Oct 4, 2011

a new book

opinions differ on dessert. is it meant to be a comforting, sweet, predictable ending to a good meal, or is it meant to be unsettling and to provoke the eater into a consideration of new flavours? i fall into both camps, depending on the day. especially at restaurants on the cutting edge, i incline to the latter. below you see a dessert which is so much on the cutting edge it may have gone slightly beyond it.

the pleasure of a good brioche is not primarily in the buttery flavour or the lightness of the baked bread. rather, it is in the gentle aroma of yeast left over from a long, slow fermentation. this dessert plays on this yeast smell and connects it to similar musty aromas in blackberries and corn. it consists of grilled corn kernels shaved off the cob and bound with blackberry puree, a tart blackberry sorbet, young nasturtium leaves for acid, and a frozen foam made of heavy cream infused with yeast.

the yeast cream parfait is aerated by warming the infused cream slightly, then placing it in a valve container and drawing a vacuum on it in a chamber vacuum. the water begins to boil at a relatively low temperature creating a fragile foam, at which point the vacuum is released. the foamed liquid in the container is kept under partial vacuum because of the valve and the whole is placed into the blast freezer to freeze while still aerated. this fiddly procedure produces blocks of a white sponge that tastes of brioche and which disappears in the mouth.

one comment about this was particularly apposite: "many desserts take pages out of old books. this dessert is like a new book completely. perhaps diners are not quite ready for this. after a meal of new and uncomfortable textures and flavours, they might be expecting something familiar and sweet. for diners like that, this is like a big 'fuck you.'"

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