This week, ICE Chef Instructor Chris Gesualdi led a hands-on demonstration on the nature of hydrocolloids and how these common ingredients can transform the texture of everyday foods.
This class was the first of its kind for our recreational cooking classes, continuing on ICE’s modernist cooking curriculum for our career training students. The class taught everyday cooks how to use innovative techniques and modern technology to create a unique spin on well-known dishes in their own kitchens at home. Chef Chris helped students unlock the mysteries of hydrocolloids and demonstrated how these ingredients can be used in the home and applied in a variety of cooking techniques. Hydrocolloids sound far more intimidating than they actually are. Essentially, they refer to any substance that forms a gel in the presence of water.
As Chef Chris mentioned, many of us have been using hydrocolloids for years — anything from cornstarch to gelatin. But this class focused on using ingredients such as carrageenan, xanthan gum, and locust bean gum. These powders are mixed with liquid and added to foods to create a gel-like texture, without any actual cooking and baking. The students took on a variety of dishes, including Aerated Nutella Mousse, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Flan with Strawberry Coulis, Glazed Strawberries, Crème Brulee, and the most popular of the night, Potato and Foie Gras Mousse.
In order to properly take advantage of the magic of hydrocolloids, the students were guided on how to use very precise weight measurements to ensure the correct balance and texture. Chef Chris even demonstrated how to aerate Nutella Mousse using a Cryovac machine. The mousse got its familiar airy texture after dissolving carrageenan into a mixture of milk, cream, and sugar. Then it was blended with Nutella and gelatin to create structure, and finally put into an air-tight container and aerated using the vacuum-sealer. The mousse was then refrigerated for a few hours, and ready to eat — without a stove or egg whites needed! Students were able to take their creations home with them, armed with the knowledge of how to create a modernist twist on their favorite dishes, using simple ingredients in the comfort of their home kitchens.