Cox’s Apple, Fromage Blanc, Apple Milk Caramel, Vanilla Ice Cream
Specialty Equipment: fine digital scale, vacuum machine, ice cream machine, dehydrator
Specialty Ingredients: gellan F, malic acid, yellow pectin, nappage pectin, spray-dried apple granules, fructose
Dish as in The Fat Duck:
I always wondered about the attitude towards seasons in the Fat Duck kitchen. Some chefs are absolutely anal about them. Then there are those with a more mild approach. As far as I can tell The Fat Duck has had, at least until last summer, a set menu and an a la carte menu with minimal changes. Meaning asparagus and strawberries in the winter and sole and turbot all year round. I’m all for some leniency, but don’t know any other top class restaurant with one menu for the entire year.
I’m bringing it up, because I was looking for Cox apples. Regular supermarkets never carry them, so I went to a good greengrocer and asked if they had any. The girl behind the counter gave me a bewildered look as if I asked for her phone number without any preceding small talk. In the end the owner was called from the back and he explained we’re at present far removed from the season of Cox apples. There was no way he could get hold of them.
Why would you choose to serve the same menu all year and not follow the market availability? Maybe the development time behind recipes makes it impossible to create enough dishes to fill a different menu four times a year. Maybe The Fat Duck is trapped in its own fame with customers demanding famous dishes, therefore making it difficult to pull them of the menu. Anyone else any ideas on this topic?
Season or not I had already set the recipe in motion, so I bought another type of apple: Jonagold. They are often used in apple pies here in the Netherlands. First the vanilla ice cream though, the apples will come later on.
The ice cream is made in the same way as the one in the Macerated Strawberries dish. I found a partial solution to the ice crystals problem, driving me absolutely nuts sometimes, with domestic ice cream machines. After the machine was done churning the ice I used a hand-held blender to smooth it out. It’s still not 100% smooth, but a bit better.
As a garnish the ice cream is topped with a dried slice of Granny Smith apple. You first have to soak the slices in water, lemon juice, water and salt for 24 hours and then dry them in a dehydrator on top of wrinkle free clingfilm. Just like other times the apples didn’t crisp up completely. A one minute tour through a hot oven was necessary for a crunchy finish.
The millefeuille has two apple layers: a pâte de fruit and a slice of caramelized apple. The most complex pâte de fruit and caramelized apple you’ll ever encounter that is. Of course. I love that, maybe some will not. The apples first have to be poached in a caramel made from sugar, butter, apple juice and nappage pectin. The idea is for the caramel to penetrate the apples, the same way a brine improves a piece of protein.
I blitzed the syrup to ensure the apple juice, sugar and water was fully emulsified.
After poaching the apples they have to be sliced, layered in an oven tray and baked for three hours with some of the poaching syrup. Once out of the oven a vacuum machine is needed to compress the apples into one block. Another couple of hours in the fridge and you have your caramelized apples. The one thing I didn’t have is nappage pectin. I went to several pastry shops but got everything from dumbfounded faces to helpful but unsatisfactory responses. In the end I used yellow pectin, but it is not the same thing as nappage pectin. Yellow pectin needs a high level of sugar and a certain acid level, which differs from nappage pectin. This means the yellow pectin does not gel as much as the nappage pectin would in this recipe. So I think the apples will not be held together, I had that problem, as they should if you do not use nappage pectin.
The pâte de fruit is made from the poaching syrup. One thing was a bit strange about this step. The ingredients for the pâte de fruit weigh 500g and you have to divide it between three 29x19x3cm rectangular moulds. How is that possible with 500g without ending up with a paper thin gel?
An apple milk caramel, made from the apple piths, peelings, malic acid and milk, is positioned between the ice cream and millefeuille. The acid curdles the milk and the peelings give the liquid a hint of apple flavor. The recipe instructs to cook the mixture to 74˚ Brix, but I don’t have a refractometer, so I went with good sense.
Another component is an apple fluid gel. It uses spray-dried apple granules. Those damn granules. I’ve been looking for those things for ages. I really thought I would have to book a ticket to China and get is myself from a producer. Luckily someone pointed me to MSK Food Ingredients, a company selling the stuff in small quantities on the internet. The problem with this company was the shipping. They charged 20 pounds for the granules and 40 pounds (!) to send it overseas. In the end I could ship it to my nephew and his wife, who live in Leeds, and they brought it with them when they came to visit last week. Thanks!
I didn’t make a fluid gel of the apple puree, because it already had the same texture as a fluid gel when I boiled the apple granules and the water.
The fromage blanc cream is made in a similar fashion to the one in the Galette of Rhubarb dish. I used a bit less sugar than the recipe instructs.
The arlette, the caramelized puff pastry, follows the same route, once again, as the Galette of Rhubarb. Coincidently I saw an episode of Masterchef Australia with Heston Blumenthal (ep. 55), which featured a dish called Taffety Tart, also featuring a paper thin arlette. In the episode Heston mentions the care taken in The Fat Duck to ensure the proper thinness of the pastry, so this time around I rolled the pastry out extremely thin. To cut the pastry I divided it in smaller pieces, so I could work on one piece and leave the others in the oven to make sure the pastry was hot while cutting it. If it cools down too much is breaks when you cut into it.
For the crumble you just have to mix caramelized puff pastry, ground almonds, brown butter, salt and spray-dried apple granules.
For a fresh apple note cubes of Granny Smith apple have to be positioned between the spheres of fromage blanc cream. The apples are given an extra kick by vacuum packing them, three times, with apple juice.
Building the arlette was a tricky situation with the slices of apple and fromage cream softening the puff pastry when I nervously photographed the plate, hoping the entire thing didn’t fell to one side. It did one time came dangerously close to falling, but I could push it back in position. Unfortunately the fromage blanc spheres were squashed lightly in the process, so they lost a bit of their shape.
The end. It’s here! Finally. My fingers are starting to ache from all the typing. Can I just say it was extremely tasty? It’s like the best tarte tatin you’ll ever eat with a delicious crumble, ditto vanilla ice cream and dried apple. My only issue with the dish is the amount of salt. The crumble houses a good amount and the ice cream has to sprinkled with salt. It does enhance the flavors, but you can also clearly taste the salt, overpowering other components. Everything else is apple heaven.