These words, or similar ones, have become increasingly prevalent on menus around the world. But what is a ‘foam’, and what can a few bubbles possibly bring to a dish?
Foam, in a scientific sense, has been a part of cooking for centuries. Every time cream is whipped, egg whites are thickened, meringue is formed or mousse is made, foam is created.
As an identifiable culinary technique however, foam is a component of the molecular gastronomy movement (have a look at our simple guide to molecular gastronomy).
The tenants of this movement highlight the use of artistic and technical innovations as a method for delivering bigger flavour combinations and more elaborate culinary experiences. Foam meets this brief perfectly.
Foam is created by combining a liquid, be it a juice, an essence, a reduction, a stock or an extract, and combining it with a flavourless gelling agent. Agar and lecithin, both natural ingredients (and both available from The Essential Ingredient), are the most commonly used.
By turning this mixture into foam, using either a hand-held immersion blender or a whipped cream canister (also both available from The Essential Ingredient), the flavour captured in the liquid can be added to a dish without affecting its physical composition.
Heston Blumenthal’s ‘Sound of the Sea’, possibly the most iconic ‘rock star’ dish of the molecular gastronomy wave, features a shellfish foam alongside its fresh fish and tapioca ‘sand’ (consumed as an iPod plays the ocean sounds for each individual dinner).
Ferran Adria, the Spanish chef credited with creating the concept of ‘culinary foam’, has become known for foaming flavours as diverse as mushroom, roasted meat and espresso. By introducing a beetroot foam to a dish, for example, he adds an explosive beetroot flavour with needing to include the mass of the beetroot itself to a delicately balanced plate.
Fortunately, unlike many molecular gastronomy techniques, you don’t need to be a trained Michelin-starred chef to incorporate foam into your own dinner party preparations.
All you need is a gelling agent (such as agar or lecithin), a tool for incorporating air into the mix and an idea.
The Essential Ingredient, with our wide range of quality ingredients and professional cookware and our extensive range of cookbooks, including those from molecular gastronomy experts such as Heston Blumenthal, can help with all three.
Visit your nearest The Essential Ingredient store now and create your own foam masterpiece.