Printer Friendly

Bitter sweet.

What is it about a hot cup of coffee that begs for a pastry coated with chocolate or filled with fruit preserves? At opposite ends of the flavor spectrum and tongue: bitter and sweet attract. Though sweetness is detected at the tip of the tongue and bitterness at the back, the two tastes meld together effortlessly; one arousing the other. Of all our senses, taste and smell are chemical gauges through which we discern the chemical world around us. Even as the most primitive of beings we relied on a specialized sense of taste and smell for survival; to avoid the bitter alkaloids prominent in poisonous foliage and draw us towards sweet plants filled with natural sugars. Though many of our taste preferences are conditioned behavior, some are inherent. An affinity for sweet and aversion to bitter flavors are part of our genetic makeup. This is attributed in part to the occurrence of sugars in wholesome, vitamin enriched foods that are a valuable source of fuel and the unpleasant biting flavor of alkaloids present in harmful plants (McGee 562). Quinine and caffeine are two distinguished carriers of such alkaloids. Fructose, lactose, and glucose are the bearers of sweetness. Some ingredients, when added to a recipe magnify the existing flavors. Monosodium glutamate or MSG for example, intensifies both salty and bitter flavors. Likewise, a chemical in artichokes known as cynarin makes any accompanying ingredient taste sweet. Temperature is also a culprit of magnifying flavors, as taste is most easily discernible between 72 and 105 degrees (McGee 569).

In addition to physical and biological factors, there is also a symbiotic condition under which flavors sing. In other words, when properly paired together, opposites can attract--even balance each other. So is the case when bitter and sweet flavors merge. Chocolate, a prime example is, in its natural state, very bitter. When sugar is added, the bitterness mellows and becomes more agreeable to our sugar-prone palate. When added to a recipe, it is best to add bitter rather than sweetened chocolate, not only to preserve the naturally rich chocolate flavor and texture, but to prevent the dish from becoming overly sweet when combined with other ingredients including sugar. The addition of sugar in pastry recipes is important not only for flavor but for creaming butter, retaining moisture, softening a batter, and giving icing a sturdy texture (Amendola and Lundberg 52).

The tongue detects bitter, sweet, salt, sour; the nose on the other hand detects hundreds of different qualities, like floral, herbaceous, or sulfuric. These two senses are experienced in the pharynx providing us with the sensation of flavor, or rather a palate. Never one to bore the palate, there is perhaps no restaurant more capable of commenting on the paradox of flavors than recipes from the kitchen of Alain Ducasse.

RELATED ARTICLE: Nicolas Berger

Alain Ducasse at the Essex House

New York, NY

Long before the critics could line up or the gilded doors could part for Alain Ducasse at the Essex House, years were spent, notebook in hand, accruing the names of purveyors from the steely waters of Maine to the damp trails of Oregon, from the orchards in Ohio to the docks off the Florida Keys. Not only has Ducasse made a gustatory home in New York, but he has found for himself an emporium--of Alice in Wonderland proportion. In his new release, Harvesting Excellence, Ducasse heralds small purveyors and the superior indigenous ingredients of the United States. He tracks each pantry item state by state, pursuing even the most remote experts like Running Squirrel, a descendant of Cherokee Indians who forages the river valleys of Oregon and Washington state for wild greens. Dates must come from the Flying Disc Ranch in Southern California, peaches from Brad Phillips in Ohio, and chocolate from wine maker turned chocolatier, John Scharffenberger with partner Robert Steinberg in California. Flour and cheese too, though different from their French counterparts, shine for their unique and personal character. Hardly an ingredient, save for the irresistible Isyny St. Mere, a butter produced in Normandy, France with a butterfat content of 82%, is brought from home for guests to slather on their warm, crusty loaves. In the kitchen too, Lescure butter is preferred for its low water content and minimal maturation, resulting in a better overall flavor. But as Mr. Ducasse himself points out, his mission in the Untied States has been to combine his culinary savoir faire with the know-how of American farmers. It is with each course that diners are lavished with his findings.

Once a guest has been thoroughly indulged, a tastefully portioned dessert goes a long way in leaving just the right lasting impression. "We do one dessert that the customer chooses from the menu and a second dessert that we give to everybody," Pastry Chef Nicolas Berger explains of his repertoire. "Right now we have a little panna cotta with strawberries and a grapefruit sorbet." Berger understands the limitations of a diner who has just conquered a four or five course dinner, "We give them a lot of food, so they want something light, not heavy; a little sweet and a little freshness, that's why fruit compote and marmalade are good, not too sweet and very light." He explains that it is important that the flavors are very strong so the guest can taste it right away and not have to eat a lot to get the flavor. In addition to impressive flavors, Berger exploits textures and opposing ingredients. "I know that Mr. Ducasse likes bitter things and I like sweet things, so I decided to combine these flavors, Berger no tes. "Combining bitter and sweet has no season; it is something that is always good, it is something to wake you up." The sweetness of sugar, milk, cream, and cheese are combined with the bitter qualities of coffee, chocolate, citrus, and almonds into something creamy, sweet and soft-unforgettable. Berger understands well the nuances of blending. An early pupil of the culinary arts, Berger grew up in his father's pastry shop in Lyon, France. After three years as an apprentice at home, he traveled to Paris, working at Au Petit Boule Patisserie as a pastry chef and later at Peltier Patisserie as Head Pastry Chef. He moved to Italy for one year to accept a pastry chef position at Tagliafico Pasticceria and Genova, Italy for one year. He moved to New York where he worked for one year at Payard Patisserie and Bistro and then spent two years in the kitchens of The Peninsula Hotel in Manhattan. When Alain Ducasse came to New York, it wasn't long before Berger was recruited to join the crew at the Essex House as Past ry Director Frederic Robert's, assistant. Under Robert's supervision, Berger fine tunes his repertoire of unique confections. Though the last three years of his career were spent in New York he feels his pastry style would have developed in the same manner no matter where he worked, "I think you have to be a sponge to keep everything in your mind, each job has influenced me." At Payard Patisserie and Bistro he learned to make display cakes. While working with Ducasse however, Berger is able to work his finesse on plated desserts, where his options and the amount of time he can dedicate to each idea is much greater. No matter his teachers, Berger feels strongly about the integrity of the dish. "I have never been a fan of garnishes--it makes no sense to do something just to do it, just to get a reaction out of the guest," Berger reasons. "To me, the flavor should be enough." The result: an elegant presentation with explosive taste, from the tip of the tongue to the back of the mouth.

Bitter Almond Gratin and Black Cherry Compote (Serves 4)

ingredients

For the black cherry compotes

1 pound black cherries pitted, and balved

1 ounce granulated sugar

For the milk curd:

2 cups whole milk

1/2 teaspoon rennet(*)

For the bitter almond gratin

3 1/2 ounces whole milk

3 1/2 ounces almond milk

1/3 ounce plus 1 ounce grandlated sugar

5 egg yolks

1/2 ounce all-purpose flour

5 1/2 ounces Lubeka almond paste

1/2 ounces egg whites, whisked to sati peaks

(*.) Available in health food stores

(**.) Available through Ambassador Fine

Foods at (800) 272 8694.

directions

For the black cherry compote, in a medium bowl, combine the charnesland the sugar. Toss to combine and place in the retrigerator overnight. Transfer the cherries to a covered, medium sancepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer until the cherries are soft about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and simmer until reduced by one-third, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

For the milk curd, place four ramekins on a sheet pan. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to 115 degrees. Add the rennet, remove from the heat, and pour into prepared ramekins. Place in a cool area until set, about one hour, and set aside in the refrigerator.

For the bitter almond gratin, preheat the broiler to 400 degrees and place four 3-inch ring molds on a sheet pan. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk and the almond milk. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and maintain at a simmer. In a medium bowl, combine 1/3 ounce sugar, egg yolks, and flour and whisk to combine. Temper the egg yolk mix, adding one-third of the hot milk while whisking constantly. Whisk the tempered egg yolks into the hot milk and place over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Maintain at a simmer until the mixture has returned to a boil and maintain the heat for one minute, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat, strain through a fine mesh sieve, and set aside in an ice bath until cooled, Add the almond paste and fold to combine. Add the egg whites, fold to combine, and transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a medium round tip. Pipe some of the mixture into each ring mold and sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Remove the ring mold and place under the broiler until caramelized, about two minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside keeping cool.

To serve, place a bitter almond gratin in the center of a plate. Spoon some cherry compote around the dish and accompany with some milk curd.

Lemon Jelly with Spice Bread and Milk Marmalade

Ingredients: For the simple syrup:

5 1/2 ounces granulated sugar

5 1/2 ounces water

For the lemon jelly:

Reserved simple syrup

Zest of 3 lemons

2 ounces granulated sugar

6 ounces lemon juice

6 ounces lime juice

3 1/2 leaves gelatin, softened in 3 1/2 cups cold water

Segments of 1 grapefruit

Segments of 1 blood orange

Segments of 1 orange

For the milk jam:

1 quart whole milk

14 ounces granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

For the spice bread:

Softened butter as needed

6 ounces milk

14 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour

14 ounces chestnut honey (*)

5 1/2 ounces corn syrup

1/4 tablespoon anise seed

1/4 tablespoon four-spice powder (**)

1/4 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Pinch salt

14 ounces orange marmalade

3/4 ounce baking powder

7 ounces eggs

5 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, softened

For the bitter orange marmalade:

17 1/2 ounce bitter orange juice (***)

17 1/2 ounces granulated sugar

2 oranges, sliced

Juice of 1 lemon

(*) Available in most specialty stores. Any high quality honey may be substituted.

(**) Four-spice powder includes coriander, cloves, pepper, and nutmeg. Available in most specialty stores.

(***) Bitter oranges are also known as Seville or Bergamot oranges. They are available through most produce suppliers.

For the simple syrup, in a small covered saucepan over medium heat, bring the sugar and water to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the sugar is dissolved, about two minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

For the lemon jelly, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the simple syrup, lemon zest, and sugar. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Add the lemon juice, lime juice, and gelatin. Set aside to cool. Place the grapefruit, blood orange, and orange segments in a large, shallow bowl and pour the jelly on top. Set aside in the refrigerator until firm, about 12 hours.

For the milk jam, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine all of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture is light caramel in color and is thick, about one hour. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

For the spice bread, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and brush a 9x5x3x-inch loaf pan with enough softened butter to coat. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the milk, 11 ounces of the flour, the honey, and corn syrup and mix to combine. Add the anise, four-spice, cinnamon, salt, and marmalade and mix to combine. Add the remaining flour, baking powder, eggs, and butter in several stages, scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Mix to combine and pour into the prepared pan. Place in the oven to bake until done, about 40 minutes. Remove form the heat and set aside to cool. Remove the mold, place on a cutting board, slice, and set aside.

For the bitter orange marmalade, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the bitter orange juice, sugar, and orange slices. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until thick, about 40 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice, and set aside to cool. Remove two of the slices, finely chop, add to the marmalade, and set aside.

To assemble, place 12 champagne flutes on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Spoon some lemon jelly into each glass until three-quarters full. Spoon some milk jam on top and set aside. Place 12 of the spice bread slices on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Spread some bitter orange marmalade onto each slice and set aside.

To serve, accompany a lemon jelly filled glass with a slice of spice bread and additional marmalade.

Coffee Granite with Iced Coffee and Mascarpone Cream

For the coffee granite:

1 cup hot espresso

1 ounce granulated sugar

For the iced coffee:

1 quart whole mills

2 ounces coffee beans

8 ounces ice cobes

6 1/2 ounces heavy cream

1/3 ounce ground coffee

For the mascarpone cream:

3 1/2 ounces mascarpone cheese

3 1/2 ounces heavy cream

1 ounce granulated sugar

1 egg

For the garnish:

Ground cinnamon

For the coffee granite, in a medium bowl, combine the espresso and the sugar Mix until dissolved. Pour in a shallow pan and place in the freezer until firm. Remove from the freezer and, using a metal fork, scrape the granite into shaving and set aside in the freezer.

For the need coffee, in a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients and whisk to combine. Place in a double boiler over medium heat. Bring the mixture to 185 degrees, whisking occasionally. Remove from the heat and set aside in an ice bath until chilled. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and freezer in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.

For the mascarpone cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment combine all of the ingredients. Whisk until lightly whipped, about two minutes and set aside.

To assemble, place four tall glasses on a sheet pan. Spoon some need coffee and coffee granite in alternating layers to till the glasses. Top with some mascarpone cream and set aside keeping cool.

To serve, sprinkle with some cinnamon.

Bitter Chocolate Soup with (Serves 4) Caramelized Brioche Croutons

Directions

Ingredients

For the brioche:

Softened butter as needed

7 ounces bread flour

1/3 ounce cake yeast

2 ounces granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 ounces eggs

8 ounces unsalted butter, softened

For the hazelnuts:

3 1/2 ounces granulate disugar

1 tablespoon water

5 1/2 ounces hazelnuts

For the chocolate soup:

1 quart whole milk

4 ounces cocoa powder

6 ounces bitter chocolate, chopped

For the whipped cream:

14 ounces heavy cream

14 ounces granulated sugar

1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped

For the brioche, preheat the oven to 340 degrees and coat a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with the softened butter. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the hook attachment, combine the flour, yeast, one ounce of the sugar, salt and eggs and mix until smooth. Remove the bowl, replace the hook attachment with the paddle attachment, and return to the mixer. Add six ounces of the butter in several stages, scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Continue to mix until the dough is soft and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for one hour. Return the dough to the mixer and mix for one minute. Cover and place in the refrigerator for two hours. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and set aside until tripled in volume. Place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Turn the loaf onto a cutting board, cut four thin slices and reserve the remaining loaf. Remove and discard the crust from each slice, dice, and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan to dry for one hour. In a medium saute pan, heat the remaining butter over medium heat. Add the brioche, sprinkle with the sugar, and saute until caramelized, about five minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

For the hazelnuts, in a medium covered saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Bring to 240 degrees, add the hazelnuts, and simmer until golden brown. Remove from the heat and place on a parchment lined sheet pan to cool and set aside.

For the chocolate soup, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil. Add the cocoa powder and chocolate and simmer for one minute. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve. Using a hand held immersion blender, blend until smooth and set aside keeping warm.

For the whipped cream, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, sugar, and the vanilla scrapings. Whisk until soft peaks and set aside.

To serve, pour some chocolate soup into a soup bowl and top with some whipped cream, diced brioche, and hazelnuts. Accompany with the remaining whipped cream, brioche, and hazelnuts.

Coconut Lime Tarts, Wheat Beer Sorbet and a Banan Milkshake

Ingredients

For the wheat beer sorbet:

7 ounces water

3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar

1 3/4 ounces corn syrup

Zest of 1/2 lemon

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced

16 ounces Hcnncpin (r) wheat beer (*)

For the lime granite:

4 1/2 ounces granulated sugar

12 ounces water

7 ounces lime juice

Zest of 1 lime

For the lime tarts:

4 1/2 ounces unsalted butter

4 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

8 ounces granulated sugar

2 egg yolks

8 ounces heavy cream

3 ounces shredded coconut

Zest of 1 lime

For the banana milkshake:

2 bananas, peeled and diced

7 ounces ice cubes

6 1/2 ounces heavy cream

1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped

(*.)Available through Brewery Ommegang at (800) 656-1212

For the wheat beer sorbet, in a medium saucepan over medium heat combine the water sugar, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil, produce the heat and summet until the mixture reaches a syrup consistency about the minutes. Add the lemon zest and apple and mix to combine. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Transfer to a commercial blender and blend until smooth, about two minutes. Add the beer, transfer to an ice-cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

For the lime granite, in a medium saucepan over medium beat combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, and set aside to cool. Add the lime juice and zesi Pour in a shallow pan and place in the freezer until just firm. Remove from the freezed and using a metal fork, scrape the granite into savings and set aside in the freezer. Repeat several times until the granite is firm and flaky.

For the lime tarts, preheat the oven to 210 degrees and place 18 2 1/2 x 1 1/4 inch tart molds on a sheet pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the butter, flour, and baking powder. Mix until combined, add 4 1/2 ounces of the sugar and egg yolks, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll to 1/8-inch thick. Using a 2 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut the dough into 18 circles. Line the inside of each tart mold with a dough circle and place in the oven to bake until light brown, about 15 minutes Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Remove from the tart molds and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining sugar, heavy cream, and coconut. Bring to a boil. Reduce the beaf, and add the lime zest. Simmer for one minute. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Spoon some of the coconut mixture onto the tart shells and place in the oven until warmed, about on minute. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

For the banana milkshake, in a commercial blender combine the bananas and ice cubcs. Puree until combined and add the heavy cream and vanilla. Puree until smooth, about one minute ansd set aside keeping cool.

To serve, spoon some lime granite and a quenelle of beer sorbet into a soup bowl. Accompany with some lime tarts and a banana milkshake. ( Serves 4)

Candied Grapefruit

For the grapefruit:

5 pounds plus 10 ounces granulated sugar

6 cups water

2 grapefruits, halved

For the grapefruit, in a large, covered, stainless steel saucepan over medium heat, bring three pounds of the sugar and water to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the sugar is dissolved, about two minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Bring a separate, large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the grapefruit halves and return to a boil. Remove from the heat, strain, and reserve the grapefruit. Repeat with fresh water. Place the blanched grapefruit on a cutting board and cut in half, discarding any seeds. Bring the syrup to a boil and remove from the heat. Add the grapefruit, cover with parchment paper, and set aside at room temperature for 24 hours. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the grapefruit to a parchment-lined sheet pan. Add seven ounces of sugar to the syrup. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the grapefruit, cover with parchment paper and set aside at room temperature for 24 hours. Repeat the process five more times. Remove from the heat and set a side to cool.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Culinaire, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Art Culinaire
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Words:3911
Previous Article:A shaded place in the tropics.
Next Article:Waaaassssss-aaaaaail.
Topics:


Related Articles
"Electronic Tongue" Measures Food Flavors and Water Chemistry.
GAYE OL' TIME.
Teams find probable gene for sweet sense.
Mise en place.
Why Cry. (Poetry).
The Noel Coward Songbook.
Sweet candy, bitter poison.
The Ayurvedic view of food and taste.
SOUND CHECK L.A. DUO BITTER:SWEET SAVORING THE TASTE OF SUCCESS.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters