Molecular Gastronomy: Pliable Chocolate

Hello readers. Pastry Chef Thomas here.

This is the first of what is planned to be a regular post on cooking at Windows with a focus on Molecular Gastronomy. It will be my way of sharing with our staff and customers what is equal parts science, art, discipline, and passion. It's what I love doing. So, let's get started.

What is Molecular Gastronomy? Molecular gastronomy in a nut shell is the convergence of food and science to create new and exciting textures and flavors that, in the end, look and taste great. And there inlays the challenge.

For instance, think of a common culinary dish such as chocolate ganache. Chocolate Granache is typically a chocolate that is softened by the addition of fat, commonly cream or butter. It has been created and enjoyed for decades. What I wanted to create was something with the same flavor but with a completely different texture, experience,and presentaion. Basically what I did with this particular dessert was create a pliable piece of chocolate fudge using science and not by simply adding fat. I was hoping to use a technique commonly used by pastry chefs all over the world to create a product that would be both pliable but not to rubbery. After a number of interesting concoctions, the winning ingredient? Agar. Used in Asian cuisine for many years, agar is a hydrocoloid that yields a very pliable and elastic gel. Agar may be used to replace gelatin and have the same mouth feel with a very pliable formation. However, unlike gelatin, agar can be heated to a certain tempature and still hold its shape. After more experimentation I finally came up with a version of granache that not only looked great, but tasted fantastic. It was ready to serve. But in my opinion the pliable chocolate standing alone on the plate was not enough to serve to our guests. It needed more.  But what?

I began doing research on the lovely flavor of  rhubarb. Rhubarb is a not a common flavor to pair with chocolate but it tasted very nice and I was ready to use it. Now the question was, how can I converge science with plain old rhubarb to create a compliment to my newly created granache? Well how about going to Ace Hardware and buying six, three feet sections of 0.5 id silicon tubing? You bet. Once again the agars flexibility came in handy. I took the silicon tubing and syringed a solution of agar, rhubarb juice, and citric acid into the silicon tubing. I then emerged the tubing into ice water to set the agar and the entire rhubarb concoction. Once set, I then hooked the tubing up to the syringe and forced it out by creating pressure behind the solution. The result? Chocolate Granache and Rhubarb Spaghetti (coiled rope-like under the chocolate granache)!

Why make a pliable chocolate granache paired with fruit spaghetti you ask? Because that's what I do here at Widows on the Water. I continue to push the scientific envelope on a daily basis.