Hydrocolloids for Cooks

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  • Hydrocolloids For Cooks

    By Eddie Shepherd

    A simple introduction to hydrocolloids & other modern ingredients for chefs & home cooks.


    In association with


    Hydrocolloids for Cooks by Eddie Shepherd www.Modernist-Chef.com

  • Hydrocolloids For CooksA simple introduction to hydrocolloids & other modern

    ingredients for chefs & home cooks.In association with

    WWW.MODERNIST-CHEF.COMThe online shop for modern ingredients and equipment run by cooks for cooks. All

    the ingredients discussed in this handbook are available at www.Modernist-Chef.com

    By Eddie ShepherdThe Blog - www.VeggieChef.co.uk

    The Book -www.EddieShepherd.com

    IntroductionAgar Agar

    Sodium AlginateGellan Gum

    Xanthan GumMethyl-cellulose

    Kappa CarageenanIota CarageenanLocus Bean Gum

    Gum ArabicHydrocolloids in Synergy

    Soy LecithinIsomaltKuzu

    Calcium Salts (Calcium Chloride, Lactate & Gluconate)Sequestrants

    SpherificationReverse Spherification - ExamplesDirect Spherification - Examples


    Hydrocolloids for Cooks by Eddie Shepherd www.Modernist-Chef.com

  • Introduction

    I hope this handbook can serve as a simple introduction to hydrocolloids and some other modern ingredients. More in depth information is available and referenced on the last page but I aim for this to be a handy and accessible guild suited to cooks and those starting out with these ingredients.

    This is the first version of this handbook so please forgive any typing errors etc and do contact me with any feedback with regards to this version and what you would like to see in future editions.

    Most hydrocolloids are very natural ingredients derived from plants, seaweed and bacteria.

    Broadly speaking the hydrocolloids we are concerned with are gelling/thickening agents made up of complex sugars (polysaccharides) which can form a gel or act as a thickener when hydrated.

    Typically culinary hydrocolloids are used in very low concentrations and different hydrocolloids have different properties, so they arent simply interchangeable and they need to be used with a degree of precision. This handbook should give you some guidance, help you make a decision of which ingredient suits your need and how to use it.

    The recipes given here are basic and designed just to get you started with these ingredients and techniques. More detail and more elaborate recipes are easy to find and some good places to go for further information and recipes are referenced at the end of the handbook.

    General Tips

    All hydrocolloids must be properly hydrated for effective repeatable results. This begins with good dispersion of the ingredient.

    There are serval ways to ensure that your hydrocolloids are dispersed well enough in the liquid that they will dissolve without forming lumps.

    They can be mixed with another ingredient in powder form, such as sugar or a maltodextrin, to physically separate out the hydrocolloid particles so that it disperses more easily without clumping (similar to the way we use a butter and flour mixture in a roux to separate the flour particles to stop them forming lumps).

    You can also blend your liquid and keep it moving as you add your hydrocolloid to make sure you get good dispersion. Running the liquid base in a blender and then gradually sprinkling the hydrocolloid into to the vortex is a good way to do this

    It is also worth mentioning the need for some precision in using these ingredients.

    Due to the typically low concentrations of hydrocolloids being used in culinary applications often scales which measure to 0.01 of a gram are a necessity for accuracy.

    Hydrocolloids for Cooks by Eddie Shepherd www.Modernist-Chef.com

  • Agar

    Origin - Seaweed

    Generally Use - 0.2% to 2%

    Key Characteristics - Forms a brittle Gel. Versatile ingredient, uses include - Gels, Fluid Gels, Foams, Clarification, Cold Oil Spherification.

    Agar is derived from seaweed and in modern cooking is primarily used as a gelling agent or thickener.

    For gelling Agar needs to be hydrated in a liquid and heated up to around 90C in order for it to set as it cools.

    When cooling Agar will set rapidly at around 35C

    Once an Agar gel has been formed it wont melt again until it reaches 80-90C.

    Gelling -

    Heres a very basic recipe that can be used as a rough template from which you change the flavours and desired yield etc. (Note - this is an intentionally simplistic base recipe, for best results adapt and refine this according your needs)

    300g Liquid

    2.5g Agar (0.8%)

    Whisk the Agar into the liquid and place it on the heat. Bring to a simmer slowly whilst stirring. Hold at a simmer for 2 minutes.

    Pour out the liquid into a plastic container or a prepared mould and leave to cool and set.

    The mixture will set rapidly into a gel once it cools to around 35C.

    Agars higher melting point means gels can be served warm or hot.

    Fluid Gels -

    To prepare an Agar fluid gel first set a gel from your chosen flavoured liquid (following the directions for Gelling).

    Then simply blend the set gel until it reaches a smooth consistency. The consistency of the fluid gel can then be altered as desired by either thinning with more liquid or thickening with xanthan gum.

    Foams -

    Agar fluid gels can be used to make foams by pouring the fluid gel into a cream whipper and charging it with nitrous oxide then dispensing the foam when ready to serve. Or fluid gels can even

    Hydrocolloids for Cooks by Eddie Shepherd www.Modernist-Chef.com

  • be carbonated, by placing in a cream whipper, charging with Co2 then chilling before dispensing just as ready to serve.

    Cold Oil Spherification -

    A liquid is prepared via the same method as with making a gel but rather than being allowed to cool and set it is cooled to around 50-60C then, using a pipette, syringe or squeeze bottle, droplets are dropped into ice cold oil (chilled in the freezer) so small gel spheres form in the oil and are quickly set due to the low temperature of the oil.

    Clarification -

    A weak agar gel is made (around 0.25%) then the gel is gently broken with a whisk. This broken gel is then hung and gently strained though muslin. It should yield a clarified liquid.

    Hydrocolloids for Cooks by Eddie Shepherd www.Modernist-Chef.com

  • Sodium Alginate

    Origin - Seaweed

    Generally Use - 0.5% - 1%

    Key Characteristics - Forms a gel in the presence of calcium ions. Gel is elastic and heat resistant. Used for the famous techniques of Direct Spherification (to make small liquid centered caviar like pearls) and Reverse Spherification (to make larger liquid centered orbs of flavourful liquids)

    Sodium alginate rapidly forms a gel in the presence of calcium, these gels are heat stable (they wont melt) to above 150C.

    Note - Alginate does not work properly with mixtures which are too acidic (below 3.5PH). It is possible to adjust the ph of your mixture using a sequestrant such as Tri Sodium Citrate, see the end of this section or the section on Sequestrants for more detail.

    Sodium alginate is used in a technique known as spherification in which fruit or vegetable juices etc are turned into 'caviar', or larger spheres, which burst in the mouth. Typically this requires using a calcium salt such as calcium chloride (which can be bitter) or calcium gluconate (more pleasant flavour but requires around twice as much as calcium chloride).

    Alginate mixtures should be allowed to settle after blending in order to allow the alginate to fully hydrate and trapped air to escape from the mixture. Two hours in the fridge is ideal.

    Store finished spheres in a flavourful liquid without any added calcium or alginate, or in a neutral oil.

    Direct spherification -

    A flavourful solution containing sodium alginate is dropped into a calcium bath which triggers the alginate solution to start gelling from the outside slowly inwards. The small spheres are then rinsed and if served soon after this the spheres will be set on the outside but liquid in the centre. These spheres will eventually set solid all the way through so need to be made close to serving time.

    Alginate is usually added to the flavourful liquid at 0.5% - 1%

    Reverse spherification -

    A flavourful calcium rich solution is dropped into a bath of sodium alginate. This liquid may be naturally calcium rich or have a neutral flavoured calcium salt, such as calcium gluconolactate, added to it. The calcium causes the sodium alginate to gel into a thin film around the flavourful liquid, creating a liquid centered sphere. This method can be preferable as the spheres will not continue to set after the sphere is formed (more practical for making in advance or in batches). This method is used to produce larger spheres.

    Sodium Alginate baths tend to use sodium alginate at 0.5-0.8% of the total liquid.

    Hydrocolloids for Cooks by Eddie Shepherd www.Modernist-Chef.com

  • Flavourful liquids for reverse spherification which arent naturally calcium rich should have calcium gluconolactate added at 2%

    Sodium Alginate Bath for Reverse Spherification -

    5g Sodium Alginate

    1 Liter Water (use either distilled water or low calcium water such as volv