A few months ago I went to my grandmother’s house to help with the cleaning out of her things. After a tumultuous January in which many scenarios were possible but very few actually took place, my mom was finally tasked with the onerous job of cleaning out and selling my grandmother’s house, as she is now in a very nice nursing home. My parents wanted me to have the chance to get some things from her house, and among the vintage Pyrex, old books, some truly beautiful crystal glasses, and the furs that belonged to my great-great aunt, I inherited a little set of lovely sherbet glasses that my grandmom used to serve shrimp cocktail during holiday dinners.
When I saw them for the first time in years, my mind flashed to the strawberries in orange juice and sugar that I made last year, and how lovely the dish would look in these gorgeous little glassesand vowed to wait until spring hit to give this a try. But then I was flipping through Made In Spain for the umpteenth time a few weeks later, and my eye was drawn to the yogurt spherification recipe that I had earlier discounted for its perceived inherent fussiness..and an idea struck.
In addition to the macerated berries, how neat would it be to reference the dots in the glasses with little spherical blobs of yogurt? And more importantly, how much fun would it be to just try making these blobs at all?
You see, this whole notion of spherification (or, in this case, reverse spherification) first came about by the minds at Unilever in the 1950s, but it was well over 30 years later when it was employed into fine dining by Ferran Adria and his crew of chefs at elBulli. Reverse spherification is perhaps best known for creating the elBulli spherical olives made from olive juice and various pasta-less raviolis; turning yogurt into spheres is a less complicated endeavor because the only special ingredient you need to do it is sodium alginate.
The difference between straight spherification and reverse spherification is the kind of bath used to create the spheres. In straight spherificatoin, sodium alginate is mixed with the liquid you want to use, and then that is piped into a water bath spiked with calcium chloride. In reverse spherification, the bath is made from sodium alginate and the liquid you want to turn into spheres needs to have calcium in it–and yogurt has enough calcium naturally to make this possible.
The photos above are from the second time I made yogurt balls, and I’m going to try to make some more over Memorial Day weekend, only this time I want to incorporate some more flavor into the yogurt: some a little sweet, others more savory.
This technique definitely has some fun possibilities and I can’t wait to explore more of them.