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January 01, 2007

SHF #26: El Bulli's frozen chocolate air

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It's here!  It's finally here!

After countless delays, El Bulli 2003-2004, the latest English language cookbook from the Catalan masters of molecular gastronomy is finally available in North America.  And what a marvel it is.  Ferran Adria and his acolytes continue to push the boundaries of food, adapting new techniques to new flavours.  This edition is notable for the advent of liquid nitrogen, liquid ravioli, dehydration, and the star ingredient in frozen chocolate air, soy lecithin.

If you're wondering what soy lecithin is, you're not alone.  Lecithin, regardless of its origin, is a powerful emulsifier.  If you love the rich texture of salad dressing, mayonnaise, or even Nutella, you owe a debt of gratitude to lecithin, the magic ingredient that stabilizes and thickens them.

Lecithin can be derived from a number of sources.  In most savoury applications, lecithin comes from eggs, though, as any devoted creator of homemade salad dressings can testify, mustard also has excellent emulsifying properties.  I hope I don't need to specify where soy lecithin comes from (but you can learn more about it here).

One of soy lecithin's most appealing characteristics is that it is plant-based, thus suitable for vegan diets, and can be cultivated organically.  For these reasons, it is easy to find in many health food stores, including Vital Planet, a natural foods store in the north St. Lawrence Market where I bought mine.  It is usually available in granulated or liquid form.

It is not, however, usually available in frozen chocolate air form, though it should be.  Frozen chocolate air is little more than unsweetened hot chocolate with soy lecithin, which is then frothed using an immersion blender.  The resulting foam is spooned into a parchment-lined loaf tin, frozen, and served with a sprinkling of powdered chocolate caramel made from chocolate liquor melted in a molten mixture of fondant, glucose, and Isomalt.

Unsweetened dark chocolate is robust and slightly bitter, but serving it frozen smooths some of its rougher edges.  Taste aside, frozen chocolate air is about contrast: crunchy, room temperature caramel versus a cool, lighter-than-air foam that dissolves on the palate.  The ultimate trick to this dish -- the contrast that makes it so ingenious -- is that it is simultaneously light and airy, as well as rich and complex.

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention this preparation's visual appeal.  The theme of Sugar High Friday #26, hosted by Danielle of Habeas Brûlée, is sugar art.  Danielle's challenge to food bloggers everywhere is to create a dish with visual appeal, something fun to look at.  Part of what I love about frozen chocolate air is its underlying visual conceit: though it looks solid and even -- literally -- earthy, it is mainly air: nothing more than a matrix of frozen chocolate bubbles in suspension.  Trompe l'oaf, if you will.

And that's not hot air.

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Comments

Danielle

Wow. This is incredible. Have I mentioned lately how much I love all the molecular gastronomy stuff you do? This looks gorgeous, fascinating, and delicious.

Brilynn

Oooh I'm incredibly jealous of the fact that you have this book. I told someone else how expensive it was and they thought I was out of my tree for wanting such a pricey cookbook. Well done.

Joe West

Awesome! Im very jealous! I'll have to keep an eye out for it, as for the lecithin, I've always bought it from Whole Foods or GNC ..just make sure its plain and not some wierd cinnamon apple flavored lecithin..haha then your food will taste off!

bea at La tartine gourmande

Rob, so nice to see one of your posts again! Could it be better than with this? I am getting jealous of your cookbook library! ;-) A real trompe l'oeil indeed! I wish I could have a few spoonfuls!

Happy New Year to you and Rachel! Hope you are doing well with your house projects, if you have any!

Y

Love it! What is the frozen chocolate air like, once it comes to room temperature?

Anita

Rob,
Thank you for the sweet holiday wishes - I hope yours was equally wonderful!
I knew you would be one of the first to get the El Bulli book! And your creation is spectacular -like chocolate exhaled into the frosty bite of winter.

Chubby Hubby

Rob, this looks stunning. I gotta take classes from you. Have you tried using Ferran's own line of products?

aer

Well done! It looks heavenly.

Tommy

Hey Rob,

You don't like answering anyones questions ? What's the deal with that ?

You got something against the Rubino Bros as well ?

Since when did you become Jeff Steingarten ?

rob

Danielle, thanks for the compliment. It's a lot of fun playing with all of these ingredients and techniques.

Brilynn, I got really, really lucky with this book. For some reason, indigo.ca, the online
Canadian bookseller, was selling this book for only $80 in August, so I got a huuuuge bargain.

Joe, do they really make apple flavoured lecithin? That does not sound particularly tasty.

Bea, we've put a temporary hold on any more house work. I have to admit, it feels really good to be posting again. We were gone far too long.

Y, at room temperature, the air begins to liquidize. We have made a really remarkable discovery, however. After making this dish, we had a lot of extra chocolate milk, so we left it in the fridge. We opened it up a couple of days later to discover some wonderfully rich and creamy pudding.

Anita, Rachel and I had a wonderful holiday, thanks. I love your imagery by the way -- it's a wonderful turn of phrase.

Chubby, I would be happy to share any knowledge I could with you. No, I haven't tried any of Adria's own products. I'm not questioning their quality, I just think they're a little expensive.

aer, thank you.

Tommy, I'm sorry you feel that way.

Gourmet

Rob!!! :-D
I missed you!!!
Grazie per il contributo al nostro italianissimo ciofeca's day!!!
A presto!
Sandra

OlleH

Hi,

The El Bulli recipe both states water and milk, but it must be milk for this dish. ??

sygyzy

Hi,

What is the ratio of soy lecithin to the hot chocolate?

pizzasous

I was wondering if non-fat milk was used for this because I would think that the fat would collapse the foam before it could freeze up

Greg Grossman

Hey, whats the ratio of lecithin to hot chocolate, and should you use powdered lecithin or the thick liquid form, please let me know

Violet

People should read this.

Denis

hello,
do you have the recipe to make the chocolate air and how does it work after freezing it?
thank you.
denis

phoenix air conditioning

Definitely looks like chocolate air! I'm not so sure I'd enjoy it, though. I don't really like airy deserts. I like the thick stuff!

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