|Happy New Year, have your cocktail in a solid form - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
This isn't even my recipe, this was something Mr. Wasabi, the Brock-ness, put together when he was supplying-up for his beer brewing upgrade. He bought several bottles of agar agar powder, which is a seaweed derivative that's used as a natural thickener. For beer brewing purposes, it's used to clarify the beer, helping to remove impurities that cloud up the liquid. As it binds to the proteins, it thickens and is just heavier, so it sinks or "falls out" and takes the cloudy junk with it, leaving a tasty clear beer. Neat, right? Agar is basically like gelatin, but vegetarian-friendly, since it's not made of cow hooves. But I'm sure the seaweed screamed in agony as they were pulverized and rendered to a dusty powder form. Oh, the humanity!
Brock is a pretty savvy food guy and definitely appreciates the legacy of Ferran Adria and the molecular gastronomy movement, so of course when you have bottles of agar powder, you have to play around a little. He decided to make "caviar" from one of our favorite liqueurs, St. Germain, a sweet little number made from elderflowers, in probably one of the prettiest bottles you'll ever see. Why St. Germain? It has a light flavor, not too acidic so that it would react with the agar and be difficult to gelatinize, and mostly because it's high in sugar. This is why Brock does this stuff and not me, he's much more aware of things like volume, density, and all the stuff I fell asleep to in chemistry class.
About maybe a cup's worth of little gelatinized spheres of St. Germain were made from his experiment. Not a lot, but you're not eating them like a bowl of oatmeal. You could, but it would be weird. They're solid spheres, not like the jelly-skinned spheres that keep a liquid center -- he does want to play with that option, but this was a good first-time attempt playing with the new ingredient toys. The nice thing about making fully gelatinized spheres is you can make them ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator for a day or two. Since these were made from St. Germain, they were sweet and fruity -- they were really good spooned on fresh pear slices. They would make a nice accompaniment to a salty cheese, almost like a drizzle of honey but a more fun shape. I thought they would go well in a fizzy drink, like champagne, but their weight made them sink like a stone, so it's probably not worth putting them in a cocktail unless you have a straw to go with it, drinking your booze like bubble tea.
|Playing with the Mister's balls. You knew I had to say it - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
If you would like to make your own balls of drunken fury (not that furious, some of the alcohol has the potential to burn off in the process), here's the info I pulled from Brock's notes. Thank Mr. Wasabi kindly for sharing!
2 grams of agar powder (about a half a teaspoon's worth)
1.5 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2-3 cups vegetable/neutral-flavored oil, enough to mostly fill a tall glass
3/4 cup of St. Germain or whatever liquid you're trying to gelatinize
special tools needed: small glass eyedropper, tall clear drinking glass, metal sieve/strainer to drain and rinse finished spheres
First thing - fill the tall drinking glass with the oil and put in the freezer; let it chill for a good 20-30 minutes. Needs to be super-cold to quickly chill the mixture as it's dropped in.
On the stove, combine the agar powder, water and sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil. If the liquid you're wanting to gel-up isn't alcoholic, you can add now. If you put the St. Germain in early, you'll burn off a lot of the alcohol in the boiling process. Let the water/agar/sugar boil for about two minutes. Take it off the stove and mix in your St. Germain in -- it'll start to thicken quite a bit, so now comes the speedy part.
Have your eyedropper at the ready and take your chilled oil from the freezer. Start dropping the warm mixture one droplet at a time into the oil. The cold from the oil and its viscosity will help form the sphere, plus the height of the glass will give it time to cool before sinking to the bottom. Just keep drop-drop-dropping until your hand cramps up and you just pour the remainder onto a Silpat and chop up into shards because you don't want to keep eyedropping all that liquid one at a time. Yes, we did this.
NOTE: I asked Brock why he added the sugar -- it's not just for additional flavoring, it's to help add weight to the mixture, so that it's heavier than the oil. He said if the mixture isn't heavier than the oil, it'll just spread out along the surface of the oil and make a slick on top.
When you're done eyedropping your spheres, use the strainer to separate them from the oil and rinse gently with water. The residual oil should keep them from sticking. Can make a few days in advance, just keep them chilled, covered with plastic wrap in a bowl. It's basically little blobs of Jello, so they'll keep for a few days in the fridge.