This dish has a lot going for it even if the “cream” was not as successful as I would’ve liked. The flavors are spot on perfect and the textures work really well. It is a dish that I’d like to revisit and refine some more. I served this after a dinner of seafood paella to a couple of friends visiting from Florida. I wanted it to be a simple comforting summer dessert with familiar flavors and some refinement.
The blue print here is a buttery cookie base, a Sablè Breton to be more specific, topped with poached peaches and served with airy crème anglaise (custard sauce) and garnished with pistachios. I prepared the sauce using the modern sous vide method from Modernist Cuisine at Home instead of the traditional stove top method. It’s simpler and requires little attention while at the same time pretty much eliminates the room for error that could result in a curdled sauce. To prepare it, a mixture of yolks, cream, milk, sugar and vanilla goes in a Ziploc bag. This is then cooked in 82 ºC water for 45 minutes. I chilled the mixture and whisked it for a few seconds and it is done. In addition to the vanilla I added bourbon to the sauce after chilling. Bourbon and peaches go great together so that made perfect sense. I purposefully did not cook the bourbon to evaporate the alcohol because I wanted to keep all the flavor in as well as a bit of kick.
I wanted the sauce to have some substance and texture on the plate so that it can take on some form instead of just drizzling it on. I added gelatin to the cooled sauce and poured it into an iSi cannister that I charged with N2O. The gelatin is there to give it the needed structure and using the iSi is to aerate and lighten the sauce on the plate. Ultimately I do not think I used enough gelatin in there (that seems to always be the case with me) and the sauce had some structure but not enough to maintain a cleanly defined form on the plate for more than a minute or so. What I really need to do is research a bit more how much of a certain gelling agent is needed to give me a set foam. I have all the resources I need to find this information, I was just lazy here.
For the cookie portion, I used a recipe from Gordon Ramsay’s Gordon Ramsay: Three Star Chef book for Sablè Breton. This is a slightly sweet buttery pastry that is used to make tarts and cookie sandwiches. Due to the high butter ratio in the dough the cookies tend to spread if not baked in a ring mold. I wanted them to be nice and round. so I rolled the dough into a thick log and sliced it. Then I gently squashed the dough circles to flatten them between the bases of two small (about 3 in. diameter) tart pans. I baked the cookies in the tart pans and then used a cookie cutter to trim them into neat 2 inch circles while they are warm out of the oven.
The peaches are the easiest part. I quickly blanched them, peeled them and cut them into wedges. These got poached gently in a sugar syrup flavored with vanilla. To plate I dispensed some of the well-chilled custard into a bowl and topped the Sablè Breton with a spoon of it. I added more custard to the plate and topped the dessert with poached peaches and toasted crumbled pistachios. The flavors and textures were fantastic.
Classically, proper French style scrambled eggs are soft, light, fluffy and creamy. They do not much resemble the diner-style scrambled eggs we typically know and cook. They are almost like a slightly curdled custard. Of course they are delicious, but the problem is they require close to 30 minutes of constant slow stirring, sometimes using a double boiler! They are not something I do often and honestly this type of scrambled eggs is not always what I am looking for. Usually the regular “drier” eggs is what I would make for myself and for the family.
With an immersion circulator controlling the water temperature to an exact degree, soft scrambled eggs are very easy to do. Another huge benefit to this method is that while the eggs cook, I am free to prepare the rest of the breakfast. The process involves mixing eggs with salt, pepper and a little milk and then bagging them with a few cubes of butter. They are cooked at 72.5C for about 25-30 minutes. They are done at that point and can be served after shaking the bag for a few seconds to break up the curds. The first time I saw this method was on the Ideas in Food blog and since then they published their book. So I used their procedure and took it to the next level like they did by quickly putting the cooked egg mixture in an iSi canister and charged it with one NO2 charge (Tip: put some very hot water in the canister, leave it in for a few minutes and dump it out before putting in the eggs to make sure they don’t cool down too quickly). That made the eggs very luxurious and light when dispensed warm from the whipping canister.
I served the aerated scrambled eggs with sauteed mushrooms and asparagus that was blanched and then cooked in butter. The mushrooms and the asparagus stems go in the bowl first, then I dispensed the eggs covering everything. I garnished the bowls with butter-fried bread chunks, asparagus tips and toasted butter solids. Those butter solids by the way are fantastic stuff. I first saw them on David Brazelay’s EatFoo blog (David now runs the Lazy Bear underground restaurant in San Fransisco). They are really the dregs left after clarifying butter, basically the milk solids. To make a bunch of them though a bit of dried milk powder is added to the melted butter and allowed to brown gently. What you end up with is a super flavorful and nutty little bits that add great buttery flavor and a nice texture to all kinds of foods.
When I think of Texas fruits, two immediately come to mind, ruby red grapefruit and peaches. That’s fairly narrow thinking, since Texas is so huge and offers a large variety of climates and vegetation. It’s those two fruits that always pop to mind though. Recently on a road trip outside of Houston, I noticed a stand (one of several on the sides of the Hill Country area roads) advertising fresh Texas peaches. The couple at the stand had some amazingly fragrant peaches. The fruit was not much to look at, they are not the large plump and blemish free specimens you see at the supermarket. They were smaller. Some were almond-shaped, others were rounder and others somewhere in between, but they smelled amazing and were sweet and juicy. So, I bought a few pounds and intended to eat half out of hand and make some peaches and cream combo with the rest.
First up was the ice cream. I broiled a few peaches, cut side up until fairly dark and burnished. I pureed those into a classic custard ice cream base along with a few tablespoons of Maker’s Mark bourbon. This made some fantastic burnt peach-bourbon ice cream. I blanched a couple more peaches for a few seconds just to loosen the skin and then peeled them and sliced them into large segments. These were tossed with a little Turbinado sugar so they could macerate for a while before serving.
For a crunchy sweet component I made streusel shards or cookies. This is basically classic streusel made with butter, flour and almonds. Instead of sprinkling it on top of some fruit and baking it like that I spread it in an even layer on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. I topped that with another baking sheet and baked the mixture. As soon as it’s out of the oven and before it turns too hard, I cut it into rough circles with a cookie cutter.
We are in the middle of cherry season and the fruit is delicious, goes great with peaches and is very reasonably priced. So I macerated cherries in red wine, very much like the ones from the calf heart confit dish. I used a portion of their sweet syrup to make a delicate whipped topping. That’s done by mixing the syrup with a little gelatin, pouring it into an iSi canister and charging it with two NO2 cartridges. The NO2 gives the syrup the “foaming action” but without some structure we won’t end up with nice blobs of tasty cherry flavored whipped topping. We’ll more likely end up with something closer to a soda foam. That’s why the gelatin is there. It sets the mixture slightly and gives it the proper texture. In addition to the cherries and whipped cherry topping I also made some plain, lightly sweetened whipped cream. Afterall, this is peaches and cream.
Pastry chefs have been using this method for making quick sponge cake for years. As far as I know Albert Adria invented it years ago at El Bulli in Spain. I saw him “cook” it in a microwave on Anthony Bourdain’s “Decoding Ferran Adria“. I’ve never managed to give it a shot because until recently I did not have an iSi canister and that is essential. The idea is to make a loose cake batter and fill the cream whipping canister with it. Then the canister gets charged with N2O. The N2O produces the bubbles essential for the cake to rise. These bubbles are normally produced by leaveners in traditional cakes like whipped egg whites or chemical agents (baking powder and/or baking soda). To “bake” the cake, some of the batter gets dispensed into a small plastic cup and microwaved for 40-50 seconds. The result a light and very airy sponge cake with a perfect texture. Of course due to the size of the cake it is usually either served whole as an individual serving or in creative chunks as part of a plated dessert.
I tried it out in two variations. The first was a chocolate flavored version from the playing with fire and water blog. I served it with strawberry ice cream cherry red wine reduction and marinated pears.
The other version is based on Albert Adria’s recipe via Michael Laiskonis and I flavored it with orange blossom water. I served this one with passion fruit pudding (set with Agar), cinnamon-rose water flavored sweet ricotta and toasted almonds. This one felt more moist than the chocolate version. However, both recipes’ cooking time will vary based on the cup used and the microwave. I found this one worked best with holes in the cups and a cooking time for about a minute.