p4: A Study in White – Vanilla Ice Cream (Roasted Banana Style), Milk Caramel, Raw Apple Garnish

What originally brought me back to the interest of the Fat Duck cookbook was in fact a search for an ice cream custard recipe; in particular, one that didn’t use an cream, and ideally had some skim milk powder in sense I’ve got a leftover bag after my Sweet Bread creation. This was mainly prompted by the fact that I finally figured out how to get my ice cream machine cold enough at home (used to use it all the time in the dorm, the freezer there was PERFECTLY cold), so I can now put together some tasty custards and sorbets once again. Before now, I’d always have to use Heston’s trick of pouring crushed-up Dry Ice into a stand mixer with the cream base if I wanted any hope at a properly frozen and churned dessert.

Since I forgot my all-purpose, no-cream recipe that I used before (btw, I don’t use cream because that just means I have to go out and buy this pricier dairy item every time I get a whim; so much easier just to use milk and eggs that are at home); but I remembered attempting the Heston ice cream before, sans milk powder and when the freezer sucked. His Vanilla Bean Ice Cream perfectly fits all my requirements, and I can’t think of any better fun item to start off this project.

20150807_102920I did find two simple toppings to try out as well, both apple themed since 1: I’ve got a few in the fridge, it’s what works best at the moment and 2: the dish this recipe is originally used in is the ‘Cox’s Apple,’ and highly modernized and ultimate version of Heston’s experiments and interest in Tarte Tatin apparently. I actually wanted to do 3, but one of the ones I was dead-set on doing required 14 hours of sous-vide cooking, which I did NOT have the time to reproduce this last-minute; and another sorta-similar-resulting recipe used Pectin, a no-go for me right now too. But I do think I can get some somewhere…

20150807_102940The first is an ‘Apple Milk Caramel,’ a seemingly uncolored ‘caramel’ sauce made mostly from milk that has steeped from leftover apple cores and skins. The other, and yes I feel cheap even mentioning it, is ‘raw apple dice.’ But it’s not just cutting them up and garnishing, you’re supposed to preserve them in an acidified syrup of sorts before plating, but with the limit that it can’t be sit any longer than 2 hours. I’m curious to see if this actually has an effect on the apples and their flavor, or is just a high quality version of letting them sit in lemon-water.

What I’m Doing Wrong

First off, I’m going to go ahead and say it: I’m not using Vanilla Beans in this. As good and delicious as it would be, the fact is these guys are pricey, even if you find some ‘good deals;’ I only use them when I really want to make something special for a good occasion. This would certainly be the kind of recipe I’d do it with though; pure, unadulterated custard that shines on its own. The only effect of leaving this out should just be the lack of the vanilla’s flavor in any case; though it will also mean that I don’t need to perform the long steeping time to infuse the beans into scalded milk.

Counter to this, I’m also gonna use the opportunity to get rid of one of many VERY ripe bananas that I have. I’ve read a recipe on ‘Roasted Banana Ice Cream,’ the base of which is the same as a typical cream, only with the addition of a ripe banana that’s been roasted to develop its flavor, so I figure it shouldn’t negatively impact the final texture; or if it did, in a minor way.

20150807_213454Not like I expect to get a perfect texture either way. At the end of the day, I’m making this in a countertop ice cream machine; the book itself does state ‘churn in your machine until it reaches 23F’ (though I’m just going until it looks complete; I know enough about my machine to avoid ANY chances of interrupting the process and introducing warmth that I don’t ever want to stop it until it’s done), but the only way it can get as super smooth and perfect as his usually does is by either using liquid nitrogen, dry ice, or one of those awesome industrial machines. You know, the ones you see on Chopped and Iron Chef that they can put STEAMING HOT custard from the stove in directly and it freezes it within like, what, ten minutes? Those are just unfair. I HAVE developed at least one technique to ensure that my ice cream has the best chance to turn out without having to worry about the frozen container warming up too much on the counter before it’s frozen my mixture. And that is, of course, actually putting the machine in the freezer AS it’s churning the ice cream; one of the few advantages of having a small, dinky countertop ice cream churner!

Final change in the ice cream comes through the requirement of using ‘Fructose’ as the sugar source. I’m sure Heston has a tub of pure, neutral fructose to use for this; I do not. Instead I go for Honey, which is completely or almost completely fructose anyway, just with some added flavor. It works out well, since along with a banana ice cream I’ve been wanting to do a honey one too since I’ve got quite a bit leftover from my Nougat adventure. (Last minute note, I am now realizing that the fructose used in the book might be an actual powder; in which case, I may have fudged up t he solids-water ratio a tad)

20150807_215330Moving on, I’m also using honey in the ‘syrup’ for the raw apples; also, it calls for Lemon Juice and a bit of Vitamin C. I obviously don’t have the latter, and not going out to get some for just a measly 1 gram, and I can’t believe there’s no lemons in the fridge! No worries, an easy substitute for lemon juice is using ½ as much vinegar, and I just happen to have one from my work made from Calamansi! It’s a citrus fruit from the Philippines, tastes just like lime and tangerine juice, it’s perfect! It’ll help show any distinctive effects that might be ideally present.

By the way, as you’ll see in later pictures, I tried dicing the apples to a couple different sizes, mainly to see if it made any difference (though really because I wasn’t sure exactly how big 5mm was).

I also didn’t have any Malic Acid to use in the caramel, again a measly 1 gram (and note, I’m also reducing the volume on each of these by a lot, so less than that), but I ended up having more apple skins and core than required, so I left it like that in hopes they’d give a bit more flavor and potentially some natural malic acid to fulfill what may be needed by it.

Cool Science-y Stuff

If there’s anything important to ice cream creation, it’s two fiels: Proportion and Freezing. The latter is easy and understandable; the ideal temperature, and apparently the lowest one can get it to anyways, to freeze ice cream is -5C/23F for getting the fats and liquids frozen, keeping it moving constantly so that 1: the ice crystals don’t sit and grow into large structures that often create those ‘icy’ textures, and 2: incorporate some air for texture, the amount of which one gets in and thus increase the volume of the final mix is known as ‘overrun.’ Often the ideal result with most quality frozen custard is ‘100%’ overrun, or about doubling the size, whereas many mass-production frozen products increase this to almost insane degrees, giving you ‘more ice cream’ for the same, now cheap price. But generally, the colder one can get the freezing mechanism, and thus the faster this freezing can get done, while churning as quick as possible, creates the super tiny evenly-distributed crystals while getting SOME of that little moussey and creamy texture. Thus why the best ice creams, and all those in the Fat Duck, are usually frozen with Liquid Nitrogen while being whipped fast in a stand mixer.

20150813_003036But in order to get that ideal final texture, one requires an ice cream base that actual has the right molecular ratios to yield the result; it won’t even freeze if it’s a solution that just plain CAN’T, and when it finally does after certain forcing believe me it won’t be good. When looking into this, the one thing I actually learned, to my surprise, is that the percentages of Milk Solids, Fat, Sugar, and remaining Water/Liquid isn’t quite as strict as I imagined. There’s certainly an acceptable range of course, but different frozen-churned desserts have different proportions that affect the final flavor and consistency, allowing one to actually play around a bit. Milk Solids, which helps with air incorporation an fat droplet stabilization, range between 8-13%; overall solid matter averaging 30-45. Sugars actually help add to the total of solids, other than that the only real effect is flavor; having too much mainly affects the solid balance, which is why it’s harder to freeze in a proper consistency. The ideal range is usually quite narrow, 14-17% of the total but Gelato can go up to 24. Finally, Fat stabilizes, since it melts so slow; that and affecting how rich it gets, though interestingly enough also having an inverse effect on flavor release. It’s slow-starting, but lingers longer, while-as low-fat creams burst their flavor faster and for shorter periods, but consequently melt faster. One’s choice of percentage can range widely for these, from as low as 3 to as high as 20. Note I’ve made no inclusion of figures for Sorbet, Sherbet, or Milkshake ranges in any of these

To give one example, traditional Gelato keeps a Fat% of 3-8, Milk Solids 8-11, and Sugar 14-24, combining (give or take) into a final Sold% of 32-42. The book has an awesome table listing these for different styles of ice cream, along with typical % for commonly used, and Heston’s favorite chemical, ingredients. I took a picture and listed them for reference on the side, hopefully you can see all right. I know in the future I’ll be using this to calculate all my experimental ice cream recipes.

Also learned that different sugars, though using the exact same weight, have different affects on level; pure glucose is actually sweeter than sucrose, table sugar, a mix of glucose and fructose. Of course they also affect flavor.

Heston’s recipe, it should be noted, was crafted after much trial and error to be create a very clean-flavored, low-custardy yet ‘creamy’ result that allows additional flavors to shine, mainly so that it can be served with other food and not overpower it. Thus why it focuses on all milk, improving the texture with milk solids that will increase the dairy flavor and consistency without the strong fatty flavor/feeling.

‘Vanilla’ Ice Cream, Roasted Banana version
20150807_1031521 Banana
(1 Vanilla Pod)
333ml Whole Milk
60g Egg Yolks (about 4)
32g Honey (Fructose)
14g Skimmed Milk Powder
(3 coffee beans)

Directions

  1. (Cut Vanilla pods in half, scrape out seeds. Put pod in pan w/ Milk, simmer gently for 10 minutes, remove and cool to 140F)20150807_111012
  2. Poke Banana, unskinned, with toothpick, and place in 350F oven for 40-60 minutes, depending on ripeness. Peel and reserve20150807_105727
  3. Whisk Yolk and Honey for at least 5 minutes to a pale yellow, foamy consistency20150807_110039
  4. Add in 140F scalded Milk, whisking to combine, followed by the Milk Powder (and Coffee Beans)20150807_110739
  5. Heat to 160F, stirring often, and hold for 10 minutes to pasteurize
  6. Add in banana, mashing and whisking until fully incorporated20150807_111842
  7. Strain custard into a separate bowl, ideally over ice bath, and leave to cool20150807_112646
  8. Transfer to covered container and let mature in fridge 8-24 hours20150807_213359
  9. Churn in desired machine and fashion until 23F, or set and airy. Transfer back to container and move to freezer to store20150807_215759

Apple Milk Caramel
166g Whole Milk
50g Sugar
50+g reserved Apple Cores and Peelings
(1/3g Malic Acid)

Directions

  1. Bring all the ingredients to a simmer, then let sit off heat for 30 minutes to infuse20150809_180850
  2. Strain through a fine sieve into pan, return to hit and bring back to a simmer20150809_184025
  3. Let cook, knowing that it WILL curdle, ‘until refractometer shows that is has reached 74 Brix,’ or until the liquid get to a desired thick consistency when cooled but does NOT brown or color20150809_190227
  4. Strain through fine sieve again into storage container, move to fridge until use20150809_191825

Raw Diced Apple
40g Honey (Fructose)
75g Water
0.5g Salt
3g Calamansi or other Citrus Vinegar (5g Lemon juice+0.5g Vitamin C)
1 Green Apple (Granny Smith ideal actually)

Directions

  1. Combine Honey, Water, and Salt in pan, heating until dissolved20150807_215601
  2. Cool over ice or in fridge, adding in Calamansi Vinegar (or actual Lemon Juice and C)20150809_175737
  3. When ready, peel and dice Apple to 5mm brunoise, adding to sirup for, at most, 2 hours until needed20150809_180026

Results

20150809_193307Really, this sort of ice cream truly does need a fast-freezing method; with its higher milk focus vs eggs, a trait that another blogger prized since they were looking for a less-custardy option (they even thought THIS had too much yolk, crazy person), it still ended up icy with my machine. Still better than my previous ice cream attempts. In my situation, I think next time I’ll use more yolks to improve texture; besides, I much prefer and look for a more custardy ice cream for my all-purpose base. That said, I see the appeal to this mostly-milk formulae, the lack of custard really helps it pick up and express other flavors. That roasted banana came out pure and simple, and I bet that vanilla would have been glorious if used. Can’t wait to use it again, also to actually better see the effect of the milk powder in comparison to something I’m more used to.

20150809_193423Now, onto other things. I will say the flavor of that syrup DID come through a bit with those apple, at least when only briefly drained, and as expected moreso with masses of smaller pieces vs larger, so not a surprise. However, I WAS using some more distinctly flavored ingredients in it, and I expect that, if following the original recipe, those would actually be neutral, the use being to provide a solution for the apples to sit in that is of equal water-sugar-acid ratios to the fruit itself, not diluting or changing its flavor. So at least I know that; oh, and I now have some leftover syrup that I’m sure I can do something tasty with.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t cook the ‘caramel’ as long as I needed; I would have returned it to the pan to keep going too, but I barely had any and there wasn’t much time until my 2 hours on the raw apples were up. Besides, it was saucy enough and the flavor shouldn’t have actually changed anymore, so I still got a solid impression. And overall what I tasted I liked; they were right, very lactic and sweet and nice, like a dulce de leche that hasn’t caramelized… oh wait…

The white chocolate of the milk caramel world, the back of my mind is quite tingled with the idea of introducing this to some other desserts in the future. Problem comes through the fact that it can’t be paired with any strong flavors; after over an hour of cooking, long waiting to end up with only a quarter-ish cup of sauce, I could barely taste it alongside my banana ice cream; then again, that might have been the more icy and distinct results of my frozen attempts. Not to mention that, unless REALLY looking while eating as-is, I couldn’t really tell there was any apple in it. My guess was that being a result of the apple leftovers I used; the greens, which I love eating cuz they’re so crisp, probably don’t have that strong aromatic flavor in their flesh and skins like the best cooking apples do. And maybe if the sauce thickened, perhaps even reduced, a bit more, that may have helped.

But despite my negatives, there are plenty of positive results, and I understand these recipes and how I’d want to apply them in the future, and isn’t that the real goal of trying out new things in the kitchen? I know I can’t wait until my next casual ice cream, just to have more sweet deliciousness in the freezer, and finding an excuse to retry the milk syrup. Apples are apples though, I’ll just cut those up right before I need them next time.

20150809_192031Oh! One extra discovery! After draining out the caramel from the ‘curd,’ I actually tasted some of the solidified milk, and it was quite interesting. It actually tasted and had the texture of fresh cheese, but notably sweet and desserty; which is basically what it was. The texture isn’t super ideal, a little ‘springy’-er than I’d want, but I think I can do something with this, mixed with apples and nuts in a streusel maybe…

p2: Coconut Blancmange

20140419_183610The Sweet

The first time I ever heard of “blancmange” was in watching a British “mini-series” following super-chef Heston Blumenthal and these special “Feasts” he did (if you’ve never heard of him, look him up and some of the shows he’s done, it’s amazing!). The particular dish in question was a “frog blancmange,” served as an early course in a Middle-Ages-themed dinner as a pseudo-dessert, Englanders at the time often eating puddings and other savory versions of sweet dishes as “appetizers.” Soon as I saw it I wanted to make it, doing some brief research to try and figure out what it was and what the little “tricks” were to making it… well, “it.” Suffice to say my recipe and history digging back then wasn’t quite as thorough (well, that words makes it sound like I’m not lazy, and I still am… “refined” maybe?) as it is now.

Dishes of similar name are found throughout the European continent, all of them translating similarly to “white food” or “white mush.” Which country was first to offer the original version is currently up in the air, though it’s said it started through the introduction of rice and almonds via Turkish or other Arab travelers. Grimod de La Reyniere said it originated in Languedoc, a likely candidate due to its closeness towards Mediterranean trading routes.

It was the Europeans’ use of these ingredients that brought up the road to today’s blancmange, and its Caribbean Coconuty version. The first iterations simmered milk with the rice, almonds, and shredded chicken or other such white meats, often flavored with just a bit of anise and caraway (a separate legacy of the Turks). Despite the use of proteins, these “meat jellies” would still be served as sweet dishes, though other puddings based on honey, milk and almonds also emerged to influence blancmange’s history.

Coconut_Flan_1Sooner or later the rice pudding refined itself, taking away the particular starch in place of other thickening substances such as powdered stag’s horn or concentrated, jellied stock. These were mixed with thoroughly ground and steeped almonds (aka almond milk), dairy, and any very subtle flavorings and sweeteners desired. Once set, they yielded a delicately tender, subtle flavored jelly fit for French royalty, at early times being referred to as “blandmange” not as an insult but a testament to its beautifully light flavors.

And as the French took over Martinique and Guadeloupe, as mentioned with my post on Cod Accras, the dish followed, mixing and intermingling with the culture for them to twist into their own version. A Coconut milk heavy dish, thickened with what’s popular at the time (nowadays we just used gelatin) and served alongside tropical fruits. Thus is the long but seemingly quick and simple evolution of this dish from the Middle-Aged-Arab pudding to today’s Coconut Jelly.

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

Picking a recipe for this, I found I had to take quite a few things into consideration. First and foremost being the base which I was to later thicken and gelatinize. Intriguingly, there are quite a few recipes which, along with their coconut milk flavoring, also add milk, cream, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated, etc. At first it made me quite anxious in picking the “right” combination, only to quickly turn around as I remembered “Hey, they didn’t use some of this crap back in the day.” You gotta keep it simple if you wanna stay traditional, that and maximize coconut flavor. As such, my ‘favorite’ recipe was the one that was almost all coconut milk with a little addition that allowed for other milk products. With a nod towards blancmange’s origins and usual non-coconut composition, I used Almond Milk for this particular mix percentage (sadly, not homemade… too much work if it’s not the main player).

Second consideration was the Gelatin. As it was, quite old recipes, if they wanted to turn this into that particular jelly/pudding, would either cook the lactic mixture down with rice (that was before refinement), or later on mix it with a very concentrated stock (as stocks made from bones often contain a large amounts of collagen, they can become quite gelatinized when cooked down a certain amount) or the powdered stag’s horn thingy, which I’m just not doing, sorry. Though this stock method may work quite well, and be something I’d very much like to do to get the proper and traditional texture and flavor of a regular blancmange, the delicate and sweet coconut version probably won’t wanna taste that good with fish or chicken flavoring.

So what do we do? The main methods nowadays for the simple cook-at-home revolve around the use of gelatin (either powdered or sheet) or cooking with cornstarch and possibly eggs. However, this latter actually involves, again, cooking the mixture on high heat, risking a broken ‘custard,’ plus the texture afterwards looks like it’s somewhat odd. Furthermore, I’ve found most of the recipes that use the technique are “Brazilian” coconut blancmange. Thus, we stick with gelatin, which is the closest thing to the natural pectin medium as we can find anyhow. I suggest using sheet, but powdered is all I had on hand, and is usually the easiest for most people to get, so no shame in using it.20140417_155115

There are a couple things needed to know, though, if one is using powdered gelatin, especially if this is your first time (jello doesn’t count, we’re getting the base unflavored version). We can’t just add it in, first we need to “bloom” the gelatin in the liquid of choice, COLD (believe me, it won’t happen if the liquid is hot, I’ve tried). It should be sprinkled into the liquid slowly, gently from high up, bit by bit… much like trying to thicken a sauce with flour, one doesn’t just dump it in. It needs to be carefully added in so nothing bunches up. If you’re adding a high proportion of gelatin-to-liquid, much like in this recipe, it helps to mix and swirl the setting top in every now and then. Once everything is added and the grains thicken and bloom up, we transfer to heat and it melts fast.

Don’t need any fancy molds either. I ended up using a small round Tupperware for a big personal serving and a funnel cake pan for a fun centerpiece; the jelly comes out pretty easily from any mold one chooses, though the cake pan needed just a bit of “persuasion” beforehand. Oh, and I decided to add a bit of lime zest to the original recipe for an added flavor, sorta like using vanilla in most French pastry such, but for the Caribbean!20140417_161347

Coconut Blancmange
400ml (1.7 cups) Coconut Milk
100ml (.42 cups) Almond or other Milk
2/3 cups Sugar
Zest of 1 Lime
2 Tb/Packets Gelatin Powder
1 tsp Vanilla

Directions20140417_154931

  1. Mix Half of the Coconut and Almond Milk with Sugar and Lime in a pot. Heat on Medium-Low, stirring often, until sugar dissolves.20140417_160808
  2. While this is happening, gently sprinkle Gelatin over remaining, COLD milks, allowing it to “bloom” and thicken.20140417_161502
  3. Transfer bloomed milk into the pot with the rest, stirring together until the gentle warmth melts/dissolves the gelatin.20140417_162341
  4. Remove from stove, stirring in the Vanilla, and strain liquid into the prepared “moulds.”20140417_162539
  5. Cover and move to fridge or other cold area, leaving to set for a couple hours or more.20140419_183240
  6. Carefully unmold, running a rubber spatula around the edge, or if needed heating up the bottom in a warm water bath (or, you know, maybe a blowtorch…).20140419_183427
  7. Portion and serve with desired fruit garnish, such as Mango Coulis, Rum-soaked Mango Cubes, and Pan-fried Banana Bread.20140419_184438

My Thoughts

Tasty, a fun dessert to use as a flavor base and build a palette through various garnishes, especially if you’re just coming off wisdom teeth surgery! (that was an interesting weekend)

When eating it as-is, though, there are a couple things I think I’d like to change for the next batch. Firstly, the coconut aspect isn’t quite AS strong as I’d like when cold; when warm it comes out, but cold I feel the almond milk flavors become more forefront despite its minimal use. Thus I would suggest pulling the amount of it back and replacing it, and some of the other coconut milk, with coconut CREAM, which should give a nicely thicker consistency and more flavor. Speaking of consistency, also am I not too satisfied about how firm it was; it really did feel like Jello, a little too much “bite.” If I were to properly keep this to the idea of blancmange I have in my head, I’d like it a little looser, tender and svelt. Thus, maybe I’ll try 1.5 Tb (well, I did a double batch myself, so 3 packets instead of 4) of gelatin. I’m curious about trying the use of those condensed and evaporated milks too, so those might help!

Finally, didn’t get the entire lime flavor I wanted, so either up the anty, let them steep longer, or no straining them out.

That said, I still really liked this fun Caribbean version of a French dessert, it tasted delicious at the end of the meal (especially with all the garnishes), and have grown quite the interest towards the art and idea of “blancmange.” I hope to be able to play with the recipes at some other point, maybe even make my own almond milk from scratch!

20140419_185402Possible Pairings

Much like the Cod Accras, it’s the Caribbean, so Rum Cocktails galore! Maybe a creamy, coconut-heavy Pina Colada, or just some straight shots of Coconut flavored Rum. Not much more to say there.

It’s hard for me to figure what other drink I’d want to enjoy with this besides the rum, but I’ll give it a shot. Certain Fruit Wines could do well, so long as they still have a bit of sweetness, are well balanced, and compliment the chosen fruit garnish. We have quite a few wineries here in Minnesota that still maintain a strong focus on this non-grape alcohol, and I find it can be fun to get into.

Thinking of islands, my mind also wanders towards Madeira and Marsala, two very historical Fortified wines based on islands off of Italy and Africa. They’re sadly not as appreciated today as they were in the far past; most places only sell the cheap cooking versions, even the decent wine shops can only get what are the more “basic” of styles, the upper crust of what used to be a set of very deep and intricate layers. With their foray out of the limelight, navigating even these simple bottle selections can be somewhat daunting. So the ones I would suggest buying, which should be light enough in power and flavor concentration while still containing some sugar, are as such.

For Madeira_WineMadeira: Rainwater, anything with Sercial or, even better, Verdlho on the labels.

For Marsala: The decent ones usually have multiple things on the label (like going through German wines, though thankfully not as insane). Good keywords are Secco or Semisecco, Ambra or Oro (preferred), and Fine.

Other Island pairings could be fun too. There are plenty of Italian islands that make tasty regular and fortified sweet wines with moscato; they’ll usually have Muscat on the label/regional name somewhere, so they’re easy to spot in the dessert section.

Oh, and Grappa might not do too badly either; same with Kirschwasser and other distilled fruit brandies (again, so long as they match any fruit pairings used).Minchilli_grappa_5-6_post