It started out innocently enough, as it so often does.
Someone I don't know and have never met posed a question on the internet. Well, a couple of questions, I guess. I figured, as a citizen of the world, or perhaps more accurately, the internet, it was my responsibility to help this person I don't even know find an answer to their question. I am here to help. That question went like this:
"Edible Charcoal? Any ideas? I googled and found out Next did an edible woodfire with sweet potatoes. How?"
Now, I didn't know the answer to that question, though it did sound vaguely familiar. But I had a secret weapon. You probably haven't heard about it, but it often helps me find answers to things I don't know the answer to. It's called Google, and you should probably check it out sometime. Using this little known site, I quickly found an interview with Chef Beran in which he discussed the particular dish from the Childhood menu. There wasn't much in the way of specifics, but it did state that he cooked sweet potatoes in a stock so that they came out looking like charcoal. Then he figured out how to powder alcohol with aroma in order to set it all on fire. I shared this info that I found on the internet back onto the internet, where hopefully it would be found by the mysterious internet stranger who I really had no other way to contact. I suggested this may give him a place to start if he wanted to attempt this dish.
And then I went one step further.
In that interview above was reference to a lecture that Chef Achatz had given at Harvard. I'd seen a recording of the lecture several years back, as it had served as the inspiration for my home version of the In The Rocks cocktail. I hunkered down with another little known resource on the internet called YouTube. Again, you may not be familiar with it, but it is basically a compendium of all things video on the internet. Using this relatively unknown site, I located that specific lecture in it's entirety. (I realize I am giving away an awful lot of secrets here, but perhaps with these useful tips, you too can help mysterious strangers on the internet.) In that lecture, Chef Achatz drops a few more details about the dish.
I shared this new information that I had found on the internet back onto the internet yet again: Sweet Potatoes cooked in a syrup of vanilla, cinnamon and blue corn to look like charcoal. Tincture of Vanilla, Cinnamon and 95% Grain Alcohol powdered with tapioca malltodextrin and mixed with powdered sugar for the fuel to the fire. Plated with apricot puree, streusel, bourbon ice cream, english toffee caramel sauce.
I really felt I was helping this mysterious internet stranger now. And it probably could've ended there. But I made one more lingering statement at the end of my internet post: 'Now I want to give this a try.'
And down the rabbit hole I went. You say something like that on the internet, and you are committed. There is no turning back. So, I went out and bought some Everclear.
"Warning: Overconsumption May Endanger Your Health." Hmmm. Health endangerment. That's not what I'm looking for.
"Caution: Do Not Apply to Open Flame. Keep Away From Fire, Heat, and Open Flame. Contents May Ignite or Explode." Excellent. There it is. Exactly what I need!
|Marshmallow Tincture Ingredients|
|Tincture of Everclear, Licorice Root, Vanilla Bean, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Lavender|
I took that, mixed with n-Zorbit, a modified tapioca starch used for turning fats and oils into powders and blended in the food processor. Success! The n-zorbit successfully absorbed the alcohol into a powder. I sifted this with powdered sugar and spooned a little on to a plate. Willfully ignoring the warning on the bottle, I applied an open flame to the powder. Voila! It quickly ignited and burned cleanly, leaving behind a slightly burnt, slightly caramelized crispy crust with a taste reminiscent of campfire marshmallows.
Combustible Marshmallow Powder was born!
You can find my detailed recipe here: Combustible Marshmallow Powder Recipe
Now that I had my fire, I needed to bring together the rest of the dish. Here, I took a slight departure from the Next dish that had served as inspiration for the concept and decided to go with pressure cooked bananas as my charcoal stand-in, rather than sweet potato. I kept the apricot puree. Rather than bourbon Ice cream, I went with butter rum sherbet. And for a little crunch and texture, I made some sea foam powder. This tantalizing concoction is a crunchy blend of sponge candy, brown butter solids, pecans, salt and butter all bound together with some more n-zorbit.
|Brown Butter Solids|
With all the components prepared, all that was left was to plate the final dish. Here is "Campfire":
And if you'd like to try it yourself, I've posted that recipe here as well: Campfire
I have yet to hear back from the mysterious internet stranger, but I like to think that he is out there somewhere now, serving plates of food, and lighting them on fire. And so, with my help, the world is a better place.
|Campfire: Apricot Puree, Sea Foam Powder, Butter Rum Sherbet, Pressure Cooked Banana, Combustible Marshmallow Powder|
|Diner's View of Campfire: Apricot Puree, Sea Foam Powder, Butter Rum Sherbet, Pressure Cooked Banana, Combustible Marshmallow Powder|
Here's links to the recipes for the other dish components as well. Use them in this recipe, or adapt them for other applications:
ChefSteps Pressure Cooked Bananas
My Butter Rum Sherbet (a hybrid of ChefSteps and Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams recipes)
ChefSteps Sea Foam Powder