Published: October 2006

Making Sugar Garnishes with Isomalt
Pastry Chef Albert Adria of el Bulli – Roses, Spain
Adapted by StarChefs

Isomalt is a modified sucrose developed in the 80's as a sugar substitute for diabetics. Although usually packaged as tubs of large, white crystals, isomalt is less prone to crystallization and less likely to absorb moisture than sugar. Other than being about half as sweet, it retains most of the same properties as table sugar. The advantages of cooking with a product that is less sweet than sugar, but still able to caramelize and work as a sugar, have propelled isomalt from industrial production into progressive pastry and savory kitchens. Chef Albert Adria of el Bulli uses isomalt to make a sugar casing in the shape of a bird's head that is filled with black sesame praline. The crisp, elongated sphere has a long, hummingbird-like beak and is only one element of Adria's dish, The Hummingbird.

Step 1: Caramelize the isomalt and glucose together in a saucepan

Step 2: Remove from heat and submerge a heatproof cutter, like exoglass, in the sugar

Step 3: Lift the ring in and out of the sugar, repeatedly, until a membrane forms

Step 4: Working quickly, place the ring on Silpat, drop a small mound of praline in the center, and raise the ring to form a hemisphere

Step 5: Pinch the top to disconnect from the ring and to form the beak

The Hummingbird (Colibri)
Pastry Chef Albert Adria of el Bulli – Roses, Spain
Adapted by

Yield: 4 Servings

Albert Adria's The Hummingbird (Colibri) on StarChefs.comIngredients:

    Elderberry Flower Ice Cream:
  • 400 grams water
  • 40 grams glucose
  • 15 grams dextrose
  • 10 grams trimoline (inverted sugar)
  • 30 grams sugar
  • 2.3 grams stabilizer
  • 6.5 grams powdered milk
  • 70 grams elderberry flower concentrate

    Sponge Cake:
  • 10 egg yolks
  • 250 grams sugar
  • 10 egg whites
  • 200 grams loose flour
  • 50 grams corn starch

    Rose Syrup:
  • 250 grams water
  • 50 grams sugar
  • 15 grams rosewater

    Cocoa Syrup:
  • 60 grams sugar
  • Water to cover
  • 100 grams cocoa nibs

    Elderberry Flower Gelatin:
  • 100 grams water
  • 3½ sheets gelatin
  • 100 grams elderberry flower concentrate

    Black Sesame Praline:
  • 225 grams black sesame seeds
  • 50 grams sunflower oil

    Hummingbird Head:
  • 100 grams isomalt
  • 20 grams glucose
  • Black Sesame Praline (recipe above)
  • 1 (4-centimeter) hoop

    Hummingbird Wings:
  • 250 grams lychee juice
  • 125 grams water
  • Liquid nitrogen

  • 12 fresh elderberry flower sprigs
  • 2 caramelized violets, cut into tiny pieces
  • Yuzu peel, dehydrated into a powder

For Elderberry Flower Ice Cream:
Mix water, glucose, dextrose and trimoline in a saucepan and heat to 45°C (113°F). In a bowl, mix sugar with stabilizer and powdered milk. Add the sugar mixture to the saucepan and heat it without stopping until it reaches 90°C (194°F). Remove saucepan from heat and stir in the elderberry flower concentrate. Refrigerate mixture for 8 hours, then put through an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

For Sponge Cake:
Preheat the oven to 210°C (410°F). Using a mixer, whip the egg yolks with 200 grams of sugar. Separately whip the whites with the remaining 50 grams of sugar to make a meringue. Add 1/3 of the meringue to the yolks, whipping it until smooth. Sprinkle the flour and cornstarch over the mixture, and finish adding the rest of the meringue, stirring to combine. Pour batter into a pan and bake for 7 minutes, then cut into 4 tear-shaped pieces. These will form the bodies of the hummingbirds.

For Rose Syrup:
In a saucepan, heat water and sugar until boiling. Remove from heat. Add rosewater when mixture has cooled.

For Cocoa Syrup:
Place sugar in a saucepan and add just enough, water to cover. Mix and cook the syrup until it reaches 117°C (243°F). Remove the pan from the heat and add the cocoa nibs, stirring until the sugar crystallizes and lightens. Return the pan to the heat to caramelize the cocoa nibs. Store the syrup in a dry place.

For Elderberry Flower Gelatin:
Put water in a saucepan and heat to 45°C (113°F). Add gelatin, removing pan from heat once the gelatin has dissolved. Slowly add the elderberry flower concentrate and leave the mixture to coagulate in the refrigerator.

For Black Sesame Praline:
Toast the sesame seeds until they give off an aroma. In a blender, grind toasted sesame seeds with the sunflower oil until you get a praline. Put into a squeeze bottle. This mixture is used to fill the head of the hummingbird.

For Hummingbird Head:
Put the isomalt and glucose into a saucepan and heat until they caramelize. Remove the
caramel from the heat and submerge hoop into it. Lift the hoop several times until you can see that a membrane has formed inside it. Working quickly, place the hoop on a Silpat and fill with a small mound of sesame praline. Raise the hoop to encase the praline in the caramel, forming a hemisphere. Pinch the top of the caramel to form the beak. It will solidify in a few seconds.

For Hummingbird Wings:
Mix the lychee juice with the water. At the same time, submerge two soup spoons into the liquid nitrogen until they are frozen. Fill the spoon with the lychee juice and leave it for a few seconds. Remove the juice from the spoon (part of the juice will remain stuck to the spoon). Put the spoon back into the liquid nitrogen for a few seconds; when you take it out you will have a small, arched mold formed in the shape of the spoon, made of lychee. Keep it frozen until the moment you plate the dish.

To Assemble and Serve:
In the center of the plate, place three tiny spoonfuls of the elderberry flower gelatin. In the middle of this put 3 small sprigs of elderberry. Sprinkle a little of the dehydrated yuzu powder and the caramelized violets among the elderberry sprigs. Soak the sponge cake in the rosewater syrup and then place it on the plate. On top of it place a scoop of the ice cream. Along the sides, place the wings made of frozen lychee. Just before serving, put the cocoa syrup at the opposite end of the plate from the gelatin. In the middle of all this place the hummingbird, and crown it with the caramel head.