Posted: Jan. 1 2008, 23:12 ET
Tomorrow I'll post some of the great tips I've developed that do work and work very well. For now I'll post what hasn't worked so far. Maybe one of you will have better luck than me and tell me what I'm doing wrong.
There are two different ways to make the glucomannan "flour" into the substance we know and love (technically a thermo-stable permanent hydrocolloid).
The first (the one described on most of the sites) is to blend the the flour into a solution of water and calcium hydroxide and heat it to 80 degrees Celsius for 5 minutes. The resulting product should be thermo-stable after it cools.
The second is to combine the flour and water, then cook down to a paste, then extrude into a bath of water and calcium hydroxide and heat at 80 degrees Celsius for 5 minutes.
If you don't heat it to 80 degrees for 5 minutes, the reaction doesn't happen and you just have goo.
The problem with process #1 is that, for me, the reaction never seems to happen uniformly. I usually end up with a quantity of goo with a quantity of properly solidified chunks here and there. What I was hoping for was to heat the goo, have it start to set, and then run through the pasta machine before it set up completely, outputting it into cool water where it would set up permanently in that shape. In my experience so far it starts to solidify even hot, and already is too solid to be pressed through the pasta extruder -- it just jams up in the machine.
Process #2 hasn't worked at all because I haven't been able to cook the flour/water down into a paste that is thick enough to hold it's shape and be extruded into anything useful. I also figure it needs to be pretty solid in order to hold it's shape when it goes into the hot calcium hydroxide solution (instead of just dissolving).
I've only made successful permanent hydrocolloid 3 ways so far -- all sheets (which is something I want to make too).
The first method was by setting up a glass dish in a double boiler type arrangement, smearing a sheet of the flour/lime/water goo in the bottom, heating enough to set it a little, then adding water and boiling in the microwave until it set up nice. This yielded the most thoroughly cured sample so far.
The second method was by laying down a thin layer of the goo in a glass dish and baking it in the oven at about 350 degrees F (lower temperatures would have seemed to be right since you only need about 180 F to cure it -- but due to evaporation, the indirect heat of an oven, etc., 350 F seemed to be needed). This resulted in dried out edges and a center that wasn't super well cured.
The third method was by using the flat griddle plate in my George Foreman G5 grill (the one with various replaceable plates) and heating a thin sheet of the flour/lime/water goo from top and bottom on high for 5 minutes. The heat of the GF was not completely uniform and boiled the goo in some places (curing it well) and not much at all in others leaving it gooey.
I think the best answer would probably involve somehow making just flour/water into a thick enough paste to stay in shape and not dissolve long enough to be dispensed into a solution of water/lime that was already up to temp. I've spent hours and hours and hours playing with this (most of my holiday vacation actually) and just not had much success. Hopefully one of you will try your hand at it and nail it right off and tell me how dumb I am and give me the simple answer.