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How does Heston Blumenthal create drinks that are hot on one side and cold on the other?
January 8, 2008 8:28 AM   Subscribe

How does Heston Blumenthal create drinks that are hot on one side and cold on the other?

In his "Perfect Christmas" show, Heston Blumenthal served Mulled Wine which was hot on the left and cold on the right. Apparently he serves something similar at The Fat Duck - something called "Hot & Iced Tea".
I thought maybe it was to do with liquids with different densities, but surely the liquids would end up one on top of the other rather than side by side.
Any ideas?
posted by chill to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
The appliance of science


Blowing hot and cold

Heston Blumenthal
Saturday April 16, 2005
The Guardian

I am really excited by the new dishes we've been developing, some of which will be on the menu later this month. One of them is a drink that is hot if you drink from one side of the glass it's served in and cold on the other.

How do we do it? Well, there is a particular gelling agent that we've been using for a couple of years, which enables us to make what is known as a fluid gel. We use it to make an almond purée, for example. First we make an almond milk by infusing milk with slightly roasted crushed almonds, then we mix the almond milk with the gelling agent and allow it to set into a jelly. Once it's set, we blitz it to break it up into tiny little globules that are so small the mixture looks like a purée or cream. The beauty of this is that, because it has no starch-based ingredients to thicken it, it is very clean in the mouth and so lets the almond flavour really shine through.

We apply the same technique to the hot and cold drink. If you use just the right amount of gelling agent and get the set just right, you end up with a liquid like a syrup that isn't really a liquid at all but rather a jelly that's been broken down into millions of little pieces. We gently warm some of it and leave the rest cold. We put a divider down the middle of a glass and fill one side with the hot gel and the other with cold. Then lift up the divider and, hey presto, you have what looks like a glass filled with a single liquid. Only it isn't a liquid, it's two fluid gels that will keep separate long enough for you to feel the difference. We could make one side fizzy and the other still, or make them two different colours, but I think the dish works best if both sides look the same.
posted by occhiblu at 8:55 AM on January 8, 2008 [15 favorites]


That is fucking cool as shit.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:58 AM on January 8, 2008


No, that is fucking half hot and half cool as shit.
posted by beagle at 9:07 AM on January 8, 2008 [3 favorites]


So now that we know how he does it, is there any way at all of doing this at home?
posted by inigo2 at 9:07 AM on January 8, 2008


is there any way at all of doing this at home?
Notice he does not tell you what the "particular jelling agent is". If he is smart he will patent the technique before he reveals that, and then start selling home-brew kits to do this. All of these scientific cooking operations really have laboratories rather than kitchens and spend lots of time perfecting their gimmicks, which tend to remain proprietary.
posted by beagle at 9:13 AM on January 8, 2008


s/b "gelling"
posted by beagle at 9:14 AM on January 8, 2008


I did find this article about chemical cooking, but I think beagle's right, at the very least it would require a rather large investment of time and gelling agents to figure out which ones work the best.

Fluid gel lies somewhere between a gel and a sauce and is made by a process of gelling and un-gelling a liquid base. The gelling agent must be sheer-thinning, meaning it can liquify in a blender and stay liquified, rather than turning solid again. In this example, black sesame seeds were used to flavor water, which was bound and gelled with agar agar, then sheered (un-gelled) in a blender to make a black sesame fluid gel.
posted by occhiblu at 9:19 AM on January 8, 2008


Notice he does not tell you what the "particular jelling agent is"

Perhaps it is locust bean gum and xanthan gum (cf. question 8).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:22 AM on January 8, 2008


Ah ha! Well found occhiblu, I clearly suck at the Google game.
posted by chill at 9:22 AM on January 8, 2008


Ah ha! Well found occhiblu, I clearly suck at the Google game.

I think I tried "Blumenthal hot cold," which luckily happened to be in that article's headline, which helped.
posted by occhiblu at 9:30 AM on January 8, 2008


That is fucking cool as shit+1
posted by munchingzombie at 9:31 AM on January 8, 2008


I've seen a few of his programmes and he makes frequent reference to 'a special gelling agent you can't buy in the shops'. Which would fit with it being a 'secret'/patentable substance.
posted by altolinguistic at 9:34 AM on January 8, 2008


Maybe, or it could just be that it is not readily available in the shops. For example, some of the chemicals used at El Bulli are available to buy as part of the Texturas range. But it is of course one thing knowing the chemical, and another knowing the proportions required, and the technique required.
posted by chill at 9:46 AM on January 8, 2008


Notice he does not tell you what the "particular jelling agent is"

My guess would be gelan - a heat-resistant gelling agent which has been getting loads of attention among the molecular gastronomy set. Heston used it at least once over the course of the latest series of his show "In Search of Perfection" (for thickening custard, iirc).

I'm now off to punish myself for using the "molecular gastronomy" phrase. God-damn but somebody needs to come up with a less cronge-worthy name.
posted by kxr at 10:46 AM on January 8, 2008


Those aren't chemicals, they're mostly natural products (OK, OK you could probabaly dig up their chemical composition).
All the gels El Bulli uses give instructions based on water so basically adjust for the specific gravity of the liquid you need to use.
(Wow, I love the fact that an ancient Irish food stuff, Cairigin moss, has now become an elite thickening agent with a name that suggest a groups of, e.g. caregeenans used by probably the best chef in the world). Sigh
posted by Wilder at 10:48 AM on January 8, 2008


Bah... That'd be "gellan" with two l's, explaining why all the articles Google found me when I was looking for a link for that previous post were so piss-poor. I should know by now that if wikipedia doesn't have an entry for what I'm looking for, I'm probably spelling it wrong.
posted by kxr at 10:49 AM on January 8, 2008


So it's a gel, but you can drink it? I don't get how that works, unless it's like drinking syrup.
posted by smackfu at 11:18 AM on January 8, 2008


So it's a gel, but you can drink it? I don't get how that works

I think it's kinda like a ball-pool. You look close enough then you can see lots of solid objects, but all together they behave like a liquid.
posted by kxr at 11:25 AM on January 8, 2008


There is a free collection of hydrocolloid *recipes at blog.khymos.org
(which is a great resource for this sort of thing). It doesn't have a hot and cold recipe, though it does have the recipe for the Almond Fluid Gel, which uses Gellan (kxr was right).

Agar Agar is also a possible candidate for the hot and cold drink. Not only does is have the righht physical properties as occhiblu, points out, but unlike gelatin, it sets and remelts at different temperatures -- setting initially at 110°F/38°C, but remelting at 185°F/85°C so it can be served hot.

* substances that form a gel with water
posted by tallus at 11:51 AM on January 8, 2008


Heston Blumenthal is batshit crazy, really he is. I first saw him on Full On Food, and I haven't changed my mind since. I'd love to visit his restaurant of insanity.
posted by sycophant at 12:09 PM on January 8, 2008


So it's a gel, but you can drink it? I don't get how that works

It's like taking set Jell-O and mashing it up (or putting it in a blender), so it becomes all these tiny little pieces of Jell-O, which are still gelatinous, but together have a liquid-like consistency.

I had the hot/cold tea while I was at the Fat Duck and it was quite mind-blowing. Unfortunately, I don't remember exactly which gelling agent they used, but like kxr said, it's probably gellan. I don't recall agar agar be used for anything at the Fat Duck (though I could be wrong).
posted by BradNelson at 1:35 PM on January 8, 2008


You've eaten there, BradNelson?

This means war.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:21 PM on January 9, 2008


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