Friday, August 26, 2016

Cooking Experiment #4: Roca Brothers and My Sweet Imitation

Taking the week off from work meant I could go to events that I normally couldn't go. A couple weeks ago chefs Joan and Jordi Roca from El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain were in town for a private dinner event and on one of the afternoons, they delivered a cooking masterclass to a small audience. It's been such a privilege to be invited to join.

That to me was an intriguing experience, having the opportunity to listen to one of the best chefs in our times who shared with us the philosophy of their restaurant which is considered to be one of the best in the world, their inspirations and work, and through the video that they made, gave us a glimpse of their kitchen and elements of what made their dishes great. At the end, Joan and Jordi also did a little cooking demo, showcasing some of the dishes that they created just for the event in Hong Kong incorporating local ingredients and flavors.

My eyes were particularly fixated on one of the dishes they showed in the video, the yeast ice cream. At the restaurant, they served it on a special container which "moves" like a beating heart with lychees, cocoa and meringues coated on top. Since I intended to do some cooking experiment at home this week and was debating what icecream flavor I should test, I figured, why not give this a try.

Not knowing exactly how this should taste like I basically just made up my own recipe, throwing a heaping teaspoon of active dry yeast (what I used for bread-making) into the icecream custard and see what happened. I even imitate the presentation of the original dish Chef Jordi did and coated my scone of icecream with mini meringues. And I must say the result was pretty interesting – at first I expect it will taste yeasty like a piece of bread or a glass of good champagne, but actually it’s more like a hint of fermented flavor, something like a mild sweet sake. And it's super soft even after leaving that in the fridge overnight - that may have to do with the gas emitted through the fermentation process (just a guess). I don't know how the original version tasted but I quite like my version and it's not as strange as it sounds – I could totally see myself making this again as part of the dessert, just to give an element of surprise to the dish with an interesting flavor.

Recipe: Yeast Icecream with Mini Meringues (serves 4)


Icecream custard:
  • 1 cup of whipping cream
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 2/3 cup 
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 heaping teaspoon of active dry yeast
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup of sugar 
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
Whipped Cream:
  • 1/2 cup of whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar

1. Put the cream and milk (1 cup each) in a medium saucepan and simmer in medium heat until it’s gently boiled.
2. In the meantime, put the egg yolks and 2/3 cup of sugar in a mixing bowl and whip until it turned into a creamy yellow color.
3. Pour the hot cream and milk mixture in the mixing bowl in a slow motion and mix well together to form the custard. Let the custard slightly cooled down in the bowl.
4. In a small bowl, set aside about 1/4 cup of the custard and sprinkle the dry yeast into the warm custard. This would activate the live yeast (you should see foams being formed on top)
5. For the rest of the custard, pour back into the saucepan and simmer in low heat. Keep stirring with a wooden spatula to prevent curdle being formed. Cook until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spatula. Put in a pinch of salt and mix completely.
6. Pour the custard into a large bowl and let cool completely, stir in the custard-yeast mixture into the bowl, and then refrigerate overnight.
7. Strain the custard to remove any lumps, and churn the custard in your icecream maker according to your machine’s instruction. Freeze for at least 4 hours.
8. To make the meringues, put 2 egg whites (preferably in room temperature) in a clean bowl. Use the kitchen processor or handheld mixer to beat while gradually adding the 1/2 cup of sugar by the tablespoon until the mixture turned white and creamy, and stiff peak was formed when lifted. Mix in with a splash of lemon juice and a pinch of salt (they are used as stabilizer – alternatively you could use vinegar or cream of tartar for the same purpose)
9. Using a piping bag (or a Ziploc bag with the corner cut), pipe the meringues in small “dots” on the baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silpat. Leave 1 cm between each dots as they will expand a little bit while baking.
10. Pre-heat the oven to 110C, place the meringues into the lower sections of the oven (away from the heat source) and "bake" for 45-60 minutes. Check to make sure they were not browned by the heat - turn down the heat when it started to turn into a pale golden color. Turn off the heat when finished but leave the meringue in the oven while you ready all other components for assembly. That would cool down the meringues and make them a bit drier for easy handling.
11. Use a whisk and a metal mixing bowl, mix whipping cream and sugar until the cream reaches stiff peak. Set aside.
12. Bring the icecream out from the freezer, check the texture – if it’s too firm to scoop, leave in room temperature for 10 minutes to soften.
13. To assemble, bring the meringues out from the oven and put them in a shallow bowl in single layer. Put the containers for icecream, whipped cream and meringues in a horizontal line in front of you for easy assembly. First, make one scoop of icecream, dip into the bowl of whipped cream until it's fully covered, then roll the icecream in the bowl of meringues so they were completely coated. Serve immediately in a small bowl, two scoops each.

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