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!

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