04.28.13: dessert (in which another toe is dipped into the world of molecular cooking: spherification)

Macerated Fruit with Yogurt Spheres

Macerated Fruit with Yogurt Spheres

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.


  1. How do they taste? (When I first saw the pic, I thought they were foam peanuts!)

    • Like yogurt, honestly–you can hold them in your mouth before breaking them, and then it’s just yogurt. I tried it with Greek-style blueberry yogurt yesterday and they tasted really good with fruit.

      One thing I’ve noticed is that since you need to thin out the yogurt a little you need to give it some intense flavor beforehand. I have some ideas for savory spheres that I think might work really well, but we shall see.

  2. Gorgeous! I love the idea of being able to pop a little burst of yogurt in your mouth with a berry.

    • It’s an odd sensation at first, but it’s fun!

  3. How very cool! I would like a bowl of yogurt blobs! I also think Little Man would love these though he’d probably wreak havoc on the house while I “blobbed” his yogurt. Alas, someday 🙂

    • I’m going to post a “here’s how I did it” (I dare not call it a tutorial) entry soon, and I would wager that with a little bit of planning, you could maybe give this a spin during a nap period. Maybe!

  4. Ameena said:

    I know so very little about science (more of a math person) so you impress me with your writing skills and knowledge!

    Looks delicious.

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