(Editor’s note: If you are keeping track, you may have noticed that I last posted about Week 13. Unfortunately, I missed the Week 14 class. While my class partner, Ally, was kind and generous enough to give me a copy of her notes, I think it would be risky for me to try to summarize the class without actually having been there. Anyway, who cares about soufflés, crêpes, bread pudding and rice pudding?
Truth be told, I care about soufflés, crêpes, bread pudding and rice pudding, that’s who, and I’d really rather be writing about those things right now instead of frozen products. I don’t really care about frozen products, mostly because I generally don’t care to eat frozen products. This is a fact: I am probably one of the few people who isn’t lactose intolerant and, yet, can readily walk away from ice cream, gelato, popsicles, Eskimo pies, you name it. But, the die was cast and so be it: week 14 I was not able to attend.
Instead, I was able to attend class on Week 15. Class this week was a bit scattershot. The topic was frozen products, but really the only thing new we learned about and practiced making was parfait. Most of the evening was spent listening to Chef review some previous topics – ice cream, meringue and sablée cookies – and watching him build a baked Alaska (now that was interesting). So, adding to my frozen products misery, it was a slow night to boot. But really, I shouldn’t complain. I’ve enjoyed twelve of the fourteen classes I’ve attended for an 85.7 percent likability rate. I feel better now looking at it that way. I need to give the frozen products class a fair shot.
Parfait. [par faye] You may know this dessert as a layered dessert served in a tall glass. While it is a layered dessert, the classic French parfait is layered in a mold, sliced and served on a plate. (On a side note, did you know that parfait is the French word for “perfect?” So, the French are telling us they created the perfect dessert? What is up with that?) I must not have been listening closely, however, because we made a custard-like product with egg yolks, heavy syrup (basically, sugar and water), Grand Marnier, heavy cream whipped to a soft peak, and gelatin, put the product in Dixie cups, froze it and called that parfait. We didn’t layer it and we didn’t slice it and we didn’t serve it on a plate. I have in my notes a drawing of a bomb glace [bohmb glass say] dessert that Chef described which shows “parfait” as the bottom layer, followed by sorbet and topped with ice cream. So, is parfait a dessert in and of itself as well as a type of dessert? I need to go back to Chef on this one. Ordinarily, I’ve been able to figure out these things on my own with my always accurate and available Google research and Wikipedia entries, but someone didn’t enter the parfait information. Technical difficulties, please bear with me.
So, let’s move on to ice cream. There are two basic types of ice cream: frozen custard, which is “French ice cream” (Chef’s words, not mine) and ice cream, which is “Philadelphia-style” or “American.” Frozen custard has a base of creme Anglaise – egg yolks, half and half and sugar, while ice cream’s base is cream, milk and sugar. So, although these two start with similar bases, the result is that frozen custard has a creamier texture. And really, that is the difference between the two. Now, I could get into what causes the two to have the different textures (it has to do with “overrun” which is basically how much air is whipped into each product) but I’m not sure that’s important. If you’ve had both, you know which one you prefer. If you haven’t had one or the other, treat yourself to an experiment and you’ll figure out which one you prefer.
Or perhaps you don’t enjoy either ice cream or frozen custard, but prefer sorbet instead. Sorbet, as you may or may not know, is actually just sugar and, typically, fruit puree. It may also be made with a liqueur and other ingredients instead of a fruit puree (think chocolate sorbet), but that isn’t as common. The tricky part about making sorbet is that the water and sugar content in the puree can alter the final sorbet product because as Chef puts it “sugar is the antifreeze in sorbet.” As Chef discussed it also has something to do with where sorbet falls on the Baumé scale, which measures the density in liquids. A one to one ratio of water to sugar is B28. A two to one ratio of water to sugar is B18. Sorbet has a B12 to B20 rating on the Baumé scale. I am not a scientist; I do not like science and I do not like math, so all I can tell you is that I think this means that if there is too much sugar the water cannot absorb it and so the sorbet will not freeze. I think this makes sense because the sorbets I’ve had are not sweet, per se – so that’s my scientific evidence right there, Monsieur Baumé.
It wouldn’t be fair to the frozen products class if I didn’t expand upon my mention of Chef’s baked Alaska. Baked Alaska – the most quintessential of all old-timey American desserts. If you haven’t had a baked Alaska, which I hadn’t before this class, it is layers of cake (read: roulade) and ice cream (black cherry in this case), topped with Swiss meringue. Before they invented kitchen blowtorches, the baked Alaska was cooked in a very hot oven just long enough for the meringue to brown. I would have liked to have seen that, but Chef opted for modern technology. Either way, it was a work of art.
I realize I’ve been biased against frozen desserts because they aren’t the desserts toward which I normally steer. Looking back now at the breathtaking baked Alaska Chef made, and remembering how pure and real Chef’s frozen custard tasted in the chocolate profiterole, I understand why Chef devoted a whole class to frozen products. But deep down, I still wish I was writing about soufflés, crêpes, bread pudding and rice pudding.