Jan 10

Spherical-I Mozzarella (making daft food science)

FT + Pumpkin Publog//11 comments • 1,085 views

I don’t believe that the producers of A Day At El Bulli intended it to be used as a cookbook at all; it’s weighty and too glossy to risk splattering with kitchen messes, and most of the recipes call for freezedryers, pacojets, and other high-tech gadgetry. I think they’re provided to emphasize the difference between the food you can create at home, and the laboratory creations of Ferran Adria.

But hey! We love a challenge. I flicked through the book until I found something that looked achievable with only a minimum of outlay. Spherical mozzarella! This called for nothing more exotic than some sodium alginate. Handily, there was a jar tucked away in the back of a cupboard – the remnant of a previous miserable failure at kitchen science. If you’re cooking along at home, it’s available to buy online too.

The science of this is pretty straightforward: where algin meets calcium, a gel forms. By dropping calcium-rich liquid (in this case, the blended mozzarella) into a algin solution (or vice versa), the outside of the liquid turns into a gel, and encloses the still-liquid centre. The result is a soft ball that bursts when you bite into it – a surprise mouthful of liquid flavour. Or that’s the theory.


Assembling the makings and the scientific apparatus.


We measured everything carefully, because this is SKIENCE and SKIENCE demands precision.

The mozzarella and its juice are blended up together. Then the cream is heated and blended into the mozzarella, resulting in a fine grainy liquid. This is salted and popped in the fridge.


The sodium alginate is blended into 1kg of water. We used distilled water; otherwise, I believe, the algin will gel with the calcium in the hard London tapwater before it’s had a chance to get happy with the calcium in the mozzarella.


Spoonfuls of the mozzarella are dropped into the algin bath. This is where it all started to go wrong. My dropping technique is suspect, and we ended up with mozzarella splodges, rather than balls. I initially blamed the triangular measuring cup, but experimentation with egg cups and shot glasses yielded no better results – just more washing up.

After twelve minutes they’re taken out and we test the solid-est one on an innocent third party. She squeaks and approves. I try the next-most-solid one, and it’s delicious! But for every just-about edible globule of cheese-juice we have two failures. How to get the spheres SPHERICAL? I do some Scientific Research, and discover someone suggesting that we freeze them.


So it’s twee ikea icecube moulds to the rescue! We leave them overnight to freeze, and have a minor burst of science the next day, which yields a bowl of round (ish) mozzarella balls in water, which we force-fed to party guests later that night. Sorry, party guests! (I totally forgot to try making a CHEESE MARTINI with one of them, too.)


The freezing made the texture of the mozzarella juice more granular and slightly less pleasant, but it did mean that we created small balls rather than useless splodges.

The freezing worked really well apart from the texture going weirdly crumbly, though, so I might try this again with some liquid more suited to freezing. Cheese is not a friend of freezing.

The mozzarella was delicious before we blended it – it felt like a bit of a shame to turn it into stunt food.

Baby mozzarella spheres look very eggy! Wouldn’t it be awesome to make minature poached eggs that were really made of mozzarella and some bright orange or yellow cheese yolk? And serve them on toast made out of something surprising?


  1. 1
    Pete on 5 Jan 2010 #

    That poached egg idea is an awesome one. You have made me think of the best party food ever. A Double Gloucester yolk perhaps, or what’s the yellowest cheese you can get?

  2. 2
    marna on 5 Jan 2010 #

    I was thinking of something like Double Gloucester or Red Leicester.

    I am not sure if the tastes would go terribly well together, but that’s beside the point.

  3. 3
    Tim on 5 Jan 2010 #

    “…Serve them on toast” – while there’s sausagemeat and breadcrumbs in the world?

  4. 4
    marna on 5 Jan 2010 #

    Is sausage tasty with cheese? i think it’s tastier with actual egg, but I hardly ever ever eat sausage.

  5. 5
    Marna onna ipone on 6 Jan 2010 #

    Although ham goes with cheese, doesn’t it?

  6. 6
    Jimmy the Swede on 6 Jan 2010 #

    Port Salut, baby. Port Salut!

  7. 7
    Bron on 6 Jan 2010 #

    Fabulous – I really love that you tried this experiment then shared the joy with your friends!

  8. 8
    Ewan on 6 Jan 2010 #

    Brilliant. The sensation of eating them was… interesting. Next, I want you do something with the BLOWTORCH, please, Marna.

  9. 9
    Marna on 6 Jan 2010 #

    Ewan! Find me a bonkers-enough recipe that needs the blowtorch I’ll happily cook it and feed you the results. But the best I can come up with is baked alaska – not weird enough! (Although it is of course AWESOME SCIENCE.)

    (ION I just ordered the fat duck cookbook and am going to see what in there can be made at home! I even know what some of that should taste like. Can anyone get me some liquid nitrogen?)

  10. 10
    porkypie on 6 Jan 2010 #

    go to the chemist, get some kids medicine that comes with a dropper syringe – hey presto – tiny pearls of mozarella. It’s what Adria used to start off with when he was making the mango and pea caviars.

  11. 11
    Marna on 6 Jan 2010 #

    Guess what previous experiment the algin was left over from? We never got that right – we had the algin mixed in with fruit juice or cordial – something along those lines, and dribbled it into some calcium chloride (I think! some calcium salt anyway) solution. After about five tries at it we gave up – the last lot were spherical, and liquid inside (hurrah!) and burst nicely, but we’d needed so much calcium that no amount of rinsing could get rid oef the horrid salty taste.

    This way – dribbling into the algin solution – was oodles easier. I might try some of the little caviars again sometime, now that this one was more of a success.

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