Blown Sugar / Isomalt Sphere Filled with Smoke
A blown sugar sphere can add a dramatic presentation to desserts or even savory dishes. Some of the best molecular gastronomy chefs have used the blown sugar technique beyond cake decoration, sugarwork showpieces and sugar sculptures for weddings, banquet halls, cruises, pastry competitions and TV shows. By making blown sugar spheres filled with smoke that are smashed open at the table by the diner or blown sugar pieces that resemble fruits and are filled with foam, these modernist chefs have gotten the attention of their guests. Watch the video below!
Always admired and have been fascinated by glass blowers? Well, now may be the time to learn a very similar technique to blow sugar and be admired by your guests. It takes some practice, but it is not as difficult as it looks.
The word sugar is often used as a general term that also includes sugar derivatives. But for sugarwork, we often use isomalt instead of table sugar (sucrose). Isomalt is a derivative of beet sugar and is perfect for sugarwork. Isomalt hardens crystal clear, it is more resistant to humidity and it is easier to work with than regular sugar. You can buy isomalt from our store and you can learn what is isomalt in our ingredients guide.
Jordi Roca, named World's Best Pastry Chef 2014 and the pastry chef of the current second best restaurant in the world, El Celler de Can Roca, is a big fan of using isomalt and creating blown sugar spheres, blown sugar fruits and vegetables for his incredible desserts.
One of Jordi Roca's most interesting desserts using blown sugar is mushroom ice cream topped with a large isomalt balloon filled with oak smoke. Joan Roca says "when you get the smell of the oak, it brings memories and has a comforting aroma". This is the idea we'll be using to teach you how to make a blown sugar sphere, the simplest blown sugar shape you can make, in this isomalt recipe.
Blown sugar pieces can also be shaped and colored by adding water-dissolved powder color to the isomalt or by spray-painting it. These techniques can be used to make a blown sugar piece resembling a fruit that can then be filled with foam. For example, Chef Jordi Roca recreates an apricot by adding some orange coloring to the melted isomalt and, after blowing a sphere and while it is still hot, he uses a metal spatula to add shape to the sphere to resemble an apricot. After cooling it with a fan, he spray paints it with raspberry and adds powdered sugar to add the texture. The isomalt sugar apricot is then filled with an apricot foam and the plate is decorated with concentrated coulis of apricot.
Below is a blown sugar apple filled with apple foam, also from Chef Jordi Roca.
And at restaurant El Bohío in Spain, the blown sugar sphere technique is used to make Flan de Caramelo, a golden sphere filled with caramel flan foam and garnished with caramel sauce.
A variation of this technique by Chef Roca is to cover the blown sugar sphere in chocolate and fill it with layers of chocolate mousse and hazelnut cream to make his famous Bombon de Chocolate. Garnished with cocoa sorbet, small spheres of crème anglaise frozen in liquid nitrogen, toasted hazelnuts and topped with a gold sheet. This dessert was inspired by Chef Roca's childhood memories of the wrapped chocolates his aunt, who worked at Nestlé, would bring on Christmas Eve.
The transparent blown isomalt sphere can also be used to make a "snow globe dessert" showcasing a beautiful dessert inside with foam and flowers such as this one by Chef Roca which he calls Flower Bomb.
And finally, his signature beet dessert. A blown sugar beet is filled with beet foam, plated on cocoa meringue that resembles dirt, scented with distilled earth and garnished with a beet sprout and raw beet slices. Wow!
As you can see, there are many creative uses for blown isomalt spheres, fruits and vegetables in modernist cuisine. So get your Isomalt Blowing Kit ready and start practicing sugar art! Watch the isomalt blowing video above to get started.
Ingredients for Blown Sugar Sphere
- 1lb (454 g) Isomalt (included in Isomalt Blowing Kit)
- 1.6 oz (45 g) water
- Sugar Blowing Pump (included in Isomalt Blowing Kit)
- Protective Gloves (included in Isomalt Blowing Kit)
- Silpat mat
- Heat lamp to warm isomalt
- Small fan or hair dryer with cold setting
- Small round cookie cutter
- Desiccant Packets (included in Isomalt Blowing Kit)
- Optional: Smoking Gun (if you want to fill isomalt sphere with cold smoke)
Preparing Isomalt for Blowing
If you have isomalt nibs, you can skip this step. If you have isomalt crystals, please follow the instructions below.
1- Pour the water into a medium saucepan and set it over medium heat.
2- Add a small amount of isomalt and carefully stir occasionally using a spatula until it melts. Make sure the isomalt doesn’t touch the sides or it will stick. Keep the sides of the saucepan clean using a clean wet spatula to prevent this.
3- Repeat step 2 adding small amounts of isomalt until all the isomalt is melted.
4- Boil the isomalt for at least 20 minutes until it reaches a temperature between 165 °C (330 °F) and 171 °C (340 °F). The length of time you boil it will determine the amount of water that will be left in the isomalt. The more water the more elastic the resulting isomalt will be. So if you boil it too fast, the isomalt may contain too much water and may not be strong enough to hold its shape after it is blown. If you boil it too slow, the water content will be too low and the isomalt may crack easily.
5- Pour the isomalt over a silpat mat on a marble counter.
6- Let it cool down until the edges start to harden a little and, using protective gloves, fold the edges inwards.
7- Repeat the process until all the isomalt has been incorporated.
8- Knead the isomalt by folding it in half and letting it fall on itself. Repeat this process until the isomalt is cool enough that it will hold its shape.
9- Start pulling and twisting the isomalt. Hold one end against the silpat and pull the other end to stretch it. Twist it twice and fold it half pressing the ends together. Repeat this process until you obtain a silky sheen.
10- Pull the isomalt a couple of times without twisting.
11- Cut it with scissors in small pieces for storage.
12- Store prepared isomalt pieces in a container with desiccant packets.
Blowing an Isomalt Sphere
1- Warm up the isomalt pieces you are planning to use under a heat lamp.
2- Knead and pull the isomalt to even the temperature and create a smooth ball. It is very important to have the same temperature in all areas of the isomalt to successfully blow a sphere.
3- With your index finger, push the isomalt to create a hole making sure the thickness of the isomalt wall around the edges and bottom of the hole is the same.
4- Warm the edges of the hole over the flame of an alcohol burner and place it over the sugar blowing pump tube. Make sure the end of the tube doesn’t touch the bottom of the hole. You need an air pocket to be able to pump air.
5- Holding the tube and isomalt with one hand and holding the pump with the other, slowly start pumping air and rotating the isomalt sphere to check that it is inflating evenly. Warmer areas will inflate more than colder areas. To correct this, touch the warmer area with your hand to cool it down.
6- Once the sphere has reached desired size, cool it down using the fan or hair dryer in cold setting. The idea for these modernist applications is to make the wall of the sphere as thin as possible but this requires practice. The one in the video is a little thicker than what you really want.
7- To remove the sphere from the pump tube, warm up the isomalt over the alcohol burner where it connects to the tube. Warm up the scissors and carefully cut the sphere from the tube. Place the sphere over a cloth or soft surface so it doesn’t break when you cut it.
8- To clean the tube, place it over the alcohol burner to warm up the isomalt and using the scissors, pull it out.
9- To cut a hole, warm up a small round metal cookie cutter over the alcohol burner while you warm up the isomalt sphere under the heat lamp or further away over the burner. Place the cookie cutter on the counter facing upwards and carefully place the isomalt sphere on top, with some slight pressure until you cut a hole.
10- Store the spheres in a container with desiccant packets until serving time.
Assemble and Serve
- Fill the isomalt sphere with cold smoke using a smoking gun. Place the sphere over desired dish or dessert. Serve immediately.
- Alternatively, you can fill the sphere with a foam using an iSi Whip. Isomalt sphere can also be spray painted to resemble a fruit for example.