Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Carrot jellies

As with the method to make the cherry "spaghetti" (http://www.thequenelle.com/2009/08/agar-jelly-spaghetti.html), except this uses fresh carrot juice. We use this as a garnish to our carrot cake. Because we just can't leave good enough alone.

Friday, September 25, 2009

More mac's

There are very few things as special as a macaron, and for those of you who have made them, I think you can truly appreciate how hard it can be to mix it just right, not too much and not too little to get the right consistency, and then to pipe them all to the same size, and finally bake them completely without getting any color on them. And the much sought after foot... the bigger, the better. The rounder the better. The shinier the better. How could anyone have conceived the making of this cookie? I think it had to be an accident. Things this unique cannot have been planned.

On the other hand, why is this cookie not as popular in the U.S. as it should be? Why do people still keep calling it a "macaroon"?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fun with gelatin


I saw a technique many years ago (in Mexico) that consisted in injecting a non-gelled (liquid ) gelatin into a set piece of gelatin. That technique was used to create very elaborate gelatin flowers. It is quite the thing to look at, but I am not sure I'd be into it. It is almost as ridiculous as gum paste flowers which serve no purpose in life and are a labor cost nightmare. But the principle of this method stuck with me and up until this time I had yet to test it. The video shows a clear square of wormwood gelee being injected with a molasses gelee. It's a rather large piece which I would never use for a single portion but it can be cut into smaller pieces and used to garnish a dessert.

Friday, September 18, 2009


This picture to me shows one of the most beautiful things I like to see when it comes to pastry: sameness. These are macarons waiting to be baked. It shows a practiced hand, precision, consistency and skill. As if a machine had made it, and yet it was a human hand. It's not the same as when you see desserts being popped out of a fleximold, where the silicone does the work for you, and then where is the craftsmanship when all you use is a mold? Molds are good to use, but I think restraint should be the mantra. Otherwise why bother?

See it and love it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Crispy milk

A couple of years ago I tested a recipe I saw in one of Paco Torreblanca's books for a dried milk foam. The idea seemed ingenious and simple. Basically whip milk as it boils and then dry it out in the oven. I tested it over and over and over again, failing miserably each time. Last week I decided I should revisit it and I did, but I ignored the instructions this time, and stuck to the ingredients only and then made it as it would make sense to me.

This is just glucose and milk. That's it... no added emulsifiers or stabilizers. The method consists of whipping the milk (500g) with the glucose (100g) in a tall pot (to give it room to foam as it is heated) over medium-high heat. I used a whip attachment I have for a hand held blender which helps because it takes a while but in the end you get a foam, much like shaving cream, that has increased the milk in volume at least eight times.

The foam is then spooned into a hotel pan lined with plastic wrap then placed in the dehydrator set to 50 degrees Celsius until dry. It worked beautifully. With an intensely concentrated rich milk flavor and a terrific crispiness. I can see using this item for a cappuccino inspired dessert.

My whole point on this post is that sometimes you have to ignore the recipe in a book and go with what makes sense to you. I try to be extremely specific in my recipes in my books so that these things don't happen. But who knows, maybe they do.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Non-spherical spherification (encapsulation)

So what do you call the process of spherification when the shape is not spherical? I came across a not so good recipe for spherifying frozen raspberry puree. I thought it was spherifying... I mean, the result was a sphere surrounded by a thin gel.

I know the answer by the way. It is encapsulation. This method I had found consists of dipping a frozen raspberry coulis demi-sphere in a non-specified vegetable gel. The recipe was unclear to say the least. But I understood the principle. You can take a liquid base, freeze it into any shape, then dip it into a gel that will set on the surface of the frozen base as soon as they both come in contact with each other. But isn't that more or less was spherification is? One component reacts to another, forming a gel. So is spherification really just another term for encapsulation?

Regardless, this method is very exciting because you can encapsulate any liquid (virtually) that you can freeze into many shapes (such a the rectangle I chose) inside a gel. The gel I used is carrageenan, which is flavorless and the better cousin of agar that tends to taste like alkalized chum.

Inside the gel is a sweet black sesame liquid. Once you cut through the surface the black liquid flows out. I think it opens many possibilities for the use of liquids on a plate.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Chocolate-rum cannelé

Sometimes I am humbled by classic, simple preparations. One of those preparations is the cannelé. Classically it is a vanilla (and sometimes lemon and/or orange zest) scented pastry, which has the consistency of a crepe batter which is baked in a very hot oven inside a special (and very expensive) mold, which is made of copper on the outside and aluminum (or stainless steel) on the inside. The heat transfer of copper is crucial to a crisp exterior with a smooth almost custard-like interior. You can get silicone molds that are shaped like a metallic cannelé mold for cheap, but they are worthless.

Tradition dictates tat you need to make the batter 12 hours in advance before you bake it. I disagree. I have had excellent results baking the custard-batter base when it is still hot.

This particular cannelé is flavored with chocolate and rum, and is one of my favorite things to eat.

So there is nothing really new here. Just a statement, I suppose, that some things are best left as they are.

On that note, I am still working on a perfect eclair. Laugh if you will, but I bet your eclairs look like a dog's chew toy... on a good day. I am trying to obtain a perfect tube of choux that is tight and streamlined and still hollow to fill with creamy goodness and coat with overly sweet fondant. I am on year 4 of this by the way. The point here is not to mess with the recipe or the method, it is to control the bake of the choux to the extent that it is linear, like an oblong oval. Not bumpy and sloppy.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Clear Spheres

I found that something very strange occurred to the tonic spheres I had posted on recently. After five days of sitting in water... all of the bubbles disappeared, and the sphere became completely clear.
So I popped them. All of them. Just for fun. Please see the video below.