Chocolate Chantilly

The simplest (just two ingredients), most sophisticated (think Michelin Starred Restaurants), dessert possible, Chocolate Chantilly is a contradiction in terms.

This ‘chantilly’ is like a soft, glossy, smooth chocolate mousse. It’s called a ‘chantilly’ though no cream is used, and the flavour can be changed according to the liquid added, or by adding flavourings. I have used orange juice and coffee but other liquids/flavours that go with dark chocolate should work just as well.

It is the simplest and most sophisticated chocolate dessert imaginable, just chocolate and water (or some other aqueous liquid).

Being a foam the flavour is enhanced and magnified, so for me Whittaker’s Dark Ghana is too sweet, and needs to be cut, or better perhaps I need to find a source of better quality chocolate. Why do Kiwis like their sweets so sickly sweet?

The ratio of water to chocolate may vary with different chocolates, liquids, or even the weather, but the mix can always be rescued by reheating (see below) and the ratio adjusted.

Ingredients (serves two or three)

  • 100g dark (bittersweet) chocolate, with a minimum 50 percent cocoa chopped
  • 33 to 100g water (or other liquid, fruit juice, coffee…)
  • decoration e.g. whipped cream, passion fruit seeds, violet flower…

Instructions

Combine the chocolate and liquid in a bowl place in a saucepan water bath, have another bowl with ice and water handy.

Heat and stir until the chocolate has melted and mixes with the liquid (it will be glossy and smooth like a ganash made with water instead of cream).

The video is cut in several places but gives an idea of when the whipping is ‘done’.

Put in the ice water bath and whisk after a couple of minutes, often quite quickly, the chocolate will start to firm up like whipped-cream. Keep whisking until fairly stiff peaks form.

If grains form reheat and start again, if it is too thin add chocolate, if too firm add liquid.

Teaching my grandmothers how to peel eggs

There are lots of ‘old wives tales’ about how to peel eggs. Preparing a boiled egg seems like one of those tasks that is so simple anyone can do it. Yet there are a couple of complications.

The easiest to resolve is how long to boil, less than about 5 minutes (depending on egg size) and the yolk is too soft, more than about 8 minutes and the yolk gets an unsightly black coating (sulphur from the white reacts with iron from the yolk to give ferrous sulphite). 1 NB. Americans see colour differently and the coating is called ‘green’ there — I have no idea if this is related to Green Eggs and Ham.

The most complex is how to peel. Getting the shell off the egg sounds easy, yet the membrane seems to stick to both shell and egg, resulting over the years in hundreds of mangled and so manky-looking eggs. My grandmothers’ methods of making this easier involved shocking the eggs in icy water once they are boiled, and for one of them also by putting the cold egg direct into vigorously boiling water at the start (a double shock). This shocking system works (a bit). It seems t work best if the eggs are peeled under the cold water as soon as possible after shocking them — but it is by no means always successful (cue dozens more manky hard boiled disasters).

Enter molecular gastronomy. Or at least the science of cooking. On a website that I failed to bookmark, and so can no longer find, while looking for something completely different, I found a discussion of how to cook eggs to be easy to peel. This involves making the membrane less ‘sticky’. The answer (after appropriate scientific theory and experiment) 2 Theirs not mine. is to knock a dint in the round end of the egg before putting it in the water to cook. This allows water to reach and moisten the membrane.

The dint is made by hitting the egg (surprisingly hard, it took me several goes each harder than the previous attempt at first) on a hard rounded surface — the top of a rolling pin or the back of a spoon (held firmly onto the edge of the bench). The dint on the right in the photo is too vigorous and risks tearing the membrane, the one on the left is as slight as will work, but risks being invisible! 3 Both eggs worked fine.

After adding this to my grandmothers’ shocking approach I have yet to suffer a peeling fail!

Notes   [ + ]

1. NB. Americans see colour differently and the coating is called ‘green’ there — I have no idea if this is related to Green Eggs and Ham.
2. Theirs not mine.
3. Both eggs worked fine.

Troll Cream

If you make mayonnaise or other yolk-based sauces you will always have a pot (or more) of egg whites languishing in the fridge. Yet egg whites are a fascinating and fun ingredient.

More than meringues

Of course they can make meringues and meringues are versatile accompaniments to many desert dishes. Yet a few basic properties of egg whites make them much more versatile.

When whipped they form quite stable foams. The more they are whipped the more stable (since the air bubbles get smaller). The more water is added (within reason) 1 Reason here being defined as: if you get greedy eventually you reach a limit case and the whole thing collapses. the greater the volume of the foam.

Sugar (by increasing the viscosity of the water) helps stabilise the foam.

When heated the proteins in egg white coagulate, firming the foam.

Troll Cream

This Scandinavian dessert uses some of these properties. It is dead simple, just whip egg white, add fruit juice or syrup and whip some more. Add sugar as needed for taste (and to stabilise) et voilà, Troll Cream!

Enter the Vauquelin

Martin Lersch, Norewegian molecular gastronome, uses the last of these characteristics to produce a variant of the Scandinavian ‘Troll Cream” that is like a cross between a Kiwi pavlova and a mousse. He names it in honour of French chemist Louis Nicolas Vauquelin.

Just make a Troll Cream, spoon the mix onto greaseproof paper and heat in a microwave for about 8-10 seconds. The timing is crucial as can be seen from the photo above. In our microwave the Vauquelin on the left had 10 seconds and is nicely done while the one on the right had 20 and has collapsed.

I used Blackcurrant syrup for the fruit, but the taste is (of course) only as good as the fruit, next time I will try something more sophisticated.

Baked Vauquelin

Vauquelin can naturally be baked (like meringues) but if the temperature is too high they will lose their colour as the sugar caramelises. One needs a temperature only a little above 100⁰C to dry them without caramelising the sugar. This is hardly worth the effort.

 

Notes   [ + ]

1. Reason here being defined as: if you get greedy eventually you reach a limit case and the whole thing collapses.

65⁰ for the perfect egg?

Can you cook a perfect egg?

Can you cook an egg? It is harder than one thinks to cook a (near) perfect egg. The film Julie and Julia that we are currently enjoying makes the point firmly, to learn cookery one starts at the beginning, cooking eggs.

This eggs / 65⁰ eggs

For some reason, although we have had the sous vide circulator for a while now, and use it frequently when cooking meat, I have not before tried the famous 65⁰ egg. It should probably be called the ‘This Egg’, or «Œufs This» since this temperature is the result of work by French molecular gastronome Hervé This.

So for today’s experiment I am making myself a couple of 65⁰ eggs. The sous vide is the ideal way to do this, avoiding the terrible error of 64⁰ eggs.

During lunch at a local bistro, I notice a 65-degree-Celsius egg on the menu, served on a fricassée de girolles. As the plate is set down, This says: “That’s not a 65-degree egg. It’s a 64-degree egg.” The yolk is soft, and the egg white, while completely opaque, is so delicately jelled and fragile that it breaks apart slightly when it is plated. “Eh, oui,” the chef sighs; he is having des ennuis regulating the heat of his stove.  (Quoted from Discovery)

According to This’ research at 65⁰ one gets soft creamy yet set whites and a soft not quite runny yolk, pretty much how I like my eggs. For Barbara I may have to do some 67⁰ eggs, but today is about me 🙂

As the featured image shows, my 65⁰ egg is as described, the whites are opaque (though only just) and are indeed creamy, and as promised a ‘revelation’. The yolks, however, are almost set, and so for me less than exciting.

The quest for my ‘perfect egg’ continues…

This only cooks his eggs a short while, that might be the answer, but the Chef Steps egg calculator suggests that the perfect egg for me with a pretty firm white and yet pretty runny yolk would use 75⁰ for 15 mins or, after 12 mins ice and reheat… I may try that next week.

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PS, these This Eggs were topped with a lemmony mustard mayonnaise, but does anyone know a quick easy foolproof way to make hollandaise?

Gelification: or edible pearls

One of the simplest Molecular Gastronomy techniques is cheap yet powerful. Gelification simply means turning something into a gel. Your mother or granny (or come to that the people who cooked your school/hospital/prison dinners) used gelification if only when making jellies (what the Americans call Gello).

This post will introduce the fun and delicious results you can get through gelification by making edible pearls.

What you will need

Juice (I used commercial beetroot and purple carrot 1 This commercial juice is sweetened with apple juice, so I’ll use the pearls as a decoration/sauce for roast pork. but I have also used orange and lemon, and balsamic vinegar pearls are really fun for brightening a salad – almost any liquid you can eat can make edible pearls)

Agar agar sounds complicated but you can buy it at many Asian stores, some supermarkets, or online from stockists like Equagold.  2 $16 sounds expensive for a mere 60g, But that will make 60 times the quantity I used for Barbara and me, and if your local stores have it they will be much cheaper.

Vegetable oil (I used rice bran, posh people use Extra Virgin Olive Oil, I will when I am making pearls to dress a salad, but for this I plan on washing my fruit pearls).

Dropper or syringe look around a little and you’ll find droppers or syringes available cheaply (I’d try your local plastic box shop or $2 shop).

Tall glass or jam jar the taller and narrower the better within reason.

Method

Put the oil in the glass or jar (not too full, you need space for the juice) in the freezer for about 30 mins (some oils like olive need to be watched, so they do not set to solids) others can be left much longer.

Take juice and agar agar. Half a teaspoon (2.5g) of agar agar will set one cup of juice, I did half that for decoration/sauce for two people.

Sprinkle the agar agar on top of the juice in a pan, warm till just bubbling, stirring as needed.

Dribble the hot (as near boiling as is comfortable) juice 3 Agar agar sets at 32-40⁰C but only melts at 80⁰C into the oil. Enjoy watching the pearls form as they drift to the bottom of the glass. As in this video:

 

 

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Coming soon: gelification recipes and suggestions, starting with a Vegan crème brûlée with citrus pearls.

Notes   [ + ]

1. This commercial juice is sweetened with apple juice, so I’ll use the pearls as a decoration/sauce for roast pork.
2. $16 sounds expensive for a mere 60g, But that will make 60 times the quantity I used for Barbara and me, and if your local stores have it they will be much cheaper.
3. Agar agar sets at 32-40⁰C but only melts at 80⁰C

Molecular Gastronomy (simple and cheap)

This new series Molecular Gastronomy (simple and cheap) makes molecular recipes simple: explaining the techniques without mystification or complication. It also aims to let you try Molecular Gastronomy at home on a budget.

Molecular Gastronomy is a silly and complicated name for having fun with cooking and eating. After all, molecular means ‘to do with molecules’ so basically chemistry and physics. Gastronomy means to do with the science and art of cooking and eating. But all cooking has to do with using chemistry or physics (or more often both) to change the food we eat. The only gastronomy that is NOT ‘molecular’ is preparing and eating raw food!

So this series will introduce ‘Molecular Gastronomy’. We’ll keep it simple. We’ll also avoid expensive equipment (as far as possible) and complex kits. Other sites offer great kits and impressive gadgets. Here we want cheap Molecular Gastronomy.

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Coming tomorrow: Gelification: edible pearls will describe a simple cheap Molecular Gastronomy technique to add bursts of perhaps surprising flavour to your cooking.

New life for an old blog?

This blog has been moribund, the reason is a mix of pride and shame. I am proud of having adapted to living on a lifestyle block, and of caring for animals (cattle, sheep, and pigs) fairly successfully as well as growing fruit and veges (with rather less success as we are at 400m and enjoy cold winds which carry passing clouds across the property). But this combination means we have been far from the ideal of repentant carnivores, rather we have been eating lots of/too much meat, because that is easy and cheap to grow ourselves, while cabbages are harder work, and beans or lentils must be bought from far far away. Being a locavore and living here implies being an unrepentant carnivore.

However, I have a new interest, molecular gastronomy (a horribly pretentious and often inaccurate name for having fun using the science and art of food to produce food that is delicious or entertaining in often surprising ways).

Like many who are intrigued by Heston Blumenthal, or today our local restaurant, producing foams, pearls, ‘caviars’ and the like, I dreamed of doing the same at home. When Scripture Union gave me a generous Prezzie card, as well as the joy of seeing kiwi in the wild. 1 So, I treated myself to a ‘Molecular Gastronomy Kit’.

I’ve begun to have fun with it. I am sold on ‘molecular gastronomy’ at home. But as well as the silly pretentious name (which we now have little chance of changing), the high cost of entry (both in money and in time) seems unnecessary. So I plan a new section for this dying blog, Molecular Gastronomy (simple and cheap). I plan to show you in a number of simple steps some of the best techniques and point you (especially Kiwis who do not have the same access to specialised stores) to cheap sources of equipment and ingredients.

Notes   [ + ]

1.