Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Maillard cake


Maillard reaction is the caramelizing of sugars in the presence of a protein. It is what occurs when you bake bread (on the surface), roast a chicken, toast bread, make toffee, etc.
I wanted to make a cake where I could bring together the flavor of Maillard on different ingredients.




The sponge is cornbread, made with toasted cornmeal. The insert (or inclusion) is brown butter panna cotta, studded with toffee coated with caramelized white chocolate. The most exciting item though is the body of the cake. The reason is this: when you make a Bavarian cream, you combine almost equal parts of creme anglaise with some gelatin and lightly whipped heavy cream. The exciting part here happened almost by accident. I toasted a few baguettes (nice and dark) and steeped them in hot heavy cream. I left them in a little too long, so this made the bread soggy. I only wanted to infuse the flavor of the bread into the cream, but now I was stuck with a soggy mess. I fished as much of the bread as I could, but that was not enough. I pureed the liquid I had left in the pot with an immersion blender and then passed it through a chinois. The resulting liquid was identical in consistency as a creme anglaise. At this point I thought, why not replace the anglaise completely with this puree? I added some sugar to it and then proceeded with the regular Bavarian method. It worked out very well. The texture was both smooth and flavorful. Since then we have tried it with doughnuts and croissants with successful results. The trick is to get it to the right consistency.

This cake is coated with a combination of cocoa butter and vegetable ash, which is what gives it its dark hue. And a toasted morsel of sourdough.

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