Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dessert meets Breakfast: Pain perdu with bacon and egg ice cream

So I had a dinner party. I decided to try a truly iconic Heston dish - Bacon and egg ice cream. A Fat Duck speciality.
I was quite taken by it's treatment in Heston Blumenthal at Home, with Pain perdu (which my Google-fu tells me is what we call 'French toast' and the Brits call 'eggy bread') and caramelised bacon. I love pancakes with maple syrup and bacon, so was keen to give it a try. I felt like it was time... I didn't make the caramelised bacon, as one of the guests was making some (completely by coincidence) for a small-goods class and so bought some.

Bacon and Egg Ice Cream

I've made savoury-sweet ice cream before - that mustard ice cream for the red cabbage gazpacho. It was nice. So we are on reasonably familiar territory here.

First, you need to make a flavoured milk for the base.

Take some really excellent sweet-cured smoked bacon - this is maple based.

 Bake in the oven to crispy.

Chop the crispy bacon bits (I could just break it up with my fingers) and cover the crispy bacon with milk to infuse overnight
After 12 or more hours, add some powdered milk, reheat to a simmer to allow the powdered milk to dissolve.

Take some eggs. Actually, a lot of eggs - two dozen.

 You just want the yolks though. This can take a while.

 Blitz your yolks with the unrefined caster sugar.

Add a spoonful of warm bacon milk to the egg yolks so they don't scramble (prematurely in this case).

Add your yolk/sugar mix to the rest of the milk and warm it up...

until the temperature hits...

eighty five (85) degrees Celsius. It looks like scrambled eggs, it was scrambled eggs.. but smelled sweet. Like overdone custard. This is not something I normally want to happen. But we bravely continue on.

The ice cream based gets pushed through a fine sieve to remove large lumps and the bacon bits.

Then chilled.

It looks like this...

Then gets pureed smooth. I was surprised that it picked up a hint of bacon colour there, in addition to the egg yellow. That's it until time to serve.

Well technically it would be, except I wasn't able at the last to get the required dry ice, so mine was churned in a friends refrigerated ice cream maker. (Which worked perfectly.)

Now onto the rest of the dish....

Pain Perdu

This dish is a variation of the normal French toast - being entirely encased in caramel.

Cut thick  slices of bread and refrigerate them for 12 hours so they are the right amount of stale.

Make your egg/milk mix with milk, sugar, eggs.

Whisk it up...

Add vanilla seeds and keep mixing until the sugar is dissolved.

Cut the crusts off your bread, and cut into nice triangles. Pour over the eggy milk mix. Leave to absorb for 20 minutes, then drain on a rack for a couple of minutes (while you get the next step ready).

Take large lumps of clarified butter...

And nicely brown the pain perdu.

Look pretty good, don't they.

Now we're going to make a dry-burn caramel to coat the pain perdu. Interestingly, Heston specifies a non-stick pan for all this. Take some unrefined caster sugar...
And heat into caramel.
 Coat the pain perdu..
 yeah... its kind of sticking ok....

Then try to flip it, and realise it's really not sticking to the pain perdu very well. This is deeply frustrating because I am doing exactly what it says, but it's just not working.

Eventually, my ex-chef guest took pity on my frustrations and finished the batch off. I'm normally able to cope, but damn, this just would not work properly.... I can make caramel dammit!!

Time to serve...

Two pieces of pain perdu, a nice lump of ice cream ....

and a slice of caramelised bacon.

It kind of looked like the picture in the book, except for the the pain perdu being unevenly coated. Grr.

Things I learned:

Even if I am frustrated with how a recipe is (not) going, don't let other people help. It just drives me nuts and makes me feel more incompetent than is necessary. Sorry kind and helping people, not your fault.



This is kind of awkward to write. 


I didn't like it. The ice cream just tasted wrong. Not spit-it-out-horrible or anything, but... not to my tastes. The ice cream was well made, good mouth feel etc. but ... no. It tasted like overcooked savoury custard.

The pain perdu would have been better without the caramel coating, which made it achingly sweet. Even eating them all together didn't work. I had so looked forward to trying this, not enjoying it was a bitter disappointment that I'm still getting over. (First world problems, I know). I don't think I would even try it at the Fat Duck as I am confident that the dish was 'right' in terms of prep and flavour balance... I just didn't like the flavour.


Guest opinions:

These varied from pushing it away after one mouthful with polite shake of head, to an interesting discussion with a fellow foodie who wanted to like it but couldn't get past the sense it was custard taken to far.

Out of seven of us, none of us liked it. A few didn't mind the french toast, but that was about it.

The nicest comment was a "Well, you have to try these things to see if you like them... now you know you don't."

Final thoughts:

I now have a lot of unwanted bacon and egg ice cream. Anyone want to try it, or should I just ditch it to free up the freezer space?

Next time: Another dessert - Banana Eton mess.

Friday, March 20, 2015

High tea vol 4: Lemon tart. Like, seriously great lemon tart.

I may have given it away with that headline, I know.
So far we've had :
So this is the last post - hurrah - Lemon tart. 
If you want the recap of the full menu see the first post here.


Lemon tart

(from Heston Blumenthal at Home)

I love lemon tart. A good lemon tart can be the classic end to a perfect meal. Taken by the lovely photo in the book, this was a requested recipe for the high tea.
Understandably... just look at that photo:
Fortunately for you... this recipe is also available online here.
So this has the following steps:
  1. Make your pastry in a mixer. 
  2. Chill
  3. Roll it out, line a tray
  4. Chill again
  5. Blind bake the pastry
  6. Make the filling
  7. Bake in the prepared case
  8. Blowtorch sugar on it to serve.
So yes, there are eight steps, but nothing super complicated. Two of them are passively done without any effort on your part.

Make your pastry in the mixer

So I forgot to take photos of the first two steps. I will say if you are feeling slack and think you'll skip making the pastry for that ready rolled freezer stuff? Don't.The difference really is worth the minor trouble.

Fortunately, it wasn't terribly interesting anyway.

You mix the flour, butter and salt in a mixer. 

Then blitz the icing sugar and egg yolks in a food processor. Add in some vanilla seed and lemon zest for flavour to the egg mix

Add the  egg mix to the flour, let it moosh in until combined and then form into a dough lump rectangle.  


Refrigerate for an hour.

Roll it out then chill again

Roll it out between sheets baking paper, then into the freezer. I do wonder wether you could just skip the refrigeration, given you roll it out and freeze it again... but... assume some kind of optimal-gluten-achieving thing is going on. 

Blind bake the pastry 

So here we are now, having remembered this is to be a blog post, with camera in tow. (Forgive me, I was a little stressed about serving the birthday high tea, fancy cake to be done and so forth). 

Roll up your pastry like Heston shows to neatly roll out over the tart tin.

Have it be too stiff and of kind of break a bit. Don't say bad words, because the birthday girl is present.

Preheat your oven while you re-adjust the pastry to be more pastry like. Optionally stress about the thickness of the pastry, and then decide it will be ok, and  yo don't have time to be obessive about this right now.

Take Heston's excellent tip of scrunching up the baking paper a lot before putting it in the tart, so it settles nicely. Fill with coins (If you happen to have enough coins laying around to fill a tart tin) or beans, .. or brown rice because you had it on hand.

Blind bake the tart case. You can see I actually had quite a lot of pastry left over, so made mini cases also. Heston recommends you mix some of the leftover pastry with an egg yolk, to make a kind of pastry cement for filling the cracks. I didn't have any real cracks, making this step unnecessary. Interesting idea though.


Make the filling

Having taken out the weights, finish the tart off in the oven. Time to start the filling.

Over a water basin, heat up all the filling ingredients.


Warm the ingredients to 60 degrees.

Strain the filling mixture

Remove any errant bubbles that might mar the perfection of your tart. Ahem.



Bake in the prepared case

Having pre-warmed the oven again, put the tart in the tray. Make sure you've trimmed the top of the tart evenly.

Very carefully pour in the filling.

All the way to the top. This is not a time to get nervous or shaky.

With great care and trepidation, move the very full tart back to the oven. Optionally be mildly annoyed a a degree of minor sloppage.

Realise you still have quite a lot of mix left over, so put that in the oven too.

Check your tart with a digital thermometer to get that called-for-optimal wobbliness. Note the necessary hole, marring that perfection. Sigh.



Then, when you area ready to serve, you scatter it with unrefined caster sugar and blow torch it. I was absolutely going to do this, but was in such a flutter getting the food out for the party, I skipped this. So while not as pretty, it was still pretty.



This is easily the best lemon tart I've made. The flavour is great, the filling soft but not too soft. All that mucking about with the perfect inner temperature is worth it. The pastry has lovely balance of vanilla and lemon, not too hard to cut with a fork. A really great lemon tart, and one I'd definitely make again.

Guest verdict

Well, given it was a requested dish by the birthday girl, who then went on to eat 4 slices (a full third of a tart) I'd say a definite thumbs up. I am very partial to lemon tart myself, and I loved it. None was left over, the two remaining slices gleefully eaten by my brother-in-law with many expressions of pleasure as I was packing up. That's a a vote of confidence, I'd say?

Want more lemon tart?  Phil over at In Search Of Heston actually went to the trouble to make the two different versions of this dish.  You can see his (overachieving, Hermoine Granger-esque) project here.

Next post: A dish I've long wanted to try....