The focus was on ice creams and frozen desserts this week, but instead of following the standard demonstration, then do, format, Chef T decided that we should work towards a frozen dessert buffet at the end of the week. We broke into two teams and each team had to come up with one plated individual dessert, an entremet (or centerpiece dessert), and an original signature sundae. We had to present 4 sorbets and 4 ice creams, include at least two types of fruits (roasted, poached, sauteed, flambeed, etc., it didn't matter), and could only use a total of 6 qts of cream, 6 qts of milk, and 80 eggs. We had to think about the attractiveness of our buffet, too, in terms of color, variety, height, shapes, textures, and flavors. Our team decided to use a theme to focus our ideas, and we chose Frozen French Classics. The picture here is what abou 60 manhours accomplished.
Our entremet, pictured below, is the ice cream version of legendary pastry chef Ferdinand Point's Marjolaine, which is considered by some to be the most perfect dessert ever created. Four layers of crunchy nut meringue alternate with chocolate, vanilla, and hazelnut buttercream. The sides are finished with chocolate ganache and sliced toasted almonds, and a perfect snowfield of confectioner's sugar is dusted on top. Our version, of course, was filled with chocolate, vanilla and hazelnut ice cream.
Red wine and chocolate always go well together, so for our plated dessert we made a Chocolate Merlot Bombe. A core of merlot sorbet is ensconced in a sprinkling of chopped nougatine (hard caramel and almond candy) and chocolate ice cream. A ganache glaze was poured on, and a crunchy butterfly cookie glued on top with some stiff ganache. The dessert was finished with wine-poached pears on the side and two sauces feathered together: creme Anglaise and a merlot reduction.
The signature Sundae was a play on champagne and strawberries. From the bottom up: a dollop of strawberry reduction, clear champagne sorbet/gelee, a layer of champagne-soaked savarin (a type of cake), strawberry sorbet, strawberry compote, champagne sorbet, and a deguised strawberry (fresh strawberry dipped in clear caramel. The caramel forms a hard crust, but water from the strawberry turns the inside of the caramel into a fruity syrup that bursts when you bite into it). This glorious concoction is topped off with a tulipe cookie "straw," made from the same cookie batter that was used to make the butterflies.
The rest of the cookie batter was used to make "ice cream cones" and cups in the shape of flowers, which can be seen in the foreground of the first photo. The grey bowl of stuff in this picture may not look appealing, but it was one of the best-tasting things on the table, and a much-needed palate cleanser after all our other decadent offerings. It was a granita made from combination of jasmine green tea and pineapple white tea. The yellow rose stuck into the bowl is made from lemon peel.
Each of the four ice creams and sorbets were scooped and presented in little vacherins, or piped meringue containers. They looked neat and clean, and held the melting treats in check during service. The rest of the meringe went to making white meringue cookies, which, when dipped in tempered chocolate, echoed the black and white color theme and made a striking visual statement. We made chocolate, vanilla, pistachio and hazelnut ice creams and our sorbets were apricot, lime, champagne, and merlot. The merlot sorbet tasted like Christmas, having been cooked with cinnamon, cloves and star anise.
For added crunch and a little glitter, we also made little diamant cookies, which are tender shortbread cookies that contain almost no flour, just confectioner's sugar, butter, and a whole vanilla bean. Simple but decadent.
This molded chocolate Eiffel Tower left our guests in no doubt about our theme, and it also added height and visual appeal to our buffet.
We ran into lots of problems with the champagne sorbet, which refused to solidify. The champagne probably didn't have enough sugar in it, and we didn't compensate for it with adding more to the recipe. In any case, seeing as we had to find a way to serve our fourth sorbet, we hollowed out some oranges and set them in a bowl of ice, making a pretty, primary-colored display.
Finally, because we found ourselves standing around with nothing to do at the end of Thurday, we decided to make a second entremet. For those of you who've never seen before, the mountain pictured below is a croquembouche. It's the most popular wedding cake in France and is made of a mountain of choux buns glued together with caramel. They're usually hollow on the inside but ours hides a solid cone of caramel bavarian, and is about two feet tall. It sits on a molded nougatine base that was rolled out flat, cut, then shaped on a cake pan while still warm and pliable. Just one side of the choux buns were dipped in a dark, contrasting caramel, and glued on with whipped cream. I think it looked better than it tasted, but it was fun to make it. Dipping those little buns was also an unexpected opportunity for me to learn about sugar burns when drop fell on my thumb. At first I ignored it because it only felt warm, but very quickly it got hotter and hotter and hotter until I could feel it all the way to the bone. By the time I had wiped it off hastily with a paper towel, a blister had begun to form. Nasty stuff.
All in all, I thought we put on a pretty impressive buffet for a first attempt, although with hgindsthere are definitely things that we could improve upon. We'll find out on Wednesday which team won.