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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Culinary School - Session 101: Hydrocolloids

Culinary School: Session 101 (04.22.15)


And now for the main event...

While Wedding Cakes represented a high point in decorative work, Advanced Individual Plated Desserts, the 15th and final unit in Culinary School, is the pinnacle of applied pastry techniques and modern food science.

As Culinary School nears an end, the sessions that remain are focused on contemporary plated restaurant desserts: dynamic, balanced, multi-component dishes that offer complementary and contrasting flavors and textures in addition to visually appealing presentation. 

This is what it's all about!

Plated Dessert with Applied Hydrocolloid Techniques


Hydrocolloids kick off this extensive unit on modern techniques. Hydrocolloids are simply large molecules that interact with water to keep one substance in suspension. They are most frequently used as thickening or gelling agents. When used in desserts, they can unlock a world of culinary wizardry. 

Like many modern techniques, hydrocolloids are best used to enhance desserts. Using hydrocolloids for the sake of using hydrocolloids is unlikely to result in some culinary revelation. After all, who wants a plate of Agar Agar fruit mush? Or an entire bowl full of cilantro caviar? 

- Ingredients Running Tally -

Ingredients used to date (04.22.15):
  • Flour: 25,625g
  • Eggs: 17,200g (344x)
  • Sugar: 36,830g
  • Butter: 18,135g
  • Milk/Cream: 17,865g
  • Chocolate: 9,010g (since 01.12.15)

    - The Techniques -


    Cold Oil Spherification

    Got a craving for pearls of Blackberry Caviar? Well, thanks to Agar Agar, a seaweed derivative that has been around for centuries, now you can! 

    Agar is a unique product which, unlike other similarly used substances such as gelatin, remains stable at higher temperatures.

    To fully dissolve and activate the gelling properties of Agar, it must be boiled for approximately two minutes. With this technique, Agar is boiled with fruit puree and then dropped into cold oil. The droplets immediately form little spheres which, thanks to the oil, do not stick together. After about five minutes of setting, the spheres can be strained and stored in a solution of simple syrup. They can be used as unique textural and visual components to many desserts. 

    White Peach Caviar

    White Peach Caviar


    Fat Based Powder

    For those who are bored with everyday fat, now you can enjoy it in snow form!

    Using Tapioca Maltodextrin, virtually any fat-based product can be transformed into a powder. When combined with fats, Maltodextrin, which is also frequently used as an inexpensive filler for processed foods, binds and holds lipids in suspension. If the powder comes into contact with water, as it does when it hits the tongue, the fats are released and the powder melts.

    The technique is amazingly straight forward. Put Maltodextrin in a food processor and slowly add fat. It works with flavorful oils, such as a high-quality olive oil, or more indulgent offerings, like peanut butter. 

    Olive Oil Powder

    Olive Oil Powder


    Fluid Gel


    Fluid Gel is another useful application of the properties of Agar Agar.

    Many dessert sauces, such as a straight-forward Fruit Coulis or more adventurous herb infusions, are very liquid. The consistency is often so fluid that the sauces can be difficult to control in plating.

    When combined with Agar Agar to create a Fluid Gel, sauces become increasingly viscous. Depending on the amount of Agar used, the Fluid Gel can hold its shape or even be piped into surprisingly tall droplets.

    The downside of Fluid Gel is that the thicker consistency creates a somewhat gummy mouth-feel. A proper balance is necessary for best results.

    Fluid Gel with Olive Oil Powder

    Next - Session 102: Modern Equipment (Sous-vide and Immersion Circulators)

    Previous - Session 100: Wedding Cake Day 4

    Take a look at the full syllabus

    Questions? Comments? Send me an email or leave a comment.
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