Spherification (“SFEER-i-fi-CAY-shun”) is a supercool technique that transforms liquids into solid, edible spheres. (Get it? SPHERE-ification?) Chefs use this technique to add color, texture, and flavor to their dishes—and now you can, too! Use the spheres as a topping or garnish or drop them into drinks (like bubbly soda water). No matter how you serve them, they will impress and surprise your friends and family. Plus, they’re fun to make!
At least 4 hours before you want to make your spheres, pour oil into container, close lid, and place container in refrigerator.
Pour 2 tablespoons flavorful liquid into small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over surface of liquid. Use rubber spatula to stir until no large lumps remain. Set aside.
Pour ¼ cup flavorful liquid into liquid measuring cup. Microwave on high power until steaming but not boiling, 30 to 45 seconds.
Pour hot liquid over gelatin mixture (ask an adult for help). Whisk mixture until fully combined and no lumps remain.
Carefully pour flavorful liquid mixture into squeeze bottle (ask an adult for help). Secure top on squeeze bottle. Refrigerate until liquid feels just slightly cool to touch when you hold squeeze bottle, about 10 minutes.
Remove container of oil from refrigerator and place in center of large bowl. In second large bowl, use rubber spatula to stir together ice and salt. Carefully arrange salted ice around oil container in first large bowl. Pour water into large bowl with ice.
Time to make spheres! Carefully remove lid from container of oil. Hold squeeze bottle of flavorful liquid mixture over container of oil at an angle. Gently squeeze bottle until droplets of liquid fall into oil. Each droplet should form a spherical shape and fall to bottom of oil.
In sink, set fine-mesh strainer over medium bowl. Carefully pour oil-sphere mixture into strainer, using rubber spatula to gently scrape any remaining spheres into strainer.
Time to enjoy your spheres!
To use spheres right away: Fill second medium bowl about halfway with water. Transfer spheres from fine-mesh strainer to bowl of water. Use rubber spatula to gently stir spheres in water to remove excess oil. Working over sink, pour water-sphere mixture back into strainer, letting water go down drain. Serve your spheres!
To store spheres for later: Transfer spheres from fine-mesh strainer to airtight container. Use rubber spatula to gently scrape any stuck spheres out of strainer. Add strained vegetable or canola oil until spheres are just covered with oil. Place lid on container and refrigerate spheres for up to 1 week.
How do the liquid droplets transform into solid, round spheres? The whole process is like a sped-up version of making Jell-O. When you make Jell-O, you add hot water to the Jell-O powder. That powder contains sugar, flavorings, and gelatin. Once the powder is dissolved in the hot water, you put the liquid Jell-O in the refrigerator for a few hours and—magic!—it becomes a solid.
It’s all thanks to that gelatin. Gelatin is a kind of protein. It’s made up of long, thin molecules. When gelatin is mixed with a hot liquid, its molecules are loose and flexible and they move around a lot—the liquid stays liquid.
But when the temperature gets colder, the gelatin molecules slow down and start to get tangled, kind of like headphones or earbuds when they’re in your pocket. Eventually, they get so tangled that they trap the liquid inside. The liquid can’t move around or flow: It becomes a solid.
How will you serve your spheres? Here are just a few suggestions: Try sprinkling sweet spheres on top of yogurt or ice cream. Soy sauce spheres are great on steamed rice. Take your avocado toast to the next level with a sprinkling of hot sauce spheres. What if instead of adding vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil to your salad, you sprinkled it with vinegar spheres and before drizzling it with olive oil? Add some spheres to a glass of sparkling water and watch them bob up and down (they add a burst of flavor, too!).
You can spherify just about any liquid you want! You can even mix different liquids to make combination flavor spheres. When kids came to the America’s Test Kitchen Kids lab to make spheres, they had a LOT of great ideas for what liquids they would spherify: lemonade, honey, balsamic vinegar, ketchup, mango juice, chocolate milk, soy sauce, hot sauce, lime juice, and more. There was even talk of making “trick” spheres: Someone suggested using matcha tea, which is green, to make fake “peas.” What flavor spheres will you make?