted, a very soft jam/gel but not runny or fluid. The freeze-thaw process defintely contributed to the soft texture.

Now all I need is a different white chocolate for a better coat. Just think of the possibilities for this. The truffles dont have to be a softer chocolate, or those thick fruit pastes. Although, foie gras truffle sounds heavenly too...mmmmmmm.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Glass Ravioli

Something I made a while back. All started with a little joke when I worked at a restaurant. A guest had informed us of his gluten allergy and requested gluten-free pasta. I remember we all burst out laughing after hearing that. Now that Im looking into all these gluten free products available, the guest may have been right all along. Well, if they can make gluten free pasta, why not carb-free as well!

In this particular case, its not pasta at all. It has no flour. Although, the gel I created does function in much the same way as pasta. Ive made noodles out of it by letting it set in a plastic tube. This is just my version of ravioli.

Some mixed mushroom for the filling
Beef consomme gel as the ravioli (ala GPI carrageenan)
Butter, Parsley, Tomato
(I wanted the tomato in there just to demonstrate the gel's level of transparency. The taste doesnt really pair well)

Avocado Gel

Avocado gelled using GPI carrageenan.

Well, it resembles a flan more than a gel. Quite an interesting texture! Its still solid to the touch, though delicate. When you start eating it, it shows no resistance in its form and just instantly becomes soft. Think mash potatoes. Also, its not too delicate that you cant even touch it without ruining the shape. As long as its not straining the gel too much its quite easy to handle

So, what to do with it? The thing is quite versatile in where it can be served in the course of dinner. It can be an amuse bouche, part of an appetizer, or a pre-dessert. I mean, the avocado is really just a vessel and you can pair its flavour in any way you want. Add cream and maple syrup, its dessert. You can top it with roasted garlic, some cilantro, and served on a tortilla chip, you got yourself some chips and guacamole.

So after a little bit of tinkering, and scavenging for whatever ingredients I could find to garnish it (its a lab, so the list of ingredients is quite limited), I decided to just simply brulee some sugar on top. There you go, avocado flan brulee!

An Accidental Event

Heres an interesting bit I accidentally discovered. Avocado turns to that unappetizing brown colour after you leave it out, right? It oxidizes and turns brown. Well, I sorta neglected to go straight to cleaning the pieces of avocado and instead went straight to my computer. When I went back to clean the table, I realized that the avocados have not changed colour at all! Heres a photo of it taken around 45 minutes after the initial photos.

Hmmm, maybe carrageenan has some anti-oxidant properties? Or maybe it coats the avocado pulps and acts as a barrier to prevent oxygen from contacting it. Definitely beyond my field of understanding for now. Still an interesting occurrance nonetheless.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The main ingredient

(Its a bit long I know. Just some basic info about Carrageenan)

HYDROCOLLOIDS! What is it? Such a fancy term for a natural ingredient that is present in pretty much all food items. Its in vegetables, fruits, and meats! Things like starch, pectin, and gelatin are all different kinds of hydrocolloids, and we've been cooking with them for so long too. Pectin is naturally found in fruits and is what helps in the thickening of jams. Gelatin, well, we all know where gelatin is used. Its in those red jiggly cubes you always see in TV commercials. One of my favourite uses of gelatin though is one that involves vodka, and a shot glass. So again, what are hydrocolloids!

In the simplest way to describe it, hydrocolloids are substances that form gels in the presence of water. The 3 examples I mentioned above are only a tiny fraction of the plethora of hydrocolloids available for use in cooking. I must also mention that each kind of hydrocolloid has a different function, whether it be to increase viscosity, to gel, or simply to improve texture. Some chefs use xanthan gum to give their soups that silky mouthfeel. Not only do they have different functions, but they also have different methods in order to activate their gelling properties. Some need to be heated, thoroughly mixed, left to sit overnight, or just dropped into the mixture like salt into water.

Now, going back to the title of this post, the main ingredient. The main hydrocolloid I'll be using is carrageenan. Fortunately, or unfortunately, however you wish to look at it, carrageenan has so many different forms and functions that I feel it needs a book of its own. Carrageenan is a natural hydrocolloid derived form seaweed mostly found in the warmer waters of Southeast Asia. The seaweed is dried, then powderized. Now, there are 3 categories of carrageenan. There is Iota, Kappa, and Lambda. Iota is usually used as a thickener, so it increases viscosity. It also adds a nice fatty mouthfeel. Kappa usually forms stiff and brittle gels. Think Jello. Lambda is usually used with milk based products. It doesnt gel in water, but in milk! So those are the 3 kinds of carrageenan, but its complexity doesnt stop there. just because a particular carrageenan falls into a particular category doesnt make them all the same within that category. Depending on the seaweed, the drying, the particle size of the powder, they can all yield different results. Some people will think man, too finicky, but I think its amazing because now, you can develop a particular blend to make that perfect perfect dish. Ok fine, close to perfect since theres no such thing.

So that, carrageenan, is the main ingredient I will be playing with. Time to head to the sandbox.