Monthly Archives: May 2010

Rosewater brownies with roasted pistachios

These ridiculously dense brownies are a variation of the brownie recipe from the Max Brenner Chocolate: A Love Story cookbook (the brownie recipe is properly titled, in true Max style, “A philosophical highly concentrated fudge brownie made of 70 percent dark chocolate thoughts”). Even I was disturbed by the fact that they had almost a kilogram of chocolate in them, so much so that I didn’t believe it at the time and only bought 500g of chocolate because no recipe could possibly need more than that. I ended up rummaging around in the cupboard to find enough chocolate to make up the full 900g. Amazing.

The idea with the rosewater is to just add enough that the flavour isn’t obvious (or even necessarily identifiable) but it’s still there and changes the overall perception of the brownie flavour subtly. And I added pistachios because they pair well with rosewater as kind of Middle Eastern ingredients. Plus I just like pistachios. Although these brownies are retrospectively dedicated to Tash because she likes both rosewater and pistachios (impeccable taste). Recipe after the cut!

Chocolate brandy mousse with vanilla pear purée and pear tart milk pudding

One day I’ll go back to coming up with recipes that don’t have a short essay as a title. Today is not that day.

Again I’ve gone with the mousse combined with a pudding made from infused milk, but I’ve added fruit in as well this time. The mousse is made with dark chocolate and brandy; I would have used Poire William pear brandy, but guess what? I don’t have any. The pear purée is something I’d eat by the bowlful on its own – a tiny bit of brandy, a tiny bit of vanilla paste, a quick stab with the stick blender and it’s kind of amazing. Totally gestalt. And the pudding is a milk pudding made from milk that I infused with a pear tart, using the same method I tried out here. It worked reasonably well, with the flavour of the pastry coming through subtly in the final pudding. Recipes after the cut.

White chocolate kirsch mousse with pomegranate and cherry caviar

Chris and I finally got our hands on some calcium chloride (intended for food purposes rather than, you know, medical or aquarium purposes) so we can now do proper normal spherification instead of just reverse spherification!

With reverse spherification, the sodium alginate goes into solution in the bath and you put xanthan gum and calcium gluconolactate in the liquid you’re making into spheres and drop it into the bath. With non-reverse spherification, the sodium alginate goes into the liquid instead, and the bath is a solution of calcium chloride. Either way, calcium has to react with the sodium alginate to cause the gelling. Which method you use depends on factors such as the pH of the liquid (e.g. reverse spherification is better for acidic liquids).

Unfortunately, I didn’t realise how acidic pomegranate juice is when I decided to go with non-reverse spherification. It has a pH of about 3.2, so dropping it into the calcium chloride bath after it had been blended with sodium alginate resulted in the drops dissipating almost completely. Realising this must be the acid component, I added some sodium bicarbonate to neutralise the liquid a bit, and it then worked perfectly. Alas, of course this increase in pH also unfortunately took away most of the tartness of the pomegranate juice, which I had chosen for its tartness so it would offset the sweetness of the white chocolate. Never mind, I’ll just try reverse spherification for pomegranate in the future.

If you don’t have the equipment and ingredients for spherificating the pomegranate juice, the easiest substitute in this recipe would just be to add pomegranate seeds instead of the pomegranate juice spheres. Recipes after the cut.

Gin & tonic madeleines

These involved three different aspects of trying to shoehorn the gin & tonic flavour into the madeleines: the madeleines themselves, the gin glaze, and the gin and tonic gel – just to make sure the flavour comes through, since reasonably complex flavours of gin are not that easy to get into baked items.

So the madeleines are flavoured with lime zest and gin, the gin glaze is just gin and sugar, and the gin and tonic gel is literally a gin and tonic transformed into a gel using powdered xanthan to thicken it. Recipes after the cut!

Pain au chocolat in a glass: chocolate mousse & pudding made from croissant-flavoured milk

I like to think of this as liquid chocolate and liquid croissant. It basically is exactly that, except the liquid chocolate and liquid croissant have been solidified a little bit. The result: pain au chocolat in a glass.

The chocolate component is a basic dark chocolate mousse, replicating the chocolate centre of a pain au chocolat. To try to reproduce the croissant-pastry component of the pain au chocolat, I created croissant-flavoured milk. Now that was an interesting process.

The process of making the croissant-flavoured milk reminded me a tiny bit of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind, in which the protagonist, with his exquisitely sensitive sense of smell, set out to learn how to capture and distill all scents and smells into an essence. Not normal perfume scents of flowers and woods, but the scents of anything and everything, including rocks, metal and eventually, uh, dead teenage girls.

Anyway, some of the same principles can be applied to capturing tastes (preferably pleasant ones) and I used the method of infusion in this case to create the croissant-flavoured milk. In the same way tea leaves steeped in hot water release their flavour into the water, other items might be placed into other liquids to flavour the liquid. In this case: croissants and milk, resulting in croissant-flavoured milk, from which I made a croissant milk pudding. See the recipe after the cut for instructions on how to make it. And if you just don’t want to make croissant milk pudding, just make the mousse, since it’s fantastic enough by itself, as you can see…