Mousse, meringue, whipped cream. Wondering what the three have in common? They are all culinary foams. In the evolving world of cuisine, foams play a major role in molecular gastronomy, redefining new-age cooking and modernist kitchens.
For the record, foams are simple to make and are extremely versatile. And just so you are not misguided, foams have been around traditional cooking for the longest time. The first use of culinary foams dates back to the 1700s when both sweet and savory soufflés were created. The usage of foams progressed to meringues and ultimately the cream that goes into many decadent beverages today.
Currently, in the world of molecular gastronomy, foams have come to be a completely new cooking technique in its own right. For those who are still fuzzy on the details, a foam is simply any liquid or solid that has a gas suspended in it. To form a stable foam and emulsion, a surfactant, such as lecithin, monoglycerides or proteins, must be present to reduce the interfacial tension between the air/oil phase and the aqueous phase.
Foams can be fine or course, dry or wet, or dense or airy. Their uses again are aplenty – From adding flavour to the dish and using a particular foam to enhance its presentation or appearance, to playing around with different textures, and of course in an industrial setting, the production of foams with the use of a siphon makes it possible to store these substances longer.
While the hand held/stand mixer or milk frother are extremely common equipment employed to create light foams, today, chefs around the world are opting to use the uber-cool and versatile, siphon gun/whipping siphon which can be used for making foams of all kinds. It is a container you fill with liquid and then pressurize with nitrous oxide or occasionally carbon dioxide. They are very effective at creating foams and also help in the storage of liquids one would be foaming over time.
So the next time you dig into that ramekin of crème brule or gorge on that luscious slice of Tiramisu, or stuff your face with pink bendy marshmallows, remember you’re a part of the modernist culinary revolution!
Image Courtesy: wikipedia.org, modernistcookingmadeeasy.com, Lavonne patisserie