Thursday, April 29, 2010

Not just for breakfast anymore...

Waffles. Of all the breakfast foods—other than Dutch Babies, which hold a special and artery-clogging place in my heart—waffles would be my favorite. Sure, I eat more French toast, but that’s because I always have stale bread lying around, and its quick to make, but waffles; waffles are king.

In America, we treat them as a breakfast-only item, but other places in the world sees it differently. In Belgium, one can find waffles in little street carts, with pearl sugar added to the batter so that it caramelizes as the waffle cooks. A similar sweet street food can be found in Hong Kong, topped with sweetened condensed milk. What makes waffles so good? I have no idea. What makes a good waffle? That is a different question entirely.

The first secret to making a good waffle is in the waffle iron. The whole idea behind a waffle iron is that the checkerboard pattern greatly increases the surface-area that is in contact with the hot metal. The result is something that cooks much more quickly, and a finished product that is crispy. If you are using an American waffle iron (the kind with the really small squares), you can make a half-decent waffle, but the deep Belgian style waffle iron is really the only way to go if you want a great waffle.

The next point, as important as the first, is that waffles are not pancakes, they are waffles. It sounds simple, but more than once, I have run into people who think that a waffle is nothing more than a square pancake. Its not. Pancakes are, well, cakes: soft, moist, and spongy. Waffles should be crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside—almost more like toast. Waffle batter is much stiffer than pancake. It can be leavened with baking soda, like a pancake, but most good recipes use other means to make the batter rise.

My method is one that uses yeast. The yeast gives a very distinct flavor, and also a… well… yeastiness.. I’ve had good luck with this recipe. They are good as sweet waffles, but you could just as easily top them with some fried chicken. I found that they even freeze better than other recipes that I’ve tried.

Yeasted Waffles

Yield: ~15 Belgian style waffles

12oz Milk

4oz Butter

2.5oz Sugar

3/4t. Salt

2ea eggs, separated

2c flour

1½t. instant dry yeast

1) Combine milk and butter and microwave until hot (Not boiling. Like 150°ish)

2) Combine dry ingredients except for sugar and sift

3) Add milk/butter mixture to dry, followed by egg yolks.

4) In a separate bowl, wisk egg whites, slowly incorporating the sugar, until they reach soft peaks

5) Fold egg whites into batter.

6) Pour into a large bowl or other container (batter will expand substantially).

7) Allow to rise for an hour at room temperature. At this point they can be cooked, or placed in the fridge for up to another 24 hrs.

8) Add roughly a 1/3 cup scoop to hot waffle iron and cook until golden

I made the waffles chocolate simply by substituting about ¼ cup of flour for an equal amount of cocoa powder. In truth, even with all the cocoa powder, the waffles didn’t taste that chocolaty, but it was enough.

The inspiration behind the dessert was bananas, chocolate, and peanut. I decided to top the waffle with some bruléed bananas (by far my favorite way to treat a banana), and peanut butter ice cream and a little chocolate lace (not pictured), to add crunch and that extra chocolatiness. People liked it so much I ended up running it two weekends in a row!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Work in Progress

So this is my first attempt at “Entremets.” I’m not necessarily posting this as something to strive towards, but as a starting point.

One could think of an entremet as a cake, and they would be sort of right. I think of it more as a dessert that you eat by the slice. The shape can be similar (in this case, a standard, 10” round), but what it is made of can be very different. A good entremet should be many layers of contrasting textures and/or flavors that complement each other; sort of like getting a little bit of everything in a single spoonful.

For this attempt, my flavors were a little on the tropical side: banana, coconut, caramel. Layers of banana bread and caramel sauce, suspended in coconut bavaroise (mousse). It was then covered in a white chocolate glaze and colored white chocolate décor.

If I were to give it a rating, I would give it a 6/10. Not bad for a first attempt, but could use some improvement. Among other things, it needed some crunch and was a little too sweet. I also wish that the layers were a little more visibly distinct. But it was good, and the other people that ate it had great thing to say about it.

As I said, it’s a work in progress.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Stroke of Genius

It’s been a long time since I’ve made a post, for a few reasons. Firstly, my camera has been elsewhere, which really put a damper on my posting possibilities. Also, I have been relatively busy outside of work. Mostly, though, I haven’t posted in a while because I didn’t really have anything worthy of posting.

As I mentioned before, Jianken is in the midst of trying to update their menus, which are in great need of an update. My goal for the dessert portion of the menu is to make it one that has more to do with sushi and Asian cuisine. For the past few months, I have been playing with new ideas and flavors that might fit the new menu, but lately it’s felt like I’ve hit a wall: redundancy. I need a new flavor; a new idea; a new technique. Something. That’s when the light bulb went off:

Calpico ice cream. The girlfriend and I were cleaning out our fridge at home and discovered that there was a bottle sitting in there from a visit to the Asian market. For those who have never tried Calpico, also known as Calpis, it is a non-carbonated soft drink that is made from fermented dry milk. It is sweet and tangy like yogurt, but with its own distinctive flavor. What is even better is that Calpis is a uniquely Japanese product. It was first produced in 1919, and gained wide popularity because in its concentrated form it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Calpis is as prevalent in Japan as Coke, or Kool-aide is in the US.

At first, I planned on making a Calpis sorbet. I have seen it as a shaved ice flavor, and figured that sorbet would be the next logical step, but I found that in order to keep the sorbet smooth once churned, the product had to be cloyingly sweet. It needed some fat to tone down the harshness of the calpis.

What I ended up with is technically an ice-milk. Ice-milk (at least how I define it), is a frozen dessert that is churned like ice cream or sorbet, but unlike ice cream, it contains no eggs and is thus not a custard. Ice-milk should ideally be less than 10% total milk fat. It has a texture that is more similar to sherbet or sorbet than ice cream. The crème fraiche in the recipe rounds out the flavor a bit more.

Calpis Ice Milk

Yield: ~ 1 liter

75g Sugar

50g Glucose powder*

550g Milk

250g Calpis

140g Crème Fraiche

2sht Gelatin°

*Glucose powder can be substituted for an equal amount of regular sugar with similar results

°Gelatin is optional

1) Combine Sugar, glucose powder (see note), and 100g milk in a small sauce pot and heat until sugar is dissolved and the milk is starting to steam.

2) Hydrate gelatin, squeeze out the excess water, and add to milk mixture.

3) Combine the remaining ingredients and homogenize with an immersion blender or wisk

4) Allow to cool for at least 4 hours in the fridge before

5) Process in ice cream according to manufacturers’ instructions

6) Allow to harden in freezer for at least 2 hours

I have found that I like the combination of bitter and acid, so I tend to pair things like dark chocolate and oranges, so it seemed natural to pair this with bitter matcha. Matcha rice pudding, Calpis ice-milk, and stewed cherries with brandy. Of course, its not cherry season, or they would be fresh cherries, but I did find a frozen product that was still remarkably sweet and full-flavored.