January 31, 2006

Dorkbot: Liquid Nitrogen and Dessert for 100

Posted in development, dorkbot, foams, horchata, liquidnitrogen at 4:24 am by foodhacking

Here are the menu development notes from the January 25th Dorkbot Food Hacking presentation.


For this Dorkbot demo, I really wanted to blow everyone away with some freaky shit. This was an opportunity to show off all of the molecular gastronomy stuff I had been exposed to at The Fat Duck. Also it was a chance to cook for a lot of my friends in one fell swoop, and maybe turn them on to thinking about food the same way they think about other kinds of hacking + art. We ended up making a five component dessert. We prepped a lot of these components in the kitchen, then finished them in front of the Dorkbot audience. While we plated, we described the food hacking concepts behind each component- its flavors, the techniques used, and earlier dishes that pioneered the concepts from the big fancy molecular gastronomy restaurants. Thanks to David Calkins, we got a liquid nitrogen hookup. I wanted the dessert to be completely vegan, but ended up tossing in a gratutious yogurt component- I still got to say at the end of the presentation “by the way, this dessert is basically vegan, so ha ha! suckers!”


  • Nitro Pumpkin Seed Pie Horchata Foam
  • Almond Armagnac Cardamom Foam with Frankincense
  • Smoked Paprika Agave Caramel Tuile
  • Pomegranate Seeds
  • Powdered Orange Blossom Yogurt

Nitro Pumpkin Seed Pie Horchata Foam

pumpkin seeds + water + cinnamon + vanilla + allspice + ginger + nutmeg + soy lecithin

Blend pumpkin seeds, water until horchata consistency. Strain and chill. Make caramel syrup of cinnamon, vanilla, allspice, ginger, nutmeg. Blend horchata and syrup. Add soy lecithin (dried soy milk). Disperse well. Load into 1 quart Nitrous Oxide dispenser- filling halfway. Charge wtih 3 N2O cannisters and chill. Over a liquid nitrogen bath, dispense some foam into a spoon. Drop the foam into the nitrogen bath and agitate with a spoon to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Remove from nitrogen bath when the foam is hard on the outside, plate immediately.

Technique: Nitro freezing foam

This is the signature palate cleanser of The Fat Duck. The foam is “poached” in liquid nitrogen tableside and presented on a spoon. This is an amazing dish- the foam tastes of green tea, vodka and lime.

Technique: Horchata

With our new Vitamix Super 5000 Blender, we can make horchatas. Put a couple of handfuls of any nut or seed (cashew, almond, pumpkin seed, tiger nut) and add enough water so that the nuts are freely floating. Blend for 20 minutes.

Composition: Pumpkin Seed Pie

The spicy caramel syrup adds the sweetness and flavor of pumpkin pie to the thick pumpkin seed foam.

Ingredient: Pumpkin Seeds

Shelled pumpkin seeds are used in Mexican cuisine- they are called pepitos, often served as a savory garnish.

Almond Armagnac Cardamom Foam with Frankincense

almonds + water + agave nectar + armagnac + cardamom + xantham gum + frankincense

Blend almonds, water until horchata consistency. Strain and chill. Flavor horchata with agave nectar, armagnac, cardamom. Use a blender to disperse xantham gum into mixture. Blend until foam consistency is reached. Plate foam, grating frankincense over the dollop.

Technique: Xantham gelling

Xantham gum is a natural gum produced by the fermentation of a bacteria. It is commonly used as a gluten replacement- it thickens and stabilizes across a wide range of temperatures. Xantham gum gives this almond horchata the body it needs to rest nicely on the plate.

Composition: Almonds, Armagnac, Cardamom, Frankincense

Going for a nutty and spicy counterpoint to the other seed/nut component in the dish (pumpkin seeds), the frankincense and cardamom give a semi-spicy medieval body to the foam. The armagnac’s alcohol helps to cut the richness of the foam.

Ingredient: Frankincense

“Frank incense” is the resin from a tree’s bark, and is actually used as incense. The essential oil, olibanum oil, is soluble in alcohol and brings out the medieval quality of the armagnac, cardamom and almonds.

Smoked Paprika Agave Caramel Tuile

smoked paprika + agave nectar + tequila + sugar

Disperse smoked paprika in tequila. Boil water, sugar, agave nectar. Once syrup goes clear, keep boiling to a dark gold. Remove from heat, disperse the smoked paprika-infused tequila quickly with a whisk. Pour onto silicone mat. Squeegee with a palette knife (offset spatula) to a thin layer. Allow to solidify, then store in a dry place for plating.

Technique: Caramel Tuile

A caramel tuile adds an element of sweetness and texture to a dish- a jagged shard sticking upwards sets off the creamy texture of the foam components.

Composition: Smoked Paprika, Agave Nectar, Tequila

This sweet and spicy combination allows the agave nectar’s sweetness to offset the spicy smoked paprika. The smokiness of the paprika brings out the smokiness of the tequila, and the agave flavor in the tequila highlights the agave nectar’s agave-ness (which can sometimes be too subtle to notice).

Ingredient: Agave Nectar

Agave nectar is a vegan sweetener that is way sweet- 75% fructose. As a replacement for honey, it is appropriate for diabetics. You can also get agave nectar raw. It is obtained from the blue agave plant, the same plant used for distillation of tequila.

Ingredient: Smoked Paprika

Smoked paprika (La Chinata brand) adds a smoky spiciness that instantly adds a flavor of Mexico or Spain to most dishes.

Pomegranate Seeds

Sprinkling pomegranate seeds on this dessert adds some color, a little tartness, and a nice surprise. Tiny explosions of flavor break up the monotony of a dish, and the natural purity of “just” pomegranate seeds is a nice counterpoint to the rest of the somewhat manufactured components.

Powdered Orange Blossom Yogurt

yogurt + orange blossom water + tapioca starch

Thorougly mix yogurt and orange blossom water. Stir in tapioca starch. Mix until thoroughly incorporated and a powder consistency is reached.

Technique: Tapioca Powdering

Adding a tapioca starch to a liquid causes the absorption of the liquid, turning the liquid into a powder. WD-50 uses this concept to make a powdered olive oil, and Alinea uses a similar method for their powdered salt caramel dessert. Specialized starches- tapioca maltodextrins- are used in such places. You can also use tapioca starch from the grocery store, although the tapioca flavor can be chalky and overpowering. Once the powder goes into your mouth, the original liquid feeling is achieved. Olive oil powder turns into olive oil, yogurt powder turns into yogurt.

Composition: Yogurt, Orange Blossom

To overcome the chalkiness of the tapioca starch, a vanilla yogurt is used. Upon reconstitution of the powder, the sourness and sweetness of the yogurt is what helps us to identify it as yogurt. The orange blossom water adds a strong fragrance that will also withstand the “stress” of being converted to a powder and back.

Ingredient: Orange Blossom Water

Neroli oil, the essential oil of the orange blossom, has a fragrance reminiscent of Morocco or Spain. At Goood Frikin Chicken, they pour orange blossom water over their rice pudding dessert (topped with cinnamon and pistachios).