Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Olive Oil Snow - Molecular Gastronomy at Home

I never let the fact that I don't know what the heck I'm doing stop me from plunging ahead.

In this case, I bought a pound of tapioca maltodextrin. If that sounds scary, let's just say that you've probably eaten it in commercial products before.

But it's also the darling of the molecular gastronomy folks who use it to turn fats into powder.

When my bucket o' fun arrived, I set it aside, thinking that I'd do some research, figure out how much to use, and if I needed to do anything special to mix it.

But I couldn't wait long. I figured I'd just play around with it and see what happened. Hey, I've seen it used on Chopped, and they never made a big deal about it. It couldn't be too complicated.

I put some olive oil in a little ramekin. Added a teeny bit of the powder. Stirred it up.

Nothing.

I added more. And more.

Turns out you need quite a bit before the oil turns into powder. I tasted it a few times as I went on, but when it was fluffy-powdery, it didn't have much flavor at all.

Hmmmm.

So then I added some basil olive oil for extra flavor. Good choice. It wasn't as fluffy-powdery with the added oil, but it was definitely a dry product. It stuck together a bit, but that's okay. And then I added just a little salt for more flavor.

So, now what? I figured it would be good on tomatoes. So I sliced some tomatoes, arranged them on a plate, and put the powder on top.

That was pretty plating for maybe a minute or so, but then the liquid from the tomatoes started to melt the powder. Oops. I hadn't considered that.

So I, um ... ate the tomatoes. It tasted pretty good with that basil oil. And then I replated with the powder on the side. That made more sense, and it still looked interesting - I mean, most folks would be curious about the powder, right?

So, what have we learned here?

You need something with more flavor than plain olive oil for the powder to make sense, you need quite a bit of the tapioca maltodextrin to absorb the oil, and you need to plate it so that it stays dry.

Oh, and we've also learned that sometimes I am a bit of a mad scientist in the kitchen. And sometimes it even works.

I'm thinking I might try butter. Or clarified butter, maybe. And then I'll see what else it can do.
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