It’s rare that I proclaim something “the best”. Even when I do -like I am doing about this ice cream- it’s sort of a hyperbole. Maybe it should be “up until now, in my humble opinion, this is the best apple ice cream I’ve had”. So, if you had not gotten my point yet, what I’m saying is this is one awesome ice cream if you like apples. I’ve prepared this recipe (it’s from the Eleven Madison Park cookbook) multiple times and it never disappoints and have not been surpassed. It’s got the deep tart flavor of Granny Smiths swirled with a vanilla scented sweet apple puree.
The ice cream has two main components, an apple custard and a puree of apples that is mixed in after the custard is churned. To make the custard we start with a bunch of Granny Smith apples. I sliced those and cooked them till softened in apple cider (this would be the sweet non-alcoholic one, not the hard cider. It’s basically unfiltered apple juice) and citric acid. When the apples are very tender I pureed them with a stick blender and strained them to get as smooth of a product as possible.
The rest of the custard is a standard mixture of egg yolks, glucose sugar, milk and cream. The yolks get whisked with the sugar. The dairy and glucose are warmed with the apple puree and gently added to the yolks. The custard is then carefully cooked to thicken. Lastly I added a bit of Calvados (French Apple brandy) to the cooled custard.
For the second component, sweet apples like Honeycrisp , Fuji or Gala are used. I peeled those, removed the cores and quartered them. They are cooked in a baking dish in the oven along with brown sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and the pulp from a vanilla bean. When totally soft and syrupy I pureed the whole mixture resulting in one of the most delicious apple sauces possible.
As with all ice creams and sorbets I make I like to let mixture sit in the fridge for 8 – 24 hours at least before churning. This is really essential for a good texture and better “shelf-life” in the freezer. There is a lot of science about why that is the case and it is fascinating (well, to me it is). In any case, after a rest in the fridge I churned the apple custard and layered that in two quart containers alternating with the baked apple puree.
It’s so delicious and addictive on it’s own but it also goes good with any cake, especially if it has hints of caramel. Recently I also served it with an Italian ricotta apple cake. Truthfully I was not crazy about how the cake turned out (odd texture) so I was glad I had the delightful ice cream to help it along.
Buckwheat is such an assertive flavor with a unique earthy and somewhat grassy flavor. It is not a flavor that you can use as a background in dishes. Some people like that while others really cannot stand it. I fall in the first camp firmly and have enjoyed it in desserts ever since I first tried it as an ice cream flavor in this Alinea dessert. We eat buckwheat flour regularly in pancakes as well mixed in with grated apples and white flour. It is such a fall-ish flavor and I wanted to use it in a dessert again.
I had already had the honey-almond semifreddo prepared and in the freezer when I thought of the rest of this dish’s components. The semifreddo is a classic combination of three different foams – a custard, a meringue and whipped cream. Here it is flavored with honey in the custard and it has some roasted almonds stirred into the mix before pouring it into a loaf pan and freezing it.
David Lebovitz in Ready for Dessert has a recipe for a buckwheat cake served with cider poached apples. As soon as I saw the recipe I knew I had the remaining parts of this dish. The apples in my case got shaped into spheres with a melon baller and poached in a mixture of spiced red wine and sugar (lemon zest, cinnamon, clove). When the apples where cooked I let them sit in the syrup in the fridge until I was ready to finish the dish.
To finish the apples I took them out of the syrup and cooked that down to thick sauce consistency then tossed the apples in to coat them. This warmed up the fruit and gave me an intense rich sauce that is drizzled around the plate.
The cake contains no wheat flour and gets all its texture and structure from buckwheat flour, ground almonds and eggs – both yolks and whipped whites. It ends up tender and fluffy with an assertive buckwheat flavor.
To serve it I sliced the semifreddo loaf and then used a cookie cutter to cut it into rounds. It melts very quickly and it is very airy so I had to work pretty fast here. This went right next to a slice of cake and the poached warm apples. I needed some more texture in the dish so I made a streusel from almonds, butter, sugar and flour and baked it in a thin layer. When it was cooled I broke it into small pieces around the cake. The flavors and textures were very nice. The dessert really worked for me mostly. The semifreddo was maybe too light in here and an ice cream with a denser texture set in a loaf pan and cut the same way could’ve been a better alternative.
Yeah, foam is a crazy new fad. Afterall, no chef was making any food with “foam” ten or 50 years ago. Right? Well, no. Wrong. Foam in cooking, baking and beverages is everywhere. Sometimes it is obvious like a nice froth on a cappuccino. Other times, like in this dessert, it’s a bit less recognizable. This dessert (part 2 of my French Laundry meal) is composed of several foams. Five types to be precise. As the name suggest and the picture shows this is a sort of coffee with a nice froth on it served alongside some perfect donuts. This is a classic French Laundry dessert that is much more than it seems.
The coffee part is actually a coffee semifreddo topped with steamed frothy milk to give it a traditional cappuccino look. Semifreddo literally means semi-frozen or half frozen and it is a very traditional Italian dessert made by mixing three foams. A custard foam made from egg yolks, sugar and flavored with instant espresso powder is mixed with stiff-whipped sweetened cream and a simple meringue (whipped egg whites and sugar). The three are gently folded together and portioned out into small coffee cups and then frozen. The frozen product has a wonderful smooth rich texture similar to frozen mousse. It is allowed to warm up for a few minutes and then it is topped with hot frothy milk. The effect is both lovely to look at and just delicious with the fantastic juxtaposition of hot and cold.
Bread and cakes are filled with air bubbles. They are also a type of foam that we bake, steam or fry to trap those air bubbles. As the air in those bubbles heats up it expands producing airy products that are at the same time light and sturdy. These donuts belong to the category of yeast-risen doughs as opposed to cake donuts which are a quick bread leavened chemically with baking soda and baking powder. Chef Keller’s donuts are rich and almost like a brioche dough. they are made with flour, sugar, eggs and butter. After I made the dough I put it in the fridge to allow it to rise slowly and develop flavor. A couple of hours before frying, I rolled the dough and cut it into 2-inch rounds and then used a much smaller round cutter and punched holes in those rounds to get both donuts and donut holes.
When ready to serve, I fried the donuts and holes. It’s really neat seeing them go in the oil then bob up when they puff with the heat. While they are still hot, I rolled them in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar and plated a donut and a donut hole alongside the “coffee”. The combination, just like the braised pork cheek dish that preceded it, is comforting, familiar and refined. The semifreddo gets soft enough to even dunk the donuts in it. I highly recommend you do that if you decide to try making this. The recipe makes a good bit of donuts and that’s a good thing because one is not enough.