Our Challenge: Create nine identical apple desserts in a team of three utilizing phyllo dough.
Well let me start by unveiling the final product. I know everyone wants to see what it actually looked like before they read (or not read) about all the minute creational details. So, here it is--our Apple Confit.
The Plated Dish
The Team of Creatives
I learned quite a bit during the evolution of this dessert. Once Mirtha, Laura, and I found out we were going to work together, we quickly met up and threw around some conceptual ideas. I haven't worked much with phyllo dough so I listened carefully as Mirtha described some interesting characteristics of the dough. She really wanted an organic-style bowl made of the phyllo filled with apples. As far as flavor, all we really had time to discuss was how we wanted to shy away from another fall-type, warm apple dish and veer towards a more light and summery dessert with a citrus complementary flavor. We decided to ponder the dessert individually overnight and come to class the next day with ideas.
Before leaving for class, I researched different types of apple desserts. The one that caught my eye was a dessert called Apple Confit. I had never heard of it before, but from what I could gather--comparing a handful of recipes--it is thinly sliced apples cooked in a bain-marie for many flavor-enhancing hours. I discussed with Chef the feasibility of making the dessert and with his approval decided to approach the group with the idea. They loved it. So we decided to change the phyllo-basket to a more asian-esque design using the confit as our main element. It was easy to make a flavor profile after deciding to go with the confit. Apple. What goes with apple? Butter. Ice cream. Why not a brown butter ice cream? Sure. Hmmm. Nuts? How about pistachio, for taste, but more importantly color. Sounds great. Well, how about we just break down the dessert for you by taking a closer look.
Apple Confit: Looking through the various recipes, I obtained a pretty good idea about what ingredients would work for the confit. I couldn't find any recipes that were more citrusy so I decided to just make up my own recipe. In class I whisked together lemon juice, orange juice, sugar, and vanilla bean (can you see it on the confit?). This combination of ingredients made for the best apple enhancing marinade--if you will. I melted butter and whisked it in--butter being the necessary ingredient to qualify the dessert as actual confit. Chef brought his du Buyer mandolin so I could slice the apples into very thin slices. After the slices soaked in the absolutely delicious concoction overnight, they were stacked and baked for two hours in a low heat oven. After cooling, we cut them into cylindical pieces. Utterly magnificent taste and look. The citrus really didn't overpower the taste of the apple, but rather it made a more apple au naturel flavor.
Apple Crisp: These were made by using the sliced apples that contained a little too much of the core (not suitable for the confit. The suggestion was made, by chef, to soak them in simple syrup and dry them out in a low heat oven. We decided to make it into a mini-dish for the confit.
Isomalt Pistachio: Isomalt tinted with a proportion of yellow and green dye was used to dip our pistachios and furnish this chic garnish.
Raspberry Cider Gastrique: Nice and tart, the raspberry added a very nice tangy flavor to our overall dessert. The color was gorgeous. To further tie into the apple theme we used an apple cider vinegar.
Phyllo Dough: We played around with different ideas for the shape of the phyllo dough, but in the end we decided to go with a long, narrow plank with an asian-style curve on the left-hand side creating an asymmetrical design. We experimented different ways the phyllo cooks in the oven and how we could manipulate it so it could have the right shape and thin as cardboard look. With the help of foil and an extra pan, we got exactly what we were hoping for. Mirtha made a tasty seasoned pistachio mixture that she layered in between the layers of phyllo creating a flakey dessert within itself almost reminiscent of baklava.
Pistachio Creme Anglaise: After making the regular vanilla creme anglaise, we mixed in pistachio paste which resulted in an anglaise with perfect flavor. We originally wanted to have this sauce complement the gastrique and serve as one of the main sauces, but it wasn't working. We decided to drizzle the anglaise on the phyllo and use a caramel sauce instead. Brilliant choice.
Caramel: Laura's Aegean Sea Salt was the perfect addition to our caramel sauce. So why three sauces? The gastrique was for the apples, the anglaise for the phyllo, so the ice cream needed its own, or so we felt. The three sauces combined with all the elements of this dessert was truly quite a delight.
Brown Butter Ice Cream: Just before cooling the vanilla base for the ice cream, we added some browned butter to infuse a more interesting flavor and more exquisite mouth feel. We froze the base and then piped the soft ice cream into cylinders made from acetate. Sprinkled with some finely chopped pistachios, this cool treat best balanced the apples in aesthetic appeal and flavor.
Pistachio Isomalt Garnish
Brown Butter Ice Cream in Acetate
Our Presentation of Nine
Yeah, we love it!
In the words of Chef Rocque, "It's perfect, I wouldn't change a thing!" I pretty sure that none of us has had that kind of critique since we arrived at Le Cordon Bleu. So, needless to say, lots of smiles today. One thing is certain, I made it through my first week of getting up at four in the morning. It's a good thing I love what I'm doing!