Per normal, I had too many ideas and eventually not enough time. The power of procrastination is strong with me.
Last night I finally got around to making something (rather than stealing the xanthan gum) from my molecular gastronomy kit, a gift from my husband. I wanted to try two techniques: gelification in both shapes and spaghetti form and spherification. Given the theme, I had this elaborate idea of making flowers from gelification and the center topped from the spherification. I was going to use the spaghetti and the other flavor to make a stem and leaves.
It even sort of worked.
So, the kit (which is no longer available at Thinkgeek) I have contains all of the chemicals I need for these items in 2 gram packets. I did some basic math and modified the recipes in the kit and came up with strawberry flowers with basil leaf and stem.
Here is the general recipe (warts and all):
1 lb Strawberries, diced
40 grams sugar
Add the sugar to the strawberries and let macerate for 30 minutes. After the strawberries have been sitting for about 30 minutes, puree them and then strain them to remove the seeds.
400 ml water
4 grams calcium salts (I swear that I add the correct chemical name later)
Combine and stir until the calcium is dissolved. It takes about a minute and can be set aside.
Using an immersion blender, combine the 3 ingredients until the alginate is completely dissolved. Let sit at least 30 minutes to degas (the color will be much truer the longer you let it sit... a good reason to use straight fruit juice and let it sit overnight).
To create the spheres, you can use a syringe or pipette to drop into the calcium mixture. The longer they sit the thicker the "calcium skin" will form around the sphere. Alternatively, you can fill a normal half-sphere teaspoon with the mixture and gently over turn it into the calcium water. This will create a larger sphere (or ravioli for the largest sizes). The one pictured is from a 1/4 teaspoon measure.
200 ml strawberry puree
20 ml balsamic vinegar
2 grams carageenan
Combine the three ingredients over medium heat and stir until boiling. Turn off the heat. Pour onto a cool surface (I used a pizza pan), and store in the fridge.
For the basil, I used the same amount of carageenan, but I used a basil puree from a tube. Bad idea. It had additives including xanthan gum and salt and the entire thing smelled good and tasted, well, strongly of salt. Because I used the puree and then strained it out, the liquid was fairly pure and possibly not as strongly basil flavored as I was trying for. I also needed a larger amount of carageenan to get a similar level of gelling as the puree. No recipe, because it was not worth repeating though I did get to try out the syringe and the tubing to make spaghetti.
To combine, I placed the basil on the bottom of a plate, and using a heart shaped cutter I put 4 heart "petals" on top of the basil. In the center of the 4 petals I put a strawberry sphere. Visually it worked, but the flavor of the basil marred what could have been a wonderful strawberry experience.
Things I learned: Getting appropriate caviar shapes is harder than it looks. Mine all looked like tiny worms or tears. My lack of patience meant I had a much better success with the larger spheres. This all takes a fair amount of time, and it is best that at least some of these things are spread out over a day or two. Oh, and clean things right away. Getting things stuck in tubes and pipettes is not really a fun time had by all.