Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pi 2: Tau rising.


I mentioned the 4 pie tarts I made in honor of pie day?  Well, we only actually ate two of those that night.  That left two for the following night.  I wasn't quite happy with the custard and orange foam combo.  It wasn't bad, but needed something else.  So, with the remaining 2 pies I topped the custard with pickled blueberries and then orange foam.  This was a great choice.  The pickled blueberries were a great intermediary and really enhanced both the custard and the orange foam.  This may just be the new apple pie.

Sous Vide Cinnamon Vanilla Custard, Pickled Blueberries, Spiced Cora Cora Orange Foam and Shortbread Crust Pie Tart
Also, for those of you not aware of the controversy that's brewing in math circles, you can catch up here:  Tau Manifesto

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Final Pi Day Ever? Fear the Tau

Today is Pi day.  Or Pie day.  You may have let this pass by with nary a thought.  But evil lurks out there and it's name is Tau.  Tau day is purportedly June 28th.  And it sucks.  Well, maybe that's a little harsh.  But would you rather have Pi(e) day, or Tau day?  I thought so.  There's a movement among math types to rid the world of pie.  Yeah yeah, we'll still have cake, but sometimes pi is better.  I like math, but I'm not on board with this nonsense.  Math, this is why people fear you.  Pi is good and you want to get rid of it.  Tau is no fun at all and yet this is what you choose to market to the world.

Anyway, since this might be the last pi day ever, I decided to make pie to celebrate.  Unfortunately, I didn't really consider what kind of pie, or a trip to the grocer, so I had to scrounge for whatever I could find.  Luckily I had purchased a dozen and a half eggs at the market on Saturday.  I had enough left for a custard filling for half a pie.  I suppose that if this was Tau day and I was making tau but only had enough for half a tau, this would work out well. Then I could have pie.  But this was pi day.  And what's half a pie?  Well, in this case, it's 4 tarts.  Only I don't have tart pans, so it's four tartish desserts made in ramekins.

So, I made half a crust.  2 egg yolks cooked through, some ground almond, all purpose flour, powdered sugar, salt, butter baking soda.  Seemed pretty tasty.  Like a shortbread cookie.  It didn't fit the ramekins very well, but with some serious patch work, I got it covered.  They weren't pretty, but serviceable.

Then I made a sous vide vanilla cinnamon custard filling.  And to top the pie, I found some Cora Cora oranges that I bought last week without any real purpose.  They appeared to be the only fresh fruit option, so  I juiced them, added some honey, a little star anise and clove, then added some gelatin, poured into the whip, hit with two canisters of N2O and had a fancy orange foam.  Orange flavor, white color.  Not bad for improvised ingredients.     

Pi Day Pie - Custard Tart
Pie Day Pi - Cinnamon Vanilla Custard Tartlet with Spiced Cora Cora Orange Foam

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sort of Liquid, but not really, Scotch Egg

Liquid (or verging on it) Scotch Egg
So the challenge this week was to take a dish that's normally a solid and turn it into a liquid dish.  I had some trouble with a concept here.  I kept thinking of dishes that were already liquid.  Like soup.  And drinks.  And drinking.  And food you consume while drinking.  And I started thinking about a Scotch Egg.  If you aren't familiar with the scotch egg, I suggest you familiarize yourself.  Head down to your favorite local establishment, and order one up.  If they don't have it, then set down your Bud Lite, and head back out the door and down the street to a better location.  Order yourself a real beer this time, and get prepared. 

The scotch egg is a hardboiled egg, covered in sausage, breaded and deep fried.  Needless to say, it's pretty damn delicious.  I like mine with a nice mustard and hot sauce.  And of course a few strong beers.  I'm pretty sure this is of British origin, and it is pub grub at it's finest. And yes, pub grub can be fine.

A mighty fine looking typical scotch egg courtesy of Becks & Posh

For this take, I thought that I'd lighten it up a bit.  Don't ask why, just roll with me here.  Focus on the egg and back off on the sausage and fry.  Also, rather hard boiling the egg, I though I'd cook it more gently, keeping the yolk runny and the white tender, just on the verge of setting but still reasonably enough loose to be considered liquid. 

To do this, I wanted a yolk cooked to 63C and a white cooked to between 70 and 72C.  So, I cracked some eggs and separated them.  Yolks went into a jar of olive oil, along with a couple morels that I thought could infuse.  The whites got blended with some half and half, butter and salt, bagged and dropped into the water bath.  When they were just starting to set through, I pulled the whites, dropped the temp, and submerged the jar with the yolks in the now 63C bath.

While the yolks cooked, I hit the whites with an immersion blender to fully reliquify them, and then transferred to the whipping siphon.  Hit it twice with N2O and shook the hell out of it, then set the whip into the bath with the yolks to stay warm. 

Meanwhile, I cooked up some sausage and broke into crumbles, and coarsely chopped some crostini into the same.  I'd prepped some pickled mustard seeds earlier in the day via the pressure cooker, and always have some Sriracha at the ready.  All components were go.

To plate, I placed the foamed egg whites down first.  They were light and airy, but held up nicely on the dish.  I placed a yolk in the center of each.  This was a little tricky as removing a single egg yolk from the jar, and plating it without breaking proved difficult.  A few ended up pre-broken, but I did my best.  Then I added some crumbled sausage and croutons for texture and finished with the pickled mustard seeds and some dots of Sriracha.  When you broke the yolk it ran down over the whites.

Overall, I think this worked pretty well.  The flavor of the egg whites on their own was a little lacking (probably to be expected of egg whites) and I might jazz them up a little the next time, but when everything came together it was pretty delicious. 

Deconstructed Scotch Egg

Monday, March 4, 2013

Rescuing My Caffeinated Dreams of Blowing Sugar

Challenge #7: Coffee.

Sous Vide Coffee Panna Cotta, Coffee Fluid Gel, Milk Foam, Coffee Spun Sugar
I've been wanting to try some blown sugar work after seeing a demo from Joan Roca (might have been Jordi Roca doing the demo, but Joan was narrating). I thought it would make a nice dish this week. I planned to blow sugar into a large coffee bean shape, fill it with a coffee panna cotta and dust with cocoa and ground chocolate so that it looked like a giant coffee bean on the plate.  The diner would crack the bean with their spoon like a creme brulee shell to expose the rich panna cotta within.

The inspiration: Apricot from el cellar de can roca
It seemed like a decent enough plan.  I worried that the panna cotta might dissolve the sugar shell before it set, but in case of disaster, I planned to line the inside of the sugar shell with cocoa butter, thinking the fat would protect the sugar from moisture and could set up nice and thin.  If only I could get to that point. 

What I learned is that blown sugar work is not something I can learn in a couple of hours. I was able to inflate a few sugar balloons, but they were all mishapen and collapsed on themselves and basically wouldn't cooperate.  Even with help, all I ended up with was something that looked like the stomach of an anatomy model, and a pretty nice round ball that promptly shattered when I tried to set it down.  So, after a frustrating evening, I punted on the blown sugar until another day.

That's improper sugar blowing technique.

It popped

Sugar Stomach...As good as it got, still not good.

Breaking Bad

Reconfiguring my dish, I made a sous vide coffee panna cotta with 400g heavy cream, 100 g mascarpone, 200g whole coffee beans, and 75 g sugar. I bagged and cooked it sous vide at 92C for 2.5 hours. I bloomed 5g of gelatin in 50g of milk an added it about 10 mintues before the end.

I wanted to stick to strictly coffee, sugar and cream in the dish, so I also did a 24 hour cold brewed coffee and made a fluid gel sauce, and served with some milk foam and coffee flavored spun sugar.

The sous vide coffee panna cotta was awesome. I was really just sort of winging it based on Chef Grant Lee Crilly's discussion of coffee butter and fat extraction of the beans. I figured the cream also had a high fat %, so it was worth a try. There was almost no acidity or bitterness, but the fruity notes of the beans really came through. Flavors that are subtle when brewed were forward and prominent in a way I didn't really expect.  I used a local roasted Terra Verde coffee which I find to be an excellent medium roast that really let's some of the herbal qualities of the beans shine.  The rest of the dish paired nicely, although didn't have the visual impact and playfulness I'd hoped for originally.  The rich creamy panna cotta, the strong roasted coffee sauce, topped with some foamy milk goodness and an ethereal sugar that started to melt into the other components.  It was pretty awesome.  And pretty much covered the spectrum of tan.  Next time, maybe some color.
Coffee, Coffee Cream, Coffee Sugar and milk?

Challenge coffee complete!