Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Snow Egg

As the above video shows, this is The Snow Egg. Favourite dessert of its creator, Peter Gilmore of the restaurant Quay, it was the final challenge set in Masterchef Australia to decide it's winner. It's a dessert that commands respect. Beautiful in it's appearance with a poached meringue egg filled with custard apple ice cream sitting on top of a fruit fool and granita encased in a maltose biscuit. This wasn't going to be a walk in the park.

After the disappointment of The Eight Textured Chocolate Cake for its fiddly construction and it's abilities to leave you feeling rather sick from the horrendous amount of sugar, I was looking forward to getting back on the bike, so to speak, by taking on another dessert.

Looking over the recipe it doesn't actually look to bad in preparation terms. It's more the problem of arranging all the elements at the end, putting them together and then serving it. The ice cream has to go inside the meringue egg-shell and the maltose biscuit is blowtorched over the egg to weld the two halves together. Frightening stuff.

Meringue Action!

First port of call was the ice cream. Custard apples are plentiful over in the far east and Australia but getting them over here is a different story. Online, Asda appear to be the only retailer doing them, even printing an article stating that custard apples had finally arrived, like some sort of alien. Going into my local branch there was no joy on the custard apple front, something that I'd been kind of expecting. I probably had a better chance of meeting an actual alien.

So without the custard apples I had to make do with apple juice, a poor substitute for a fruit with such apparent variance in taste but hey, sometimes you just have to suck it up I guess. Whisking egg yolks and sugar combined with vanilla-infused milk is the start of the ice cream preparation. You then have to turn this mixture into a sabayon by placing the bowl above simmering water and whisking until the ribbon stage.

Once you have a thick ribbon-like texture its then a case of whisking in apple juice and whipping cream and churning in an ice cream machine. The mixture actually tasted half-decent by this point with the sharpness from the apple against the custard-flavour of the ice cream, the only issue I had was that the mixture was incredibly sweet.

With that now sat in the freezer I moved onto the poached meringues which would form my 'egg'. Equal quantities of sugar and egg white (I used 100g of each) creates easily enough meringue for 3-4 eggs. Placed in silicone half-sphere moulds and poached in a bain-marie for 15 minutes see's the eggs puff up and create beautiful half-spheres, really impressive method. Turn these out and leave on silicone (or baking) paper in the fridge.

The recipe was going worryingly well at this stage. Opening the tin of Jackfruit that I'd purchased at the Asian supermarket definitely smelled of its origins. It's a weird fruit, kind of the appearance of a preserved yellow pepper with a taste similar to that cheap fruit cocktail in tin's most 90's kids will remember. I made a puree of this using the syrup and vanilla for flavour but to me the flavour was too weak, perhaps because of it coming from a tin? Either way I spiced it up with some sugar and citric acid to bring out the flavour a bit more.

Ever wondered what a Jackfruit looked like?

A custard base is next to create the 'fool' at the base of the dessert. Peter's method looked a little strange in that you make a custard (standard) but you then place it into ramekins and bake it like you would a crème brulee (weird!). I couldn't help but think that this may refer to other custard recipes in the book as there's a great deal of savoury ones (parmesan, truffle etc) so I made a regular custard and placed it in the fridge.

Forget golden syrup being a bastard to get off the spoon, try maltose! Jesus this stuff is like a handshake with spiderman. A warm spoon was of some use but not without a struggle. What made this ordeal a lot worse was that on the first attempt the combined sugar and maltose made a caramel that was too light, great for stretching but not the rigid praline I was after. A second attempt resulted in a golden coloured caramel with the flaked almonds encased. A much better result.

Fruit puree
The stickiest stuff known to man

Praline made and all that was left on the malt biscuit front was to process the praline, sift onto a silicone sheet and place in the oven until dissolved.....until my food processor broke anyway. Panic! Thinking quickly I reached for a rolling pin and a heavy base pan and smashed the praline to bits. It was a bit of a pain having to do it this way but no biscuit, no snow egg, right? It is a pain having to try and lever set caramel that's a fraction of an inch thick off the mat and as expected there were a few casualties.

I used tinned guava's for the granita using the same method as with the jackfruit by adding citric acid and a bit of sugar to heighten the freshness and then freezing, mashing with a fork and freezing again to create ice crystals.

The dish really comes together at the very end. Carving out little half-moons within the egg halves for the ice cream to sit wasn't too bad but do be careful as its easy to go too far. Once the ice cream is in the gap the meringues are sandwiched together to make an egg shape. The next stage was to take the malt biscuit and place on the top before blowtorching to wrap around the egg.

Granita and Fool

My cutter was slightly too small for the malt biscuits so I had to improvise by setting a biscuit either side of the egg to try and encase the meringues as best I could. The eggs are then dusted in icing sugar and set over the fool and the granite to complete the dessert. The only disadvantage that I've found so far with Peter Gilmore's desserts is that all the elements are put together right at the very last minute.

The final plate
Fruit, Fruit. Fruit! This dessert is exactly as Peter Gilmore says 'presenting beautiful flavours of fruit' it's polar opposite to The Eight Textured Chocolate Cake. Lightness from the meringue and the balance of sweetness to acidity and richness is spot on. Tasting the fruit fool I honestly thought there wasn't enough sugar but when you add the malt biscuit and the icing sugar plus the sweet ice cream it all makes sense. The meringue is soft and a perfect contrast to the crunchy shell, a great dessert and little wonder it's Peter Gilmore's favourite, delicious.

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