Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Matcha White Chocolate Ice Cream & Kumquat Pound Cake

Some months back, I ran into a lovely lady whom I'd met through one of the classes. Knowing how big a fan I am of Hidemi Sugino's special brand of Japanese-French pâtisserie, she very generously let me in on her latest find - while Le Goût Authentique Retrouvé (the master pastry chef's first book) is in French/Japanese, The Dessert Book, his second (and significantly simpler) title, is actually in English/Japanese. It goes without saying I immediately had to order myself a copy. PS: Regular visitors of Keiko's beautiful blog will be familiar with his name and her gorgeous renditions of his signature sweets.

It also goes without saying that despite my initial excitement, anticipation and better intentions, work, life and, let's face it, plain old laziness got in the way and the slender volume has been languishing un-used until the weekend just past. The catalyst? Some kumquats I'd picked up on impulse on my grocery run earlier in the week (for more ideas on what to do with kumquats, see this breathtaking post).

The Kumquat Pound Cake recipe is pretty representative of the recipe style from the book - easy yet unusual, with hardly a complex mousse contruct in sight. An almond-based batter is folded together with chopped kumquat compote, which lends not just flavour, but a wonderful damp quality to the resulting little cakes. To further enhance the flavour, I also added a splash of a recently discovered baker's boon - although I already am very big on Nielsen Massey's vanilla products, their divine Pure Orange Extract is new to me. Love citrus desserts and/or are an avid baker? This one's a pantry essential - if you reside in Singapore, Nielsen Massey's range of fabulous extracts can be found at Shermay's Cooking School.

I wanted to churn an ice cream to pair with the citrus cake but couldn't quite decide on a flavour. Tea-sipping again came to the rescue; this time, a tall iced glass of Thé sur le Nil, a refined green tea scented with citrus and spice. So a matcha ice cream it was, but with a difference. Recalling how much I liked this matcha/white chocolate pairing, I was curious if the idea would translate well into an ice cream - white chocolate ice cream is typically cloyingly rich, but matcha would provide welcome bittersweet relief. I must confess I'm rather thrilled with the result and have written down the recipe below lest I forget, scraps of paper having a habit of disappearing mysteriously just when you're looking for them. While not cloyingly rich, it is nonetheless rich, and best served in elegant Berthillon-sized scoops.

While I personally use a Gaggia Gelatiera, this particular batch was churned in a Cuisinart Ice Cream Professional, a machine I've been given the opportunity to test-run for the purposes of designing an ice cream class to be held at the school, tentatively scheduled for sometime in the second quarter of next year. It is certainly possible to make ice cream without an ice cream machine, but I for one don't have the patience or inclination for that kind of self-punishment, not to mention the ice cream never quite acquires the absolutely smooth texture made possible by a good machine. But the reality is that most don't make ice cream frequently enough to justify the kind of serious money your average high end model with a built-in compressor system costs. Self-refrigerating units are the way to go if you don't want to hassle with canisters that require pre-freezing (plus much advance planning and ample freezer space). Such efficacy and efficiency (these heavy duty machines can churn many batches consecutively without skipping a beat) usually command a premium that can be downright shocking to the uninitiated. Which is where Cuisinart's sleek and smart machine (check it out at Shermay's Cooking School; it's the latest addition to their choice inventory of nifty cook's tools and kitchen must-haves) comes into the picture - equipped with a self-freezing compressor, fully automatic, and capable of delivering the kind of results hitherto associated with fancier (and far pricier) models. In other words, it's terrific value.

Matcha White Chocolate Ice Cream
Makes about 1 litre

375 gm heavy cream
375 gm milk
100 gm caster sugar
1/8 tsp fine salt
4 large egg yolks
200 gm white chocolate, finely chopped
2 Tbsp matcha
1 Tbsp mirin

Place a chinoise over a medium bowl and set aside. In a medium heavy saucepan, bring the cream, milk, sugar and salt to a simmer over low heat, stirring constantly.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks just sufficiently to break them up. Whisking constantly, pour the hot cream mixture over the egg yolks in a slow and steady stream.

Scrape mixture back into saucepan and cook the custard over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens sufficiently to coat the back of a wooden spoon (if using a thermometer, the custard should register no more than
180°F). Immediately strain the mixture through the chinoise into the waiting bowl. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Place the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl that will sit snugly atop the pan of water. Once water comes to the boil, turn off the heat and place the bowl of chocolate atop the pan, stirring with a dry silicone spatula until melted and completely smooth. Remove from pan of water. Scrape the warm custard into the bowl of melted white chocolate and stir to blend. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the matcha and mirin to form a smooth paste. Scrape this paste into the bowl of white chocolate custard, whisking vigorously to blend thoroughly. Let cool then refrigerate, covered, until chilled (preferably overnight).

Freeze according to the instructions for your ice cream machine.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Chocolate Délice with Salted Caramel & Malted Barley Ice Cream

From David Everitt-Matthias' Essence: Recipes from Le Champignon Sauvage, an inspirational cookbook from the chef behind the restaurant that has been quietly revolutionising modern British cooking from sleepy Cheltenham.

Unlike most restaurant cookbooks, the recipes from this highly original volume are very approachable - emphatically not because anything's been dumbed down for us home cooks all too often kindly presumed to be incapable of comprehending steps worded in sentences with more than two independent clauses, but because each complex recipe has been carefully broken down into the separate components, with detailed instructions on how to create each element, thus making the book especially appealing to the sort of home cook apt to deconstruct and mix-and-match as mood and resources dictate.

Seamless, dissolve-on-tongue chocolate mousse. Chewy, salty, buttery caramel. Nostalgic, velvety, unmistakably malted ice cream. Crisp, crackling sesame wafer. Aside from being a combination of tastes and textures that a clunky string of adjectives really doesn't do justice to, what's really interesting is the method used to stabilise the olive oil (yes, olive oil) and bitter chocolate mixture. The trick is to proceed as if mounting a mayonnaise, thus giving the olive oil something to adhere to. The resulting texture is extraordinary, quite unlike your garden variety chocolate mousse, good as it may be.

That said, what moved me off the sofa and towards the kitchen was not so much theoretically interesting technique, fascinating as it is, but good old greed - I have a huge weakness for salted caramel, and even on mere paper, this dessert promised to be a real winner.