Monday 8 April 2013

Rhubarb Sorbet and Sticky Apple Sponges and Crystallised Pistachios (and I need a new camera)

I've been taking pics of the various elements in my new dessert: rhubarb sorbet with a sticky apple sponge, apple crisps and crystallised pistachios. However, even after a good deal of Photoshopping I can't get them to look good. These photos were taken with a Canon Ixy 1000 which is a decent point and shoot but it doesn't deal with low light well. Shadows make food look sinister but a nasty flash makes it look like road kill. I might have to buy a decent camera. I'm thinking of a Canon 600D but if anyone knows different please comment me.

Anyway, for what it's worth, here's the finished dessert. I swear it looked prettier on the night.

This was inspired by a recipe in James Mackenzie's book On the Menu.

I've made rhubarb sorbet many times before. It's a good way to use up that uniquely British product: forced rhubarb. Grown in the dark so it doesn't produce chlorophyll, this rhubarb is an almost embarrassingly, sometimes even metallic, cerise colour. It's one of those foods which looks man-made (I suppose it is though) like star fruit and yellow peppers.

The Sorbet
I make the sorbet by adding lots of rhubarb with just a splash of water and lots of caster sugar into a big pan, sticking the lid on and steaming the whole lot (low heat - I use a diffuser) until it's gloopy. At this stage you can add more sugar to taste and maybe mess about with ginger or rosewater or orange juice. On this occasion I went neat. I puree the whole lot in a blender and then churn in my ice-cream maker. It does have a slightly unusual texture this way... but in a good, interesting way.

The Apple Crisps
Using a mandolin on a setting that results in thin but whole slices... slice a whole apple. Brush the slices with sugar syrup (I used my home-made vanilla sugar syrup) and stick on some Silpat. Don't use baking paper! The slices will stick like shit to a blanket. Dry these out in an oven at 50°C for around 12 hours - maybe more. A long time yes. Just go to bed. They are startlingly delicious though.

This was taken with a nasty flash. See how they look like recently murdered apple slices?

This recipe makes six muffin size sponges.

This was taken in proper daylight. Much nicer but much of my cooking is at night.

Cream 125g caster sugar with 125g of unsalted butter. Mix in two eggs, a big pinch of cinnamon powder and 50ml of apple liqueur (I use this one which isn't readily available but worth an internet buy as it has the most wonderful aroma) or apple juice. Fold in 125g of self-raising flour. Bake in the middle shelf at 180°C for between 23 and 26 minutes. Why not just say 25 mins? This sounds pedantic but you'll need to experiment (what a hardship) with your oven to get the sponges just baked. The softer, the better. If they are just slightly still batter-y then that's fine with me.

Poke lots of holes in the still warm cakes and pour on...

Sticky Apple

Reduce 1 litre of apple juice (pressed juice, none of your concentrate nonsense which is about as close to juice as Pot Noodle is to... something edible) with 200g of sugar. Reduce to half then add two diced apples (skin on). Reduce to a sticky consistency. 

Something remarkable (the chemistry eludes me) happens to the apple chunks. They turn into translucent little edible garnets; soft but still with structure.

Reduced apple juice is a revelation to me. It's both sweet and tart; a really interesting flavour. Does make me wonder about reducing other juices.

I take a little of the syrup and reduce it even further to make a jammy thing. I use this to stick the nuts and the apple crisp to the plate, thus avoiding any ugly transit slippage between kitchen and table.

Crystallised Pistachios
You can use any nut here but I like the colour and flavour combination. You'll need a sugar thermometer. This is taken from Heston Blumenthal at Home.

Roast 200g nuts in a 170°C oven for 12 minutes. Meanwhile... dissolve 200g of caster sugar in 150ml of water. Bring to the boil slowly then increase the heat until the syrup gets to 135°C. Add the nuts and whisk (Yes, use a balloon whisk) like fury until the sugar has crystallised (the exact thing you usually try to avoid when making caramel). Pour the nuts onto silicon or parchment and allow to cool. Be quick pouring the nuts or that instruction will read: laboriously chip out of the nutty concrete from the bottom of your pan. Either way it's edible but pouring is far less work.

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