Tour d’Apple

Yes, we’ve been bad, absentee bloggers, and we owe you Mexican food and photos, and we’ll get to that. But first! A dessert from Thomas Keller’s “pro” volume: Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide. For anyone without a chamber vacuum, this book is a beast to deal with. But it is possible to muddle through some of the recipes with a Foodsaver-style vac. Dégustation des Pommes – “Tasting of Apples” – is one of those. It’s composed of six sub-recipes: candied apple spheres, apple genoise, milk jam, ginger custard, green apple sorbet, and apple chips.

The milk jam has four ingredients: sugar, milk, liquid glucose, and vanilla bean.

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Cook the sugar, milk and vanilla (scraped into the milk) for a couple of hours over low heat until it looks butter-scotchy, stir in the glucose, chill it, and you’re done. I messed up by putting the glucose in at the beginning, but it wasn’t a disaster.

The apple genoise is more of a production. The first step is to toss fuji apple wedges with sugar and a pinch of citric acid. These are then vac-packed and cooked sous-vide.

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The idea here is to avoid diluting the apple flavour and aroma (which would happen with poaching), and to cook them at the optimal temperature to coax them to tenderness while keeping their character intact. Here they are in the Vita-Mix after being sous-vided for 35 minutes at 185’C:

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And here they are in the stand mixer with the rest of the genoise ingredients: eggs, sugar, cake flour, and apple oil:apple 018After that, the genoise is spread out into a 1/4 sheet pan, baked in a convection oven, cooled, frozen, and cut into rounds. Mine didn’t turn out very well. The top was crusty and threatening to brown before the inside was really set. I blame the lack of a real 1/4 sheet pan… I only had a baking dish, whose high sides may have interfered with airflow.  Note the dense, apple-saucy interior:

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Onward and upward. The candied apple spheres were fun. Using a parisienne scoop (a #22 rather than the specified #18… oh my!), I made about four dozen spheres of Golden Delicious apple. Because we don’t have a chamber vacuum – you are welcome to buy us one – and liquids don’t do well in domestic vac sealers, I used the Foodsaver’s marinating jar to force the wine-sugar-water syrup into the apple balls:

apple 020I then packed them in a Mason jar brim-full with syrup, and put them into the Sous-Vide Supreme for a few hours at 167’C before chilling them.

The custard was also done sous-vide. I’d never done this before, and now I’m not sure I’ll make custard any other way. The water oven lets you cook the custard base at a single, constant, precise and optimal temperature. In this case, the base was infused with fresh and powdered ginger, strained, and bagged. Lacking a chamber vacuum, I used the displacement method – yay, Archimedes – which involves dunking the open bag into water up to the lip of the bag, until the water pressure forces almost all of the air out. Truthfully, this ended up being the most frustrating part of the recipe. Even though it looked like there was a negligible amount of air in the bag, it refused to stay submerged. Getting it to do so, while splashing around in 185’C water, was no fun. Anyway – here’s the bag of finished custard:

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This was mixed with gelatine and whipped cream before being left to set in the fridge… which it didn’t. I used silver-strength gelatine rather than gold-strength, but I’m not sure it would’ve set in any event. Since I had time, I threw it into the freezer, where it turned into excellent ginger ice cream.

Okay, we’re in the home stretch. Green apple sorbet was also fun to make. Keller’s sorbet base uses a stabilizer – haters will hate, but it prevents large ice crystals from forming, and this means smooooooth sorbet, so, meh. The recipe called for apple juice made from unpeeled Granny Smith apples (with precisely 16 baby spinach leaves and a pinch of citric acid, to provide and stabilize colour). Lacking a juicer, I turned to the Vita-Mix plus a Superbag(!) – a tough, synthetic bag with 100-micron pores. Basically, a big, reusable, über coffee-filter. This was a very successful substitution:

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The juice and the base spent some time in the ice cream maker, then joined the ginger ice cream in the freezer.

Last component: apple chips. Easy. Get your mandoline, make paper-thin slices of Granny Smith apples, punch out 2-inch circles:

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and poach them in sub-simmering sugar syrup for 90 minutes:apple 024

then place them on a teflon sheet (seriously, folks – go get one – these are awesome) in a 200’F oven for 2 hours.

Aaaaannd we’re done. Here’s the assembly:

The verdict on the dish? Too sweet. Waaaay, way too sweet. The genoise was punitively sweet. I’d say this was my fault, but I’m afraid it’s becoming a pattern with recipes we’ve made from Keller’s pastry chef. We’ve made madeleines and the madeleine cake from the Bouchon Bakery book, and they were also far too sweet. The other components of the dish were much more successful, but the whole was less than the sum of its parts. Keller’s cooking is notable for its attention to balance of flavour; that wasn’t the case here. Still, I learned a lot, and I’ll gladly make the custard (aka ice cream) and the sorbet again.