The siphon: handy, quick, and versatile
The siphon is a tool that can be used in all types of kitchens. Whether you want to create the perfect dollop of whipped cream on a slice of cake or serve a beautiful warm mayonnaise with a langoustine dish, with the siphon you can do it all. But where does the gas come from and how does the end product actually hold this gas?
The evolution of the siphon
The siphon finds it origins in the technique that turns still water into a sparkling product. A few years later, this technique to create sparkling water was applied to whipped cream. In the early 1990s, Ferran Adrià Acosta gave a new dimension to the siphon by using it to develop the first espuma. Espuma is Castilian for ‘foam’ and has become an integral part of modern gastronomy.
What happens inside the siphon?
If you take a practical and basic look at the siphon, it has the same effect as a whisk. With a whisk you can beat up to 40% air in a liquid mass of cream. But instead of air, the siphon is closed off with a nitrogen cartridge, which is the most neutral gas. During rotation, the cartridge is opened and the contents of the cartridge are emptied into the siphon. This puts the contents of the bottle under pressure and creates a foam when piping. The image on the right gives you an idea of what exactly happens inside the siphon.
How does my foam remain stable?
In the kitchen we use the following to keep a foam stable:
- Gelling agents such as gelatin, starch, and agar agar
Foams stabilised with fat have a fatty taste. A well-known example of this is whipped cream. Protein or emulsifier-stabilised foams often have a watery taste, an example of which is an espuma stabilised with gelatin. Fatty substances and proteins retain air in both cold and warm preparations, while gelatin-based foams can only be used in cold dishes. Foam based on starch only becomes active under the influence of heat. Fat-stabilised foams hold air bubbles longer than protein or emulsifier-stabilised foams. A good stable foam contains a large quantity of small air bubbles.
Extra proteins are added in some recipes to make a strong and stable foam. Such a recipe might include, for example, ProEspuma fred/calent or cortina. Just be aware that ProEspuma is an animal protein.
Using a siphon
The siphon is used to create airy sauces and foams. It is important that the contents of the siphon are always thoroughly sieved, as the valve can become blocked fairly quickly. By shaking the siphon, the foam is filled with the maximum amount of air bubbles. A disposable cartridge contains eight grams of gas. The number of cartridges required depends on the volume of the siphon, the fat percentage of the product, and the temperature. For most preparations one to two cartridges is sufficient for a one-litre siphon A stable foam that remains on the plate and does not collapse must always contain enough fat or protein to hold air bubbles.
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