Rhubarb And Fennel Tempura Recipe

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While considering other worthwhile applications for flavored beer/soda outside of the beverage realm, tempura batter became glaringly obvious.

Tempura batter is all about texture. It should be light and shatteringly crisp. The best way that I know to achieve this is with a dry mix that consists of:

  • 1 part baking powder (10g),
  • 1.5 parts cornstarch (15g),
  • and 10 parts flour (100g) mixed with 20 parts (200g) carbonated water.

The carbonated water, which can be club soda, seltzer, or even beer, is mixed in at the last minute for three reasons:

  1. The carbonation (carbon dioxide) bubbles inflates the batter but dissipates quickly.
  2. Liquid activates the alkaline and acid in the baking powder to produce carbon dioxide gas that further lightens the batter. Part of the reaction takes place upon mixing and part is activated by applying heat.
  3. The batter should be cooked before the flour granules fully absorb water molecules (gelation), which would inhibit crispness.

For these reasons, tempura batter should be mixed just before dipping and frying to produce optimum crispness. Keeping a dry mix on hand and being familiar with the proper viscosity of the batter makes it practically effortless to mix a fresh batch for each order.

Tempura was introduced to Japan by the Portuguese and adapted from the Portuguese “tempero”, meaning “to season”. Contrarily, tempura batter is typically neutral in flavor. Using spruce beer in place of the carbonated water was an opportunity to introduce flavor into the batter. The spruce flavor was not as pronounced as I had hoped– starches have a tendency to mute flavor– but it did push through and produced a more dimensional tempura.

I was curious if the yeast in the spruce beer would have an effect on the batter. Logically, it shouldn’t–yeast is slow to activate– but there was something irresistibly brittle about this batch of tempura that warrants further exploration.

This also got me thinking about all of the commercially available sodas that could be used to flavor tempura.

Limonetto/shrimp… Orange Slice/carrot… Dr Pepper/duck… Root beer/Vidalia onion… anyone?

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