FoodScience!: Spheres of Failure

Spherification is a trick discovered by the El Bulli restaurant a few years back. It involves taking a liquid (drink, puree, whatever, really) and using two chemicals to create a thin shell around the liquid. This shell/sphere can be heated, picked up, covered in chocolate - whatever takes your fancy!

My plan was to try and recreate the Junebug cocktail from Lantern, presenting it in a spherical form rather than the old-hat idea of pouring it into a glass. Pshaw. I call it the Doodlebug. I’m sorry.

I actually went wrong from the start. Although Lantern say they use a ‘ginger and lemon soda’, I have a feeling that lemonade is probably the better substitute than my choice of ginger ale. Anyway, I added xanthum gum to the cocktail to thicken it up a little, and a tiny amount of calcium gluconate for the chemical reaction which would make the shell. After that, I poured the mixture into half a jelly egg mold to make the sphere shape. These were then put into the freezer to solidify.

Doodlebugs!

The other part of the spherification process is a solution of sodium alginate and water. I did this on Friday night, simply mixing the chemical into the water (which took a lot longer than expected) and leaving it for twelve hours as recommended by El Bulli.

Once you’ve got all that, all that’s left to do is to make the spheres! Simply push them out of the mold and drop one into the solution like this:

Dipping the sphere in

Then after about two minutes or so, take it out and put it into the water bath. This will prevent the spheres from sticking to each other.

Into the water bath!

And that’s it! One sphere!

One sphere!

Of course, there’s always a hitch. In my case, I’m not sure what exactly went wrong; I think perhaps the freezing may not have been the best idea, because every single sphere sprang a leak as it was defrosting. Which was rather disappointing.

Not wishing to give up just yet, I made a small mixture of orange juice, a shot of vodka, and some xanthum gum. This time, I used a squeezy bottle to shoot the thickened juice into the sodium alginate solution. This worked a lot better:

The drink you can hold in the palm of your hand!

By this time, the alginate solution was pretty much spent, so I had to call a halt to proceedings (I also had to make real food after all!) So although I didn’t so well with the Doodlebugs, I think I’ve made some progress for the ultimate aim: an edible snow globe!

currently playing: Hole – Jennifers Body

This is February

12/02/2008 BLACK KIDS / SONS & DAUGHTERS 23/02/2008 VAMPIRE WEEKEND 26/02/2008 YELLE

(plus Long Blondes in April and Broken Social Scene in May).

It’s a busy few months already!

currently playing: KLF – What Time Is Love (wandaful mix)

Regarding Stars

Firstly, I want one of these. Badly!

800px-Melodica.jpg

Secondly, Koko looks wonderful. But, er, the sound?

Thirdly: A very Power, Corruptions, and Lies stage set,

Fourthly: I hope Torquil got his pot, and the lucky fan got his (or her) t-shirt!

currently playing: Stars – your ex-lover is dead

Rudy Can't Fail

Will he mention 911 in his withdrawal? Bets?

currently playing: The Beat – Save It For Later

Our Ranting Will Be Interrupted

If I hadn’t spent last week being ill, I would have taken tomorrow off so I could liveblog Bush’s final State of The Union address before I went off to see Stars tomorrow afternoon.

But instead, I should probably go to work. I know, I’m sad too. I’ll take a guess though, and predict that the state of the union is good. There will then follow a gaggle of “MAKE THE TAX CUTS PERMANENT! FREE MARKET FOREVER!!” while Rome burns. Just a guess.

currently playing: Au Pairs – America

The Kennedys Are Coming

Do the Kennedys have any pull in the 21st century? I’ve started my ever-four-years read-through of Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail, where the spectre of Ted Kennedy looms large all over the primaries. Thirty-six years later, and the power of The Kennedy Who Wasn’t has waned considerably. But Camelot is Camelot, and the sight of the Democratic elders switching to the new guard must be a little worrying for Hillary…

currently playing: The Raveonettes – Dead Sound

Your Thought For The Night

Obama just got as many, if not a little more votes than were cast for the entire field of candidates in the 2004 Democratic Primary.

And the Democrat turnout was larger than last week’s GOP primary by 100,000. IN SOUTH CAROLINA.

Could…could an Obama run destroy the Southern Strategy? Contrary to everything anybody believes about the South?

currently playing: Disco Inferno – Love’s Stepping Out

FoodScience II: The Reckoning!

I did have a grand plan for this week, but unfortunately, I’ve been ill all week and I didn’t feel up to the task of messing with lots of chemicals. That’ll be next week. Instead, I decided to revisit the homemade aero experiment from last time.

The Equipment List

It’s actually fairly easy, if you have the right equipment. And the right equipment is an iSi whipper (I have a Profi model, but if you’re looking to buy one, I’d go for the Thermo version, as it offers the most flexibility). This is a device that was originally designed for making whipped cream very quickly, but has been adapted by the magicians at El Bulli and The Fat Duck for a variety of uses. To whit, homemade aero.

Firstly, get a lot of chocolate. Last week, I tried using Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. That didn’t work, but I think it was more down to me than the chocolate (I’ll be trying it again soon). This time, I used 400g of 70% cocoa chocolate, melted using the traditional double boiler method (pan of water on the stove, glass bowl sitting in the lid of the pan - the chocolate melts inside the bowl. Or you could melt it in the microwave if you’d like).

While the chocolate is melting, get a hairdryer. Yes.

Warming The Whipper

The idea is to warm up the steel of the whipper so the chocolate doesn’t seize up when you pour it inside. Plus, it makes a fun conversational piece afterwards. You could possibly put it in a pot of warmed water and get the same effect, but it’s not as much fun.

Eventually, the chocolate will all melt. Hurrah! Pour it into the whipper (you’ll probably need a tea towel, because - surprise! It’s now really hot), and assemble the top. Now, the recipe that I followed last week and in North Carolina only required one charge of NO2 gas to be shot into the chocolate, but this time I wasn’t taking any chances and used two. One good shake later, and this was the result:

Filling The Mold

You’ll know instantly if it has worked or not; if the mixture of chocolate expands as it goes into the mold, hurrah! Otherwise, something has gone wrong. Anyway, providing it has gone fine, place in the fridge to set.

some time later…

Aero!

Success! I intend to try milk chocolate again, obviously, and also white chocolate, but that’s the basic idea behind making aero chocolate at home.

Next time: I use syringes. Oh yes.

currently playing:

This Is The Song In The Shape Of A City

Funnily enough, like Simon Sweeping The Nation, I also watched Pop: What Is It Good For? recently (at about 1am this morning, as I couldn’t sleep). Simon’s right in that it was a very, very condensed and brief version of Words And Music (definitely an acquired taste, but it’s one of my favourite books about music), and that the best bit was when Richard X turned the tables on Morley somewhat.

Firstly: I never really thought Richard X would look like that. I’m not quite sure what I was thinking, but erm, not that, certainly.

Secondly: it’s actually something I’ve noticed about Paul Morley in the last couple of years. We know all about how he was intertwined with Factory Records, with Joy Division and the new world of New Order. We know about the Morley/Penman axis which ruled the early 80s. And we know about his current ‘commentator for hire’ phase, taking wonderful pot-shots at Robert Elms on I Love The 80s and generally winding John Harris up on Newsnight Review. But we almost never hear about the ZTT-era version of Morley.

I have a few ideas as to why (some personal, some surrounding how the idea of ZTT went a bit sour when they sued Frankie Goes To Hollywood/Holly Johnson), but it is curious how there’s this big period that he doesn’t talk about much, a period where he was co-running a record label that had one of the UK’s biggest chart acts on its books. You would think, for a pop commentator, that would be an interesting period to document. So it was nice to hear a little about his time at ZTT and The Art of Noise.

But where was Cathy Dennis?

currently playing: Saint Etienne – Absolute Beginners

The Dynasty Must Continue!

Better Than Sex, HST 1992.

I was afraid, but Jann was quick to recover. "Easy, Governor, easy," he said in a very suave voice. "Let me help you with that, Bill. Hell we're all hungry." He smiled and reached out for the half-empty basket of French fries, as if to share the burden - but Clinton snatched it away, clutching it to his chest and saying nothing... Well, I thought. It can't get any weirder than this without all of us going to jail - so why not relax and act normal? Or at least try. These things happen. Buy the ticket, take the ride. Welcome to Mr. Bill's Neighborhood.

The Restoration will occur, and no upstart from Illinois is going to stop it, bubba. And who cares if the Democratic Party is torn apart in the process, a mini-1948 splitting the black, latino and white voters apart for the next eight years? The Clintons are going back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Get on the train or get crushed.

The past eight years have allowed us to romanticise the Clinton Era. The disaster of the attempt to nationalise healthcare, NAFTA, continuing to throw Reagan's wrecking ball at welfare, 'don't ask, don't tell'; almost all of it forgotten through the Republicans' misguided attempt to remove him from office and the Worst Presidency In History that followed. But the last few days bring back the Clinton of old; an attack dog that will stop at nothing to get elected. Or in this case, get his wife elected. It's been an ugly sight.

And the worst thing? It's not needed. Instead, it just drives the divisions in the party even deeper, in a year where the Presidential race is almost being gifted to them. Romney is looking good to win Florida next Tuesday, which will most likely knock out Huckabee from the race, as he's already out of money. Rudy is already dead in the water; at this point, he seems to be carrying on just to give us something to laugh at - the "Great American Mayor" finally being seen as the charlatan he is. Which leaves McCain as the only other challenger standing. The GOP will tear themselves apart trying to pick between the man who believes that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri and the Senator that their base has spent the past eight years hating with a vengeance normally reserved for Democratic leaders. The resulting mess should leave them completely unelectable in November.

But never underestimate the ability of the Democrats to screw things up. They've been making a good career of it ever since 1968.

Tomorrow is the South Carolina primary, where Obama is supposed to win in a landslide, according to the Clinton camp. They've pretty much pulled out of SC, trying to hype up the idea of a double-digit win; anything less than that on the day, and the can declare victory of a sort. Not that it really matters; going into Super Tuesday on February 5th, Hillary Clinton holds all the cards. She won't pick up enough delegates to get the nomination outright, but on February 6th, she will have a commanding lead and the momentum that will make her unstoppable.

Let's hope that her unstoppability will last until the end of the year. She's the easiest target for the GOP, no doubt, but as she's shown during the past week, she's not John Kerry. Neither her or her husband will stand idly by and let the Republicans and their surrogates tear them apart. It may be enough. And I'll laugh heartily a year from now, as the GOP realises that their worst nightmare: a Hillary Clinton with the power to wiretap their phones at a moment's notice, is a creation of their own making. But

Meanwhile, let's start up a campaign to get John Gibson tarred and feathered!

currently playing: Cat Power – Naked, If I Want To