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Cocktail Using Spherification

Adventures in Techniques: Spherification

Now more than ever, companies are making it easier to experiment with molecular gastronomy at home. The company Molecule-R sent us its Margarita R-evolution ($30) kit, containing the special chemicals and tools needed to create margarita spherification shots. What the heck does that mean? Spherification is the process of taking a liquid and encapsulating it in a jelly-like form of itself so that the outside is a gelatinous shell and the inside remains liquid.

We read, reread, and even thrice read the recipe before attempting anything, then rolled up our sleeves and hopped to it. Complete with precise measurements, illustrations, tips and tricks, and troubleshooting, the guide fooled us into confidently thinking, "We've got this!" We filled the cute little silicone mold with mango juice, citrus liqueur, and calcium lactate and popped it in the freezer. So far so good. But find out if they turned out right.

Once they were frozen, we plopped the capsules into a solution of water and sodium alginate. With this technique, calcium lactate and sodium alginate react to form a jelly-like shell around the liquid, creating spheres. But even though we followed the recipe and kept the balls in for even longer than recommended (to form a thicker skin), our spheres had an extremely delicate jelly capsule. After we gave them a quick rinse in a water bath, only half of them emerged into the airy atmosphere without popping.

We slurped up the survivors. They were kind of snotty in texture (yuck!), though admittedly intriguing nonetheless. Would we take another spherification shot? Probably not, but we'll take another shot at spherification.

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