Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cloud Dessert

Last year I saw this delicious looking cloud, and ever since have had my eye out for the equivalent dessert. Recently, Nancy gave me the cookbook A Year in My Kitchen, written by Skye Gyngell, head palate at the Petersham Nurseries Cafe in London.

In the autumn section, I found a dessert that looked a lot like clouds. And seemed like it might taste like clouds too. Last night, we did a Gyngell-inspired dinner over at Nancy's, and after feasting on the fantastic combinations of sweet, savory, and meatily complex flavors of lamb with prunes, corainder (cilantro), and spices; sweet potato puree with tamari, maple syrup, and chili; and roasted squash with roasted tomatoes, feta, and basil oil, we tried it out.

The cloud dessert is called apple and eau-de-vie snow. The quick summary is that you stew Pippin apples in a vanilla-sugar syrup, blend it in the food processor, whip egg whites until they're stiff, blend the two elements together, and then put the mixture in the ice cream maker. As it's turning into a frozen cluster of clouds you add the eau-de-vie (I actually added Calvados because it's what I had on hand). The result is a light, cold but not too icy, apple with a kick, truly white as snow dessert that's unlike anything else I've ever had. It is apple clouds.

Here's the recipe:

Put 8.8 ounces of sugar, 500 ml of water, and a vanilla bean pod split in half in a pot over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar, and then bring to a simmer.

Peel, core, and chop 6 Pippin apples, then add them to the syrup mixture and cook for about 5 minutes, keeping the syrup at a simmer, until the apples are tender but not mushy. Turn off the heat and let the apples hang out in the syrup until they are cool.

Remove the apples with a slotted spoon and blend in a food processor along with 2 tablespoons of the syrup until it's pale and smooth.

Whip eight egg whites (since they're eaten raw, look for free-range, small-farm, organic eggs) and a pinch of salt to firm peaks. Add the apple puree. Now here she says blend lightly with a whisk, but the weight of the apples doesn't facilitate an easy blending, so I'd suggest folding with a spatula instead.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process. This amount makes enough for two batches in a standard home machine. When the mixture starts to look like ice cream, add two tablespoons of apple eau-de-vie (or calvados) and continue to churn until it you have a "soft, feathery, light slush." Serve immediately.

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