cream

Girly Cranberries

Cranberries, thyme, kalamata olives, and cream

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We took a fairly lengthy break from the blog for the holidays, but we are finally back and catching up on the writing for our completed recipes! We struggled with this post a little because we were unable to get the plating to look the way we wanted it to, so we tried something a little bit different.

The ironically named (based on our plating style choice) Girly Cranberries recipe consists of 4 parts:

  • Cranberry Sorbet
  • Cranberry Chips
  • Candied and dried kalamata olives
  • Thyme Oil

We started with the candied kalamata olives since it appeared to take some time to make. First, we cut the olives into slivers.

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Next, we soaked the olives in cold water to remove some of the saltiness.

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Finally, we boiled the olive pieces in sugar to make a caramel and then set them on a silpat to harden.

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The resulting candied olives were sweet and salty–definitely a strange start to this recipe! We snacked on them while we made the other components, they were surprisingly delicious!

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In order to have all of the garnishing elements completed before the actual dessert, we made the thyme oil next. We noticed that this is a similar process to the scallion oil we made for the Tomatoes and Burnt Bread recipe, and that we will be making a number of herb-infused oils in the future (something to look forward to, they are amazing!).

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We blanched the thyme in boiling water for around 30 seconds, then blended the thyme with a neutral oil until it was smooth.

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We placed the blended thyme in the fridge to sit overnight and then turned our attention to the cranberry purée, which is used as a base for both the sorbet and chips. The cranberries were heated with a little bit of water and sugar. The goal of this exercise was to ensure that all of the berries burst, a process reminiscent to making popcorn! This was the first time we had worked with fresh cranberries, and we were surprised how loud they actually sound when they rupture!

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As the berries cooked, we noticed that the berries started to foam considerably.

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By the end of the cooking process, all of the berries appeared to have burst, and the the foam subsided. Really, it just look like we had made a traditional cranberry sauce for a Thanksgiving meal!

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The similarities to the Thanksgiving side dish stopped there, though. We strained the pulp from the liquid and set aside the liquid for later.

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Finally, we ran the pulp through a food processor and then through our ice cream machine to make the sorbet.

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After placing the sorbet in the freezer, we started what is by far the hardest component of this dish–the cranberry chips. This wasn’t the hardest component in theory, but we found the execution to be challenging and tried making these twice!

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We started by separating the whites from some eggs and beating them into a stiff-peaked meringue.

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Next, we gently folded in some of the cranberry purée we made earlier to make a light pink mixture.

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If you’ve ever worked with meringue before, you’ll know that time is of the essence in order to preserve the delicate air bubbles. The first time we did the cranberry chips, we rushed to get the mixture onto parchment paper and ended up spreading the mixture too thick. The result was that we had a thick, not-so-crispy chip that was inedible. The second time around, we took our time to spread smaller batches of meringue on the parchment paper with a cake knife to get a thinner, crispier chip.

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It took some time, but we were able to dehydrate these in the oven at a low heat to get the chips we were hoping for!

The following day, we passed the blended thyme and oil through a coffee filter.

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This oil is amazing on it’s own, but definitely a strange addition to a dessert! We noted that there was a heavier precipitate at the bottom after filtering, so we tried to use just the clear green part of the oil using a dropper.

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Finally, we whipped some cream with a little bit of sugar to put with this dessert. Our final challenge was to plate this masterpiece of components… a challenge we tried again and again to succeed at. The main problem we encountered is that Melissa’s plating style (neat, tidy and aligned) wouldn’t work with this recipe as it ended up looking too staged, so David took the reigns on this one! We’ve seen a number of disorganized plating styles and thought we’d give that a try!

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We ultimately ended up dropping the components on the plate from a distance of about 1 meter after carefully standing up the cranberry chips.

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We found that the sorbet had a very low melting point and really didn’t make it to the plating stage well, so we dropped that too!

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This was definitely one of the stranger desserts we’ve endeavoured to make, but each of the flavours brought something special to the plate. The saltiness of the olives contrasted really well with sweetness from the whipped cream and the tang of the cranberries. We found that the thyme oil was a great accent to the flavours without being overpowering, and that the differences in texture left nothing to be desired. This dessert really does have everything you could want and we loved it!

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Cinderella Pumpkin Ice Cream with (Caramelized) Roasted Seeds

Pumpkin, cream, egg yolks, sugar, pumpkin seeds, and caramel

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One thing we are trying to ensure we do is to complete recipes when their ingredients are seasonally available. We’ve missed the boat on some of the berry and recipes, so we will try to catch those next season. For this season, we are trying to complete all of the gourd, potato and pear recipes. Since pumpkins are openly available, we jumped at the opportunity to make this recipe!

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Before we get into describing the procedure of the recipe, we wanted to note a very important deviation from the initial recipe and our rationale for doing so. We used a New England Pie pumpkin variety in place of a Cinderella pumpkin. In terms of the rationale, have you ever seen a Cinderella pumpkin? Their size would have yielded more pumpkin ice cream than the two of us could consume. Our research into the Cinderella pumpkin variety uncovered that it has a creamy consistency and sweet flavour that is sought after for use in pies. As the New England Pie pumpkin had a similar flavour profile but was 1/8 of the size, we opted for this.

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We cut the pumpkin in two, removed the seeds (and some pulp) and placed them in a bowl of water.

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The halved pumpkin was placed onto a baking sheet (skin side up) and baked until tender. Next, we removed the flesh from the pumpkin and blended it with honey until we were left with a smooth purée.

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Next, we combined the pumpkin purée with cream and set it aside.

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In another bowl, we whisked egg yolks and sugar until they turned a creamy white colour. Below is a picture of the mixture before and after whisking.

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In yet another vessel (this recipe resulted in a lot of dirty dishes!), we heated some milk and cream over low heat. We tempered the egg mixture with a little warm milk and combined it with the warmed milk. This was cooked until the custard coated the back of a spoon and then passed through a conical strainer. Finally, we combined the custard with the pumpkin puree and allowed for it to cool.

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Next, we washed the pumpkin seeds, coated them with olive oil and roasted them in the oven until they were golden brown.

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While these were cooling, we prepared a caramel by combining 1 cup of sugar with approximately 1/4 cup of water and heating the mixture until it was a golden brown (this wasn’t part of the recipe, this was something we decided to do to make the plating look more unique).

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We then combined the caramel with the roasted seeds and poured it over a silicone mat to cool.

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Turns out, coating pumpkin seeds in oil makes them harder to coat in caramel! So this process required pushing the seeds down with tweezers until the caramel was cool enough to keep the seeds suspended.

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In an effort to ensure that our pictures don’t all look the same, we deviated again from the recipe (only slightly!). We’ve read online that another option for creating a creamy ice cream is to freeze the mixture and then run it through a food processor (instead of running the mixture through an ice cream machine). We liked the idea of having something that looked visually very different than our other ice cream posts though, so we plated the ice cream straight out of the freezer (after freezing the mixture in an ice cube tray).

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The resulting “ice cream” had larger ice crystals than typically expected for an ice cream, but it was visually stunning when paired with a roasted pumpkin seed caramel shard.

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We blended some of the ice cream cubes in our food processor to try as well, and this yielded the expected ice cream texture. We didn’t bother to try placing the resulting ice cream into the ice cube tray though, because it would have been very difficult to remove them from the tray.

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The ice cream tasted like a sweet pumpkin soup and paired really well with the bitterness of the caramel. We poured the caramel a little thick, so if we were to try this again, we would aim for a thinner caramel. All in all, this was a delectable autumn treat that we thoroughly enjoyed!

Asparagus Mousse with Burnt Butter

Asparagus trimmings, cream, burnt butter

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The following is an actual conversation with Melissa:

Melissa:   So what goes in the dish your making?
David:      Trimmings of asparagus.
Melissa:   But what else is goes in it?
David:      Full fat milk and cream!
Melissa:   Okay, but what is it served with?
David:      Butter… and a spoon!

This was a fun recipe to make, it was the perfect opportunity for us to play with our new whipping siphon!

We started by peeling and chopping green asparagus. I’m pretty sure this recipe was intended to minimize waste, so rather than discard the naked asparagus, we steamed them the next day for dinner.

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The above picture shows the parts of the asparagus we actually used for this recipe. We lightly simmered the peels and trimmings in milk until they were soft and subsequently blended the mixture into a purée.  We then added whipping cream and poured into the siphon.

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After charging the siphon with N2O, we left it to chill in the fridge. While the cream was chilling, we burned some butter on the stove. This was a very quick  process, and the butter was almost black when we took it off the heat.

After some time had passed, we couldn’t wait anymore and decided to try plating. Our plan was to siphon a small portion of asparagus foam into a bowl, add some burnt butter sauce, then photograph and eat. What actually happened? We siphoned some asparagus foam–wait, I think I’m using the wrong word here–we splattered asparagus foam all over the place and spent the next 5 minutes cleaning up the aftermath (this involved our clothing, table, light box, faces, walls, and the floor). Then Melissa gave it a try… although this time the mess was slightly less devastating since we had relocated to the kitchen counter (that’s what back-splashes are for!). We decided to abandon the shallow bowl–we figured a cup was the best bet for success. We ultimately were able to “plate” this dish in a cup and dress it with the burnt butter sauce.

One of the challenges we faced with this dish is that the asparagus foam easily liquefied under the hot lights. This made the photography aspect slightly more stressful, but I think we were able to get an okay final picture.

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It was interesting to eat–it tasted very strongly of  asparagus, which was surprising given that we only used the peels and other trimmings which would usually be considered garbage. I can’t say that we’re excited to make this again, but it’s possible that it was intended to be enjoyed alongside a protein or a salad. If we do make this again, we’ll pair it with something for sure!