Rice, sesame seeds, oil, salt. That’s all you need to create some tasty little crispy treats and learn a bit of food science. OK, and a dehydrator. That helps too. But that makes it science-y, right? Right.
What we’re going to do here is go through a series of transformations – from grain and seed to paste to a dry jerky-like texture to a crunchy crisp. But it’s not just a crisp – it is a foam. Yes, that is what it is. See, it turns out that foams aren’t just liquid like the froth of shaving cream or the milk floating on top of your latte. Bread? A foam. Soufflé? A foam. Marshmellows? A foam. If it has bubbles trapped in a matrix, it’s pretty much a foam. Who knew?
And so are rice crisps. Specifically, a thermo-irreversible set foam. A set foam is just a foam where the liquid in between the bubbles has become solid. Thermo-irreversible means it won’t liquify once it cools back down. You heat it up, it becomes solid, it stays that way. From Modernist Cuisine:
You might not think of [puffed snacks] as foams, but that is exactly what they are. They are made by creating a dense starch gel, and then mostly dehydrating it. When it is deep fried…the residual water expands as it turns to steam and transforms the starch gel into a set foam.
Mmm…thermo-irreversable set foams. Let’s make some.
As far as complexity goes, this recipe is pretty straight forward. First you over boil the rice until it is like a porridge. Then you grab a hand blender and make it all goopy.
From there you add in your sesame. Otherwise, I think the flavor would be like those super bland unflavored puffed rice cakes. Those do not pass the delicious test. Even with peanut butter they seem defeated. Poor rice cakes.
Next you take your glop and spread it on a silicone mat. It is ready for its next transformation.
Your mat of rice sesame paste is now thrown into a dehydrator for at least 3 hours to get nice and dried out. You tear it up into pieces and it is ready to go through its final transformation.
It must be noted that your technique of spreading it on the mat is the key step: it must be a thin layer, or else it doesn’t dry out well. And then it won’t fry well. And then it will be chewy, not crispy. How do I know this? Well, let’s say personal experience has guided me.
Now that we have our little packages of foam-in-waiting, we just plop them in a pot of hot oil, and within seconds, you have yourself a crispy foam treat.
The black of my sesame seeds darkened the rice. In Modernist Cuisine, their crisp is a nice bright white. Not sure how they pulled that one off. But no matter – with a generous helping of salt, the sesame flavor bursts out with a crispy goodness. I paired them with a roasted red pepper hummus. Yes, indeed, that worked out well.
This recipe wants me to try to fry other foams. I have plums coming off the tree right now. I could take them, turn them into a thick, settable foam and deep fry it, right? I mean, c’mon, they deep fry beer at county fairs for crying out loud. Oh dear, food science can really foment all sorts of ideas. Hahahaha…yeah, anyway, I’m going to go finish these and we’ll catch up later. Cheers!