Pistachio Waffle, Yeast Foam, Pear and Banana-Cinnamon Ice Cream

Anything that has to do with fermentation and yeast fascinates me. That why I love baking bread, brewing beer and even fermenting my own homemade salami. When I first saw a wierd congealed mass in my bottle of vinegar and later learned it was a “vinegar mother” that can basically make vinegar out of wine, I did not throw the bottle away. I cracked it open, harvested the mother and started making vinegar. fermentation just seems like magic! You combine a couple of things together, like grain and water, and let it sit for a while. Poof! you have a food or a drink.

So, when I read on David’s blog that he added yeast and fermented some heavy sweetened cream to get a thick yeasty “foam”, I knew I’d be trying something with it. The process is easy enough. Mix in some yeast into sweetened cream and let it sit for a while before chilling the mixture. Right before I served it, I whipped the now fermented cream to a thick light foam. The taste is a bit difficult to describe, sweet, a little bread-y and feels extremely light on the tongue. This is a wonderful and versatile product.

The pistachio waffle recipe here is from “Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme“. The batter is definitely not like any waffle batter I’ve made before. It is rich with butter, cream and eggs. The batter is so thick a spoon can stand in it. The end result right out of the waffle iron is pretty soft as opposed to crispy and fluffy. However as soon as it cools slightly it firms up into a tender and slightly crispy waffle. There is no mistaking that this one is designed by a pastry chef for dessert as opposed to a breakfast staple. The best part is that unlike most other batters for pancakes or waffles, the pastry remains very tasty and crisp at room temperature the next day.

For a fruit component I used pears. Some of the pears were poached and pureed with bourbon and gellan to make a smooth pear butter. The rest I scooped into balls and marinated them (and tried to compress them) raw with turbinado sugar, bourbon and vanilla using the FoodSaver. They were not compressed, as I expected, but were very nicely marinated and loaded with flavor. The banana ice cream is flavored with coffee, vanilla and cinnamon. For garnish, I used roasted pistachios and some pickled blueberries leftover from the venison dish.

The combination of textures and flavors worked out very well. My problem with this dish boils down to aesthetics. Specifically the damn pistachio coulis. It was supposed to be green, or at least much “greener” than this drab olive color. The idea is the green color will offset the beige and brown all over the place. That vibrant green color is why Thomas Keller recommends using imported scrupulously peeled pistachios. I did not really peel mine and certainly did not fork over a lot of cash for the Sicilian stuff.

Gingerbread, Pumpkin and Walnut-Pear-Bourbon Ice Cream

Just like the venison dish I posted about earlier, this dessert happened because of Diana. More specifically, it was because of her dislike of gingerbread cookies. Earlier in December I had made some gingerbread cookie dough in hopes of making gingerbread men with my son, however Diana was sure that he will not like those spicy cookies and that I should’ve made sugar cookies instead. So, into the freezer the dough went. I certainly did not want to throw it out but I figured that most of it will go to waste if I simply bake gingerbread cookies. Diana did say that she would not mind a dessert that would use gingerbread cookies. Pumpkin pie or tart was the first idea that came to mind using the dough for the crust. That was the theme, with a few more “twists”, that brought this dessert together and this is a dessert I am very proud of, it was delicious and looked stunning.

My original plan for plating this, and the one I actually sketched, involved making “cannoli” shells from the gingerbread dough and filling that with the pumpkin mousse. I did doubt that this would work though, considering the high percentage of butter in the dough, and I was right. They simply fell apart when fried and got bent out of shape when baked. So, I just cut the thin dough into squares, baked them and broke some of them in half to get smaller rectangles.

For the ice cream, I cooked pears sous vide with butter, vanilla seeds and a little sugar. That, by the way, made the most amazing poached pear slices. I had to keep myself from eating them all. I pureed the pears with ice cream base made from  walnut flavored cream/milk (toast walnuts, and steep them in the dairy mixture for 24 hours, then strain them out), eggs, sugar and bourbon. This is also another recipe I was very happy with and will make again. All the flavors worked great together and were distinct.

I candied a few butternut squash rings and reduced the now squash (plus clove and cinnamon) flavored candying liquid into a thick syrup to serve as a sauce for the finished dessert. The pumpkin mousse is basically pumpkin pie filling. So, I roasted a a small pumpkin (or that might’ve been a butternut squash as well) and pureed the flesh. Then I followed a recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking: From My Kitchen to Yours” and made a pumpkin pie filling with eggs, cream, sugar and a little spice. I baked this in a brownie pan till set, then pureed it to a smooth mousse when it cooled.

For garnishes, I used more walnut. I caramelized roasted walnuts and salted them lightly and made dry walnut butter. To make the butter I followed a similar process to making my regular peanut butter. I processed roasted walnuts, a pinch of salt and sugar and a couple of table spoons walnut oil until I got a fairly smooth and spreadable walnut butter. To dry it up, I processed it with Tapioca Maltodextrin unitl it got dry and crumbly. At plating time, I broke it into irregular shapes, almost like rocks and sand, and scattered it around the plate.

Here is a slightly different plating I served the day after