Monday, January 4, 2010

Brown goo

Ever since I discovered the difference a small package of goo would bring to my long weekend bike-rides I have been a rabid advocate for the stuff. All the manufacturers I have tried (Powergel, Gu, Clif-shots) appear to make both palatable and hideous concoctions of this wonder-glue. None of the flavors I have tried are particularly great. Some are very industrial and have an aftertaste that, in California, must require a warning for pregnant mothers.

The commercial packages are interesting also. The act of squeezing out the sticky substance while pedaling hard and steering usually makes for some spillage. The spillage gets on the handlebars and onto your face and everywhere. Sometimes bits of road flotsam sticks to the primed surfaces. It is hard to look dashing with leaves or candy wrappers stuck to ones face.

The worst part about them is their price. These wonder packets run almost a dollar apiece in quantity. If you do not buy up a rack of the stuff you might be lucky not to be left with some baby vomit flavor on the shelf leading up to a major event.

So I decided to make my own.

There are many on-line homemade gel recipes. They range from the marvelous, like mine, to the absolutely horrid. One of the more thoughtful approaches to gel recipes I found was done by some fellow called Jim Ley and can be found on his website.

My recipe requires espresso.  Fresh espresso.  Fresh espresso made with distilled water, though other purification techniques or even fresh spring water should work well.  I use an Italian stove-top espresso maker. 

To the hot espresso I add about 1/8 tsp of salt per 2 cup2.  This is about 4X the amount of salt that would be recommended if you used some commercial salt suppliment like lava salts.  I sometimes use lavasalts to good effect. 

Fresh Honey is then added to taste.  About 1 TBSP offsets the salt taste enough to make the espresso drinkable again.  Sometimes I use up to 3 TBSP to make it extra sweet.

Next comes the process of making the goo gooey.  Maltodextrin is available from many sources.  I was lucky enough to get a multi-pound bottle in a clearance bin of a supermarket.  I have recently run out and I am shopping for a good price on some.  This material is an oligosaccharide.  Chemically it is not quite a starch and a whole lot more than a simple sugar.  This changes the glycemic index of the material.  The calories are still readily available but they do not cause the sugar crash that simple candies can cause.  I have also not suffered stomach issues though I could probably eat anchovy pizza an my long rides and be OK.

Maltodextrin is added until the material reaches a consistency of thin syrup. The kind of syrup they serve at IHOP.  This is almost two cups per two cup batch.  Since the maltodextrin settles this should be done by feel rather than by rote addition.  Also, add the maltodextrin slowly while stirring.  I have done this over low heat on the stove but have found this unnecessary when I make sure the espresso is hot and fresh.  You can tell that the viscosity is building up but it still flows well.  When the material cools the viscosity will go up significantly.  If you try and add maltodextrin until you reach a goo-like viscosity you will begin to get clumping of the maltodextrin. 

Finally I add a TBSP per two cup batch of modified corn starch.  There are several types this material that work well and are readily available.  I have used bot "Wonder starch" from the supermarket bakery section and "ThickIt" which I got from the pharmacy section of WalMart.  The modified cornstarch dissolves easily and gives the material an extra gooeyness.  The starch is quite effective an if you do not want paste instead of goo use it sparingly.

I had tried so-called gel-flasks a couple of times and found that they worked well enough. Each flask carries about 4 ounces of gel. This is about 4 packets give-or-take. It is easiest to dispense the material into the flasks while it is still hot.

Once in the gelflasks the goo can be frozen for future use.  I have frozen the material for up to five months and had it thaw out to be almost as good as new.

Each flask provides around 300 calories of pure carbohydrate fuel.

There you have my brown goo recipe.  Use it well if you use it.

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