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Dessert "Caviar" Minus the Molecular Gastronomy; Cappuccino Mousse with Coffee Caviar


I'll be the first to admit that I love fancy desserts.  I love stripey chocolate cigarettes, spoon-shaped tuiles and painted macarons.  I love finishing touches that make dessert extra special.

One fun flourish that I've always wanted to make is dessert caviar, but as a home baker I've never had the overwhelming urge to delve into the world of molecular gastronomy (which is the usual way it is made). The whole process seems a little intimidating to me, and I can't see myself keeping sodium alginate or calcium chloride stocked in my pantry just in case I get a craving.

I hoped for an accessible spherification recipe for the ordinary baker (like me) that used common pantry staples, and after a rigorous online search I found one! The recipe was simple but after making it I felt there were some visual cues that could help further explain the process, so I made a short video.  I hope it will help and encourage you to try the technique for yourself!

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Making this was so much fun and not difficult at all! And it's not all for looks, it's tasty too! My first thought was to make unsweetened coffee caviar to go with a sweet cappuccino pudding. I really loved the balance the caviar brought to the entire dessert.


The major difference between this version and its culinary physics counterpart is that this one is a solid sphere of gelatin and most (if not all?) molecular versions are fluid-filled. Still, this version holds its own; it's tender but just firm enough to create an interesting texture.

I am truly in love with the possibilities that could happen with this technique. I'm already dreaming up a basil infused caviar for some lemon pots de crème


I know someone will ask if this can be done with a vegetarian alternative such as agar-agar, but I have not tried  yet. When I do I'll update here, so check back.

Gelatin "Caviar" 101

Choosing a liquid: These little pearls are made to impart big flavor!  Ideal liquids are strongly flavored such as balsamic vinegar, strongly brewed coffee and tart fruit juices like cranberry and pomegranate.

Choosing an oil: The flavored gelatin gets dropped in chilled oil to give it a spherical shape. The oil needs to be kept overnight in the refrigerator, so it's important to choose one that will not become overly cloudy when chilled. Canola oil, vegetable oil and grape seed oil are all good choices.  Avoid using olive oil as it will become too firm.

Salt the water bath: The container of oil must be placed in an ice water bath. Adding salt to the water bath will help keep the oil super cold so the gelatin will set almost instantly (same effect as adding rock salt to your ice cream machine). Any salt will do, though you can see in the video that my salt is coarse and grey. Celtic sea salt is all I had at the time because I buy it in bulk. Regular salt will do fine!

With which to drop: I used a plastic squeeze bottle from Wilton (used for candy making), but you could certainly employ an unused or clean eye-dropper or even a syringe.  All of these are very inexpensive and easy to find; craft and cooking stores will have squeeze bottles and culinary syringes and drug stores will stock medicine droppers (called pipets).


Gelatin "Caviar" 
This recipe was adapted from "cooking" on LiveJournal  by Maxwell Pfannebecker
Yield: about 3/4 cup caviar                                                                               [click for printable recipe]

Use this "caviar" as a topping or garnish to impart flavor and texture to desserts (good for savory applications too!). Be sure to plan ahead. Chilling the oil overnight is an important step and should not to be skipped!  

Special equipment:
Plastic squeeze bottle, unused medicine dropper (pipet) or culinary syringe 
Mesh sieve

Ingredients:
2-3 cups vegetable oil
2 - 1/4 oz. packages powdered gelatin (or 4 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons cold water
3 fluid oz. hot liquid (1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp) i.e. hot coffee, or other liquid heated on the stove-top or in microwave
Ice
1/4 cup salt for water bath

  1. Place oil in a 9x13-inch metal pan (or similar size) and store in refrigerator overnight. The oil must be very cold for the gelatin to set properly.
  2. In a medium bowl mix the gelatin and water until thoroughly combined and no lumps of gelatin remain. Let stand while you prepare the hot liquid.
  3. Warm 3 oz. liquid on the stove-top or in a microwave until very hot but not boiling. Pour liquid over set gelatin mixture and stir until gelatin is melted.  This may take a few minutes and you can break up the gelatin with a spoon for quicker dissolve.
  4. When gelatin is completely melted transfer liquid to a squeeze bottle. You can also leave the mixture in the bowl and use a medicine dropper or syringe to draw the liquid for dropping.
  5. Let the mixture stand for a few minutes, if it's too hot the gelatin will not set properly and the "caviar" will be misshapen. It should be just barely warm - almost room temperature.
  6. While you wait for your mixture to cool, prepare the oil for the ice bath. Transfer chilled oil to a 1 quart container (preferably metal because it will aid cooling, but glass will work too).  Prepare the ice bath. Make sure the bowl you are using for the ice bath is larger than the container holding the oil.  Fill bowl with ice and then add water until the bowl is two-thirds filled. Add 1/4 cup salt and stir until mixed.  Rest the container of oil inside the water bath.
  7. Begin dropping gelatin mixture into the cold oil, 1-3 drips at a time. The amount of drips will vary according to the viscosity of the oil and type of dropper you use.  As you can see in the video it took three drops for one caviar pearl to form. You'll know the correct amount when the mixture forms a ball that rests on the surface for a moment then sinks to the bottom.  
  8. When half the  mixture has been used, wait for 3-5 minutes then scoop the caviar into a mesh sieve to drain. Place caviar in an air-tight container or a canning jar with a screw-tight lid. Resume dropping the gelatin mixture into the cold oil until all of the mixture is used. 
  9. Personal note: I was too slow, so a little of my mixture solidified before I could pipe it all. Try to be quick but don't stress. I still had plenty of caviar at the end.
  10. When finished, place caviar in a canning jar or in an air-tight container with a little of the oil poured over top. This may sound weird or gross, but it keeps the caviar moist for up to a week.  Plus, if you don't like the idea of oil being on the caviar you can rinse it in a sieve under cold water before placing on the dessert.  
  11. When stored with a little oil poured over and placed in an air-tight container the caviar will keep for up to 10 days.
Cappucino Pudding
Yield: 5 1/2 cup servings                                                                        [click for printable recipe]

1 cup skim milk, divided
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup hot coffee
1 tsp. instant coffee granules or espresso powder
1 -14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg
Whipped cream for topping *optional
Cinnamon for garnish

  1. Stir 1/4 cup of the skim milk, the cornstarch and salt together in a 2 quart saucepan until completely dissolved and smooth. Add remaining milk, coffee, instant coffee granules, and sweetened condensed milk. Cook over medium-high heat whisking constantly. The mixture will begin to gain volume and thicken slightly. When this happens, remove it from the heat source.
  2. In a small bowl, beat the egg and gently temper two tablespoons of the hot mixture into the egg. Return the saucepan to the heat source and gradually stir in the tempered egg mixture, whisking constantly. The addition of the egg will make the mixture lose much of it's foaminess. Continue to heat the mixture until a few bubbles burble to the top. Cook for 2 minutes longer after this happens, again whisking constantly.
  3. Pour into 5 dessert glasses; cover and refrigerate.  Top with whipped cream if desired.  Sprinkle with cinnamon just before serving.







88 comments :

  1. Heather, these look glorious! Not so much into the molecular stuff but have loved experimenting with spheres, caviar and such!

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  2. This is such a cute idea!!! I will be using something of the like for a new year's dessert... can we say, champagne and caviar??

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  3. That is so incredibly awesome! I never thought there would be a way to make caviar like that without using the molecular techniques. Such a gorgeous dessert!

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  4. Heather, amazing! What a wonderful methodology for the home baker who wants to experiment with molecular gastronomy. The video is incredibly helpful, I can't wait to try this out!

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  5. This looks so yummy! You are very talented.

    http://sewmuchtosay.blogspot.com

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  6. You have really introduced me to something completely new! I have never heard or seen this done. They are so cute on top of the dessert. I don't see the video but I'll try to 'reload' and perhaps it will pop up. Wonderful as always Heather!

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  7. What a fun trick to have in my back pocket for when I really want to impress my guests. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. I followed another blog's way to do these balls but the instructions were not as explicit as yours. Now I can't wait to try it again! Thank you very much!

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  9. OMG...this is FABULOUS! Thanks for sharing!

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  10. Fabulous....You are an inspiration!

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  11. wow, what a great post - I've often wondered what the books are like and have wondered maybe one day if I should buy one, or a set? they'd keep be busy for a lifetime!

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  12. First of all, I would just like to say that the music you chose to set video with is simply wonderful, what is it? I particularly like the way you have arrange for the climax in the music to match the moment you piped that first drop of coffee gelatin. :)

    I do have a question though, is it possible to dissolve the powder with just the hot coffee or do you have to dissolve with cold water first? I have never worked with gelatin (in any way) before so this may be a silly question.

    Thank you so much for sharing, you have broadened my culinary horizon like you won't believe!

    Jessica
    www.onceuponacakery.ca

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  13. This is ingenious! I can't wait to try it! Thanks, and especially for the video.....that helped a LOT!

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  14. Hi Jessica!

    The gelatin needs to be dissolved in the water first. This is usually called "blooming" or "softening" the gelatin. It helps ensure the mixture will be smooth (no lumps) and helps it to dissolve more evenly.

    The music is called Marseilles from the group Hey Marseilles. :) Here's a link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0hlpTFSDaA

    xo
    H

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  15. Oh my gosh! This looks so cool. I don't think I'veever seen dessert (or whatever liquid) caviar before!

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  16. That's such a beautiful post! Loved the coffee caviars! Hope to make some soon!

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  17. This is why I subscribe to your blog, so that I never miss a post. This is so unique, and I LOVE the video. It makes me confident that I can do this. Love this, and I can already imagine how it tastes. I can do this!

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  18. OMG you are a GENIUS.

    No, seriously, I've been working with gummy/gelatin for some time now, to the point that I teach classes and have an ebook about some techniques, but one thing I couldn't work out was how to use fluid-dropping to make ropes or drops like this. I've tried chilled water and it doesn't work (see http://www.eat-the-evidence.com/2012/01/31/gummy-water-drop-test/ ). But I never thought of oil.

    GENIUS!

    And I can't wait to play...

    THANK YOU! I'm about to spread your post all over teh interwebz. :D

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  19. I'm always tempted to try the molecular gastronomy but just like you, I don't think I want to keep those chemicals in my pantry. Plus, those are quite expensive. This is certainly fun and a great alternative to molecular gastronomy. I can't wait to give this a try.

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  20. Wow, an amazing baker and a scientist..so talented :)

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  21. Delightful! This is one wonderful dessert. Refined tasting and pretty. That "caviar" looks cool.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  22. This is amazing! I have to try this asap! Thanks for inspiration :)

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  23. This looks amazing! I am always in awe of the stuff you create!

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  24. Oh my goodness !!! This is incredible. Just a simple way to look like gastronomy professor! :)

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  25. Amaaaazing!! I am going to try it now :),,

    Thanks for sharing such easy and amazing tips

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  26. I love that you wanted to try an alternative to MG - something very attainable for a home cook/baker. You've done it again - you've made something so fancy look so approachable! Yay!

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  27. Those are insanely cute! I want to get all sciencey and try that now!

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  28. Wow, this is truly amazing! I'm so impressed. And had no idea it could be done so easily!! Yay, now I want to try it myself!

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  29. This is totally amazing! I actually think I'd be capable of doing this myself! I can't wait to see some other flavor combinations.

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  30. Perfect! It looks beautiful and delicious.

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  31. Oh wow! The gelatin caviar looks simply divine! Think I'm going to have to attempt to make some!

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  32. Although I admire it, I have never gone gone the molecular path. This is just gorgeous with the same results.

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  33. Love, love, LOVE this! Like bubble tea but WAY better! Thanks for the tutorial on gelatin spheres, Heather - I can't wait to give this a try!!

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  34. I'm a texture girl and I think I could really get behind something like this.

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  35. You mentioned "pomegranate" juice....how pretty those would be. What would you suggest serving them over? Such a Christmas-y idea to keep in the back of my head. Thanks and congrats on such an innovative idea.

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  36. Adorable! If you are interested in making the fluid filled variety, you can get agar agar for pretty cheap at Asian grocery stores :)

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  37. I must try this!It is such a beautiful idea!

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  38. This is just wonderful and the possiblities are endless...balsamic drops for a salad, olive juice drops in a martini, maraschino cherry juice drops on ice cream. Your blog is just beautiful...love it!

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  39. coffee caviar!
    insanely creative.
    such a beautiful post Heather!
    <3

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  40. Cute presentation! I love the look of your coffee caviar. They look like little gems on a smooth coffee pudding. I am definitely bookmarking the page. May be a little complicated but, I am all for making pretty and delicious stuff.
    Anyhoo, we have just recently launched a food photo submission site, http://www.yumgoggle.com/gallery/ that allows you to showcase all your great work and share it with all of our visitors. Your phenomenal photos have caught our attention. We’d be proud to have your work as part of our growing collection to continue to have a larger reach and further inspire all fellow food lovers out there! (sorry for the blatant shameless plug)!

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  41. wow.... can't wait to try it :) thank you for sharing

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  42. I have wanted to try making "caviar" for a while now, but didn't know how to do it with common household items! Thanks for the video, it was so helpful!! Do you know how long the caviar is good?

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  43. Thank you for sharing with us the video. Good job.
    Andreja

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  44. It looks amazing! If I want to use berries, would you recommend buying juice or using fresh berries and grinding it? Do you have any other flavor ideas, except the ones mentioned? thanks

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  45. wow! i can't wait to try this out, i would feel like Heston Blumental hahaa

    www.cookiebakingblog.com

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  46. can i just ask what music you used for the video? it sounds lovely!

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  47. Thanks so much Heather! I just made the coffee caviar and it turned out perfect! It is so simple and delicious! Do I keep my caviar stored at room temperature for up to 10 days? Or do I need to store it in the refrigerator? Thanks so much again!

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  48. Really nice ideas with these Coffee Caviar! I've seen then first time!Great!

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  49. I love cold-oil spherification! It's so much fun and easy. Mol gastronomy gets such a bad rap but the techniques can really add to the enjoyment of eating. also, agar-agar works with this technique!

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  50. This has to be one of the most original ideas I've seen in a long time. When I first saw the picture, before reading it, I thought it would be about large tapioca. This is cooler.

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  51. where are your dessert cups from i love them!

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  52. You made those??!! OMG so pretty and creative. Besides ~ anything coffee and I am smitten :)

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  53. Showed my sister the caviar and she went nuts. Going to make it tomorrow!

    Just one question though. Does it matter if the milk is skim or whole or something else? Thanks!

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  54. Hi, I just discovered your blog while looking for a cake to make for my boyfriend's birthday. I made him tiramisushi with coffee caviar as a garnish. It turned out wonderfully, was so fun to make, and everyone thought it was real ikura on top! Thank you so much, love your blog!

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  55. Hello,
    My name is tina and I've been reading your blogs for a while now but never commented...not sure why, I guess I just never get around to it lol. Anyways, I've used a couple of your recipes before, all pretty darn awesome, but this one blew me and my family out of the water. I made it for my step-father's birthday cuz he likes coffee flavors and is also kind of a foodie-cook and I thought the caviar would impress him. He nearly fell out of his chair he liked it so much, every one did. And I even got to include my younger brothers and sisters in making the caviar, so it was a lot of fun all around. The only change I made was adding a little sugar to the coffee-gelatin mixture before making the caviar (it was too strong when in it was straight) but other than that it was a really fun and delicious dessert. Thanks so much.
    -tia

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  56. Love this!! And it looks so easy!! I can't wait to try this on our next special occasion :)

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  57. Great tutorial. I would have never thought to make this on my own, but seeing video has encouraged me!

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  58. Oh my goodness, that is absolutely gorgeous!! We are so fortunate that you always share the recipes and tips with us. That is so awesome! xo ~Lili

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  59. That is just plain brilliant! I'm so trying this. Cheers, Heather!

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  60. This is SO COOL!!!!! Oh yeah, not to mention delicious!

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  61. New to your blog and loving this coffee caviar! Can't wait to give it a try. Sharing it on Facebook. :)

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  62. I'm making the caviar now, following all the instruction to the T
    and it's turning out great
    Thank you so much for this post!!!

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  63. Looks GOOD!! Wont the 'caviar' taste or smell of vegetable oil?? and feels oily??
    Really need to know before i started doing...

    reply: boy_boy84@hotmail.com

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  64. great idea! Mine weren't as perfectly spherical as yours, but it worked wonderfully nevertheless- I made them to garnish little caramel, coffee and chocolate mousse cakes. Thanks for the recipe and video- they were really useful

    http://thesugarlump.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/coffee-caramel-and-chocolate-mousse.html

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  65. Can I make mousse and add cavier put in fridge and then send out to party And leave out at room j

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  66. Great recipe!! Very creative!!
    The "caviar" was a lot of fun to make and this is a recipe that I'd share with others.
    Pudding was too sweet and I'd like the consistency to come out thicker, although definitely worth another shot!

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  67. Does the caviar not taste oily?

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  68. Seems like it would, but no, it does not taste oily.

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  69. Really cool, I wondered if the coffee caviar didn't taste a bit oily? Sincey are dropped into vegetable oil.

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  70. Don't know if you've ever had tapioca pearls in bubble tea, but these look really similar! I don't know how that process works, but this is great. You can see how similar they look here: http://m5.paperblog.com/i/28/286562/make-this-bubble-tea-L-X_5gfw.jpeg

    Anywho, cool recipe!

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  71. I was really nervous about trying this out, but it worked PERFECTLY! I made coffee caviar and used it to garnish some crème brûlée that I served at a party last night and it looked so good! My friends were so amazed. It was also really easy to make. Your directions were extremely detailed and I loved your video. I actually showed it to a few people just so they could see how cool it was! Oh, and for the people who are asking about the oily taste, I didn't taste any oil at all. I did rinse it off while I scooped it out, so maybe that helps. Thank you so much for sharing this. I'm so excited to try some other kinds of caviar now!

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  72. I just tried this with balsamic vinegar, and it turned out awesome! OK, so I didn't chill the oil overnight so they ended up looking more like tiny river pebbles, but that was still good in my opinion.

    I made a simple meal of pork tenderloin with sauteed onions and these balsamic tenderlings on top with some home fries on the side. Hearty and fun to eat!

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  73. This caviar is awesome! I love that you have created a simple way to make it at home. Now I can give it a try without stress!

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  74. oh stars!! MAKING THIS!!!! I am absolutely giddy right now.

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  75. Great post on solid spherification! As a culinary instructor, I have been working /experimenting with several hydrocolloids & gums for about 2 years now. You may use Agar-agar as a substitute for the gelatin, but most people do not enjoy the mouth feel so much.
    Let me first explain the process of making a gel with Agar-agar. Ratio: Use a 1 teaspoon Agar-agar to 1 cup of water (combine). Now whisk the mess out of it! The point is to hydrate the Agar and disperse it evenly through the water so it does not clump together later on. Unlike gelatin, Agar does not technically dissolve. Once the Agar has been thoroughly dispersed (I minute or so of whisking) you need to bring it to a boil (this activates the gelling/setting properties of the agar). Once boiling, cut off your heat then add your flavoring ingredient, in this case, coffee. Always add you flavor after boiling the mixture. For some reason Agar does not like to play with other sugars or acids. There you go! From here is where you would fill your squeeze bottle for dropping, but you may want to let the mixture sit for a few minutes (We are talking about a liquid that was just at 212°F!).
    I do recommend using Olive Oil when working with Agar to do solid spherification. The olive oil does get cloudy, but it is thicker than other oils therefore better for forming the hot agar into a sphere. Work quickly to form your spheres, because agar will actually start to gel on its own as it cools and will continue to set at room temperature.
    Gelatin vs. Agar-agar
    You will notice a big difference when experiencing the taste of your product. Since the melting point of gelatin is about 107°F, it will begin to melt as soon as it hits your tongue. Agar’s melting point is a whopping 185°F, so depending on the size of your “caviar”, you may have to chew it a little. It all comes down to personal preference. Agar is very popular in commercial kitchens because it is such a versatile product and gelatin has a wonderful flavor release and clarity that is best kept to desserts and sweet confections. I hope this helped and I’m sorry it was so long.

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  76. OH. MY. GOODNESS. That is beyond "so cool" and I can't wait to use this process. You could do just about anything with that. For salads, cold soups...my mind is racing ! so awesome :)

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  77. How exciting to find this! I had lavender flavored caviar at a restaurant recently and have been fascinated with the idea ever since. I had no idea I could do it myself! Thank you for easy directions...

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  78. Hooray! No-carb boba for bubble tea!

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  79. Tried this today and it turned out perfect. The instructions were to the letter, and I had so much fun making the spheres. I wanted to let you know what I used that really worked well. I used the inside frozen bowl to my ice cream maker to hold the oil. I alway keep it in my freezer, and I used it with the chilled oil. No need for ice and salt bath! Thanks so much for this fun and delicious dessert.

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  80. How much is 1 -14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk in grams? :D

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  81. Hi
    Wonderful post!
    Can the caviar be stored for a few days?

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  82. I want to try these! Can I make a bunch and store them in oil? If I refrigerate them suspended in oil, how long will they last?

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