Specialty Equipment: fine digital scale, PacoJet, vacuum machine, water bath
Specialty Ingredients: spray-dried apple granules, malic acid, gellan F, vitamin C, fructose, dry ice, popping candy
Dish as in The Fat Duck:
The most advanced sorbet dishTM. Just look at the list of ingredients and equipment. Spray-dried apple granules, gellan F, PacoJet, dry ice… A definitive wolf in sheep’s clothing. I had a difficult time acquiring a sane amount (read ‘not wholesale’) of dry ice and felt like leaving it out, but my Fat Duck insanity started to kick in. ‘No way I’m leaving the stuff out.’ In the end I found a courier service in Amsterdam, who delivers dry ice for the company Icebitzzz and had a doable minimal purchase amount of 3kg.
These were all the boxes of the postmodern pantry required for the dish. The key ingredient is gellan F, which stops the sorbet from melting when setting it on fire. In essence the sorbet is a frozen fluid gel. It is made from spray-dried apple granules, malic acid, apple juice and water.
I had some issues with the thickness of the gel. With the Cox’s Apple recipe I first got the feeling my apple granules differ from the ones used in the Fat Duck and this recipe confirmed it. My apple mixture was very thick, even before it was turned in a fluid gel with gellan F. It was so thick there was no way it would be a pleasant texture for a sorbet, more brick material. I rewatched the Christmas special from In Search of Perfection, which features the flaming sorbet, and saw that the apple granules and water mixture in the video is much thinner than mine. I added more apple juice to the sorbet base until it was pourable and not stiff as glue.
My second deviation was the freezing method. I used an ice cream machine instead of a PacoJet. Contrary to my expectations it worked fine, resulting in a smooth sorbet.
The sorbet sits on a bed of caramelized apples, sultanas, dices of raw apple and a crumble. For the bottom layer of the base you have to poach apples for 12 hours at 90˚C in a sugar mix of fructose and apple juice. When done you have to bake them for caramelization and to drive off some moisture.
Sultanas soaking in the apple poaching liquid.
During the crumble preparations I knew the cookbook had gotten to me. I’m at a point of no return. Precision is imprinted in my brain. My fingers act like somebody could strike them at any time with a whip if I’m not precise. I was cutting cubes of butter for the crumble and noticed I was cutting them all in the same size and discarding the ones that weren’t. It’s only a freaking butter for a crumble mixture! In the end I got some control of myself and kept the ‘deformed’ cubes and chopped the rest of the butter with a slightly less rigorous regiment.
The rest of the crumble mixture consists of chopped hazelnuts, flour, demerara sugar, cinnamon and salt. A straightforward preparation.
Vitamin C and fructose combined with water is used for the diced raw apple, to stop them from discoloring and give them a little flavor injection.
Duiker. The courier service of, among others, dry ice. I went with my brother to the corners of Amsterdam, deep into the ports of Amsterdam, all for dry ice. A surreal experience. Just look at the storage space of the company. ‘Excuse me I’d like some dry ice for a food preparation.’ ‘What?’
The dry ice came packed in Styrofoam. A couple of days later I can say it is not the best storage material for dry ice, cause a lot of it sublimated. From what I have read dry ice can be stored for some time with minimal loss, but I could be wrong.
A little warm water and dry ice equals fairytale smoke.
To substitute for the custom made perfume of leather, wood, fire, tobacco and whiskey used at the Fat Duck I mixed oak extract, leather essence, smoke powder (from SOSA) and regular whiskey. I was pretty chuffed with my concoction.
To finish I build the base for the sorbet, scooped a rocher of sorbet, chopped some dry ice in small pieces, warmed a cast iron lid (from a small stew pot) and arranged some liqourice roots on the plate supporting the lid.
This is an incredible fun dish. When you pour hot water on the dry ice and popping candy the table is covered with aroma filled vapor and the sound of crackling. Definitely something to make for friends or family and wake them up good. The sorbet and base pack a punch, releasing a hit of apple, helped by the malic acid in the sorbet. You could easily leave out the whole ‘setting a sorbet on fire’ part and leave the drama to the dry ice. (or of course set the sorbet on fire and leave out the dry ice). If I could just find even smaller quantities of dry ice and closer to me I would definitely make this dish or something similar on a regular basis. Top notch.