Fun with Foams

By Sharon Hudgins • Photographs Courtesy Sharon Hudgins

For the past quarter century, foamy-textured foods have been fashionable with restaurant chefs in many parts of the world: fruit and berry foams, vegetable foams, fish-egg foams, even wood-scented water foam—whatever flavor might tickle the diner’s palate (and look good on an Instagram photo).

But there’s nothing new under the sun. Frothy foods have been around for centuries: British syllabubs, French mousses and sabayons, Italian zabaglione, Russian gogol-mogol, and German Weinschaum, to name only a few. Those early foams were made with whisks usually whittled from tree branches. But today’s cooks have a battery of modern tools available: metal whisks, electric mixers, immersion blenders, frothers, siphons, and expensive gadgets that look like they belong in a sci-fi movie.

Foamy foods made with those tools can be sweet or savory, light or dense, and served at temperatures ranging from hot to frozen. My favorites are the thick foams made from eggs, sugar, and wine, most often served as desserts or sweet sauces: French sabayon, Italian zabaglione, and German Weinschaum (“wine foam”) or Weinchaudeau (a combination of German and French words meaning “wine-hot-water,” since these mixtures are cooked over hot water). A slightly thinner version is the German sauce known as Weinschaumsosse or Weinschaumsauce (“wine-foam sauce”), sometimes made as a savory sauce for fish or vegetable dishes, but more often as a sweet sauce to accompany fresh fruits and berries, ice creams, crêpes, soufflés, cakes, and puddings.

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