When asked if I was interested in molecular gastronomy and if I wanted to review a product from www.molecule-r.com I couldn't believe my luck. I had actually been eyeing their products for some time. I almost got a chemistry degree so maybe this is just my chemistry geek coming out. I was very excited and even started planning out what I was going to make before the kit even came.
So what is molecular gastronomy? Molecular gastronomy is the study of physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that occur while cooking. It doesn't always, but can use non-traditional equipment and ingredients like dry ice, CO2, sodium alginate, agar-agar, and many others. They are used to make the food gel, foam, or cook differently to produce different effects. The intent is to make something that not only tastes good but is also a work of art.
When the kit actually arrived I have to admit I was a little disappointed. I was hoping to get the Cuisine R-Evolution which was designed to do foods and desserts, but I received the Cosmopolitan R-Evolution which was targeted at making Cosmopolitans. I am not a big cocktail drinker and I don't think I have ever even tasted a Cosmopolitan before. After looking over the kit and researching it a little more, I realized I had no reason to be disappointed.
The first thing that struck me when looking over the Cosmopolitan R-Evolution was how beautiful it was. The packaging and photographs were both very attractive. The chemicals were all in small premeasured packets and it included several other tools needed for the techniques. The recipe booklet had recipes for three different cosmopolitans that used three different molecular gastronomy techniques (emulsification, spherification, and reverse-spherification). Each also had a small section where it explained the chemistry of the technique and a section of frequently asked questions.
The Cosmopolitan R-Evolution is basically just a smaller version of the Cuisine R-Evolution. It is missing a few of the food additives that are in the larger kit but still contains three additives that can be used for three different molecular gastronomy techniques. It also does not contain their DVD that shows 50 recipes but their website has recipes and videos for over 25 different things. By using both the kit and the website I would have no problem making some items other than cosmopolitans.
The first recipe I tried was from the booklet that came with the kit and was a Cosmopolitan made with Citrus Caviar. This uses a technique called basic spherification. The recipe has you mix some cranberry juice, citrus liqueur, and a packet of sodium alginate. You then use the provided dropper to drip the solution into a calcium bath (made with water and calcium lactate). As soon as the drops hit the calcium bath they form little balls with a thin gel membrane on the outside. You then rinse them off in plain water. The cocktail is made with vodka, citrus liqueur, lime juice, and ice. It is blended into a frozen slushy type drink and then the citrus caviar is added. Like I said earlier, I have never had a cosmopolitan so I am not really sure what it was supposed to taste like, but I enjoyed it. I didn't really think I would like the floating caviar but they were very tender and released the liquid very easily. The cocktails were also beautiful and sure to impress your guests. The only issue I had with the recipe was that the ingredient list called for white cranberry juice (which I could not find anywhere) but the directions never said to include the white cranberry juice.
I decided to test out the emulsification and reverse-spherification techniques with a dessert from their website. I first made the frozen chocolate wind (emulsification) and topped it with a raspberry ravioli (reverse-spherification) . For some reason my camera decided to corrupt my dessert photos. Maybe it knew they did not turn out like I wanted The dessert actually turned out great but if you ever decide to make the frozen chocolate wind my one hint would be to freeze your plates because it melts in about two seconds. My pictures did not look nearly as nice as the ones on their website.
Overall I loved this product and would recommend it to anyone wanting to play with these techniques. They are a lot of fun and not difficult at all. Unless you are strictly interested in cocktails I would probably opt for the more complete Cuisine R-Evolution but check out all of their kits and you are sure to find something interesting. They have several priced from $29.95 up.