Monday, July 16, 2012

Got foam?

I got the stuff!  These substances are known to induce euphoria in some people.  But since they are legal, I can tell you what they are and where I got them.  The two powders are versawhip and xanthan gum.  My source for them was Mark DesLauriers from ArtEpicure cooking school.  Mark is one of my favorite chefs.  We can talk about food for 3 hours and barely scratch the surface of all the interesting topics.  We were talking about foams.  I just got the ISI Siphon, the thing that functions like Reddi-Wip.  You put in the substance of your choice, pressurize it, and in theory get foam.  I did get foam, kind of.  Just not the kind I wanted.  The only thickener I played with was gelatin. First time, I used too little gelatin, and the foam turned into a puddle by the time I got the dish to the table.  Second time, I used too much gelatin and got something that looked like a thick mousse of strange consistency -- too spongy and unpleasant.  After doing some reading, I had a suspicion that a siphon might be a wrong tool all together.  I didn't want stiff mousse like foams.  I wanted liquids that were bubbly, but still very sauce like.  I had a strong suspicion that I needed thickeners other than gelatin.  Maybe lecithin or agar agar?  Maybe I should try an immersion blender instead of siphon.  Oh bummer, why did I just spend $120 on this gadget?!

After hearing my foam woes, Mark disappeared into his study and came back with a recipe for grapefruit foam.  The equipment was very basic by scientific cooking standards -- just a blender and a mixer.  The trouble was I didn't have any versawhip or xanthan gum.  That was easily remedied.  Mark pulled out his crate of chemicals and made little sample baggies for me.

I followed the recipe to the letter and hundredth of a gram.  The only difference was using an immersion blender instead of a regular one (I don't actually have a regular blender).  An immersion blender didn't allow me to create a vortex in grapefruit juice and pour the powders in.  I just dumped all the powders into grapefruit juice that was sitting in a pyrex measuring cup (2 cup) and buzzed everything together.  Then whipped it in a mixer.

The resulting foam was like whipped egg white with grapefruit flavor.  This effect was produced by versawhip - enzymatically treated soy protein that behaves like albumin in egg whites.  It was incredibly stable.  When I took a look into my KitchenAid after we finished dinner, most of the substance was still foamy.

I served this grapefruit fluff with scallops ceviche, skipping mango this time and adding grapefruit sections cut into pieces before serving.  Here is how to section citrus in case you are wondering.

"If you minus the screaming kids, this is like a good restaurant," said Jason.  "I mean a really good restaurant."

Whipped Grapefruit Juice

Warning about improvising
Just don't.  Improvisation is my natural state in the kitchen.  I am the first person to substitute an ingredient, make a recipe without all the necessary equipment, and eye-ball amounts.  It doesn't work with these kinds of recipes.

Equipment and unusual ingredients
  • Scale with 0.01g precision -- I use a tea scale that sells on amazon for $12-15
  • Regular or immersion blender
  • Mixer --  I use a KitchenAid stand mixer, but a hand mixer will work
  • Versawhip (rough price: $25/Lb)
  • Xanthan gum (rough price: $20/Lb)
250 grams fresh squeezed grapefruit juice (you'll need 2 grapefruits)
1.25 grams salt
3.75 grams versawhip
0.38 grams xanthan gum
  1. Pour the juice into a blender.  run on medium speed to make a vortex.  Pour salt, versawhip, and xanthan gum into the vortex and blend on high speed for a few seconds.  If using an immersion blender, combine all ingredients in a tall container that is just large enough to hold your immersion blender (I use a 2 cup pyrex glass measure).  Blend on high speed until combined and starts to foam.  
  2. Pour the mixture into a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Whip until soft peaks form.  Alternatively, move into a bowl and use a hand mixer.
I served it immediately, but I bet you could keep it in the fridge and re-whip before serving.

By the way, my allergic to eggs son can eat this stuff.  If you had a good experience using versawhip in baked good, pancakes, etc, instead of eggs, would you mind sharing a recipe?

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