Sunday, May 31, 2009

Texture in the presence of constant moisture

One of the challenges of dessert production in a patisserie/cafe environment vs. a restaurant environment, is that you cannot make anything a la minute in a cafe. Everything has to be finished ahead of time and displayed in a refrigerated case. It is here where a pastry chef can succeed greatly, but equally fail miserably. The considerations are many when food is placed in such a harsh environment (cold, moist circulating air kills food, which is why in your refrigerator, everything is, or should be, wrapped or in a container). Basically most things that are crispy or have texture tend to become soft and soggy in a matter of hours if not minutes. One of the solutions is to use chocolate, but many times chocolate is not part of the flavor profile of a dessert. So to use chocolate just for the sake of chocolate is kind of like cheating. So I cheated a little in this particular dessert, and I am OK, with that. Let me explain why.

This dessert has 5 components, all meant to be happy together. The pipette (the protruding red thing on top, used in labs) is filled with a hibiscus infusion (commercial name: Ruby Sippers tisane... google it), the top layer is a wonderful product: crispy puffed rice coated in white chocolate... we'll come back to that; next is a layer of barely gelled sweet yuzu, then a vanilla panna cotta (also barely gelled; I hate panna cottas that can stand alone on a plate. It just looks unnatural and like something that came out of a jell-o box) and all the way at the bottom, a passion fruit curd; so these are exotic-tropical flavors in a small 2 fl oz glass. The intention is to squeeze the infusion on top of the dessert and then stir it with a spoon so that all of the flavors can be evenly combined. The chocolate coated puffed rice adds little blasts of texture with every bite. So... why white chocolate? Well, because it isn't chocolate and it tastes nothing like chocolate; they are really just small spheres of sweetness and crunch.

These spheres or pearls, if you will, are also available in milk and dark chocolate. They work great for desserts that are to be held in a refrigerated display case since they can keep a crunchy texture for long periods of time (within reason; we always discard any desserts that are over 36 hours in the case, which rarely ever happens).


  1. totally with you on the texture of the gels, i hate when they are overly gelled, especially panna cotta, i like it when its just holding together enough to basically be collapsing in on itself from its own weight.

  2. I love this, particularly the combination of flavors. I have some dark chocolate puffed rice so I am taking note of your use of them.

  3. Are you using a Valrohna product? They have a nice line of pearls of chocolat coated biscuit.