Spherification is the process of turning liquids and purees into bubbles with texture. Thanks to this technique, you can encapsulate any flavors into bubbles that will burst in your mouth. Be sure to check out our recipes to put this knowledge into practice.
So-called spherification is based on a food re-engineering manufacturing process. For years, the food industry has been using this process to re-engineer fruit, vegetable, or meat purees into pieces whose form and texture are very similar to the basic ingredient. For example, what appears to be a piece of bell pepper stuffed into pitted olives is actually a gelled and remolded puree. By doing so, the industry is able to maintain consistent uniformity in the appearance of products. In addition, by using puree rather than whole foods, the industry can achieve substantial cost savings.
One thing is for certain: when Catalan chef Ferran Adrià of the famous restaurant El Bulli in Spain adopted and perfected this technique, he had something else in mind other than recycling raw material! In molecular gastronomy, spherification is now defined as the encapsulation of a liquid inside different sized spheres that burst in the mouth.
The wall trapping the liquid inside the sphere consists of a gel formed by a process similar in some respects to the one described in the preceding section on gelling. The additive used is sodium alginate, and just like in the gelling process using carrageenans or gellan gum, the presence of ions is essential for the formation of the gel. In the case of a sodium alginate gel, the presence of calcium ions is required so that the long alginate molecules can align and bind to finally form a gel.