You guys, I’m a little bit excited about this recipe: it’s not in the book. I made it up.
So, last week at Berkeley Bowl, while shopping for ingredients for the oyster dish, I came across some very odd punnets of berries in the produce section:
The signs were mixed up on the display, so I had no idea what they were. They were so interesting and pretty, though, that I had to buy them. A woman checking out at the cashier’s line in front of me eyed them curiously and asked me “What are those?”
“I have no idea!” I said excitedly.
She asked what one was supposed to do with them. “I dunno!” I said. “Something! I’m gonna take them home and try to figure them out!”
When I got home, a bit of intertubez searching helped me figure out what they were; the berries were cape gooseberries, and were still inside their papery calyx husks (in which, amazingly, they’re able to stay fresh at room temperature for up to 45 days apparently!). I carefully cut one open; on the inside it looks a lot like a tomatillo. It has small yellow seeds inside, and the outer skin is somewhat strong, like that of a tomato. The berries are tart; Sarah immediately said they tasted a lot like crab apples, or maybe like a blend of pineapple and strawberry. The flavor is potent; not quite as acidic as something like a candy Lemonhead or something like that, but not as gentle as a strawberry. A mouthful of these would make you pucker a little.
Since I’ve been on a little sorbet kick lately, I figured I would try to make a sorbet from this–maybe I’d build a pre-dessert palette cleanser. I didn’t really know the best way to go about cooking down the berries; I figured if I boiled them in water, the flavor would get leeched out and diluted. I didn’t want that, so I opted to cook them sous vide at 75c for about 2 hours. I combined them with some sugar before vacuum-sealing them:
I expected the cooked berries to be quite mushy and pulpy when I took them out of the water bath. I put them in my tamis and tried to push them through:
What came through, though, was mostly just juice. It was very tasty and potent, but didn’t have a lot of body.
I forged ahead, though, and chucked the juice into my ice cream maker. Half an hour later, I had a nice soft sorbet…that melted almost immediately when I scooped it out with a metal spoon. Even after freezing it overnight, the sorbet was very unstable (either it was very hard and overfrozen, or liquid). Since I’m learning a bit about stabilizers, I decided to try some in this. I reheated the sorbet and mixed in a bit of Stabi-Sorbet; about 1g for 250g sorbet. I erred on the lighter side, not wanting to turn my sorbet into a block of gel. The stabilizer did kick in a bit and firmed up the sorbet when it cooled, but when I refroze it it was still rather unstable and melty. I didn’t want to reheat it a third time to add more stabilizer for fear it’d start to taste bad.
In trying to visualize flavors to pair with these things, I asked myself what paired with strawberries and also with pineapple. The Flavor Bible mentioned rosemary pairs with both, which immediately sounded great. I decided to make a simple rosemary whipped cream. I heated some cream and sugar in a pot, with 4 sprigs of rosemary. Brought to a simmer, then removed from heat and let steep for a half hour. I strained the cream, chilled it, then pressurized it in a cream whipper.
(side note: while I was doing this, I was drinking this beer, an IPA by Mikeller. If you like floral hop notes, this beer is completely awesome.)
Pineapple and strawberries both also pair well with brown sugar/molasses, so I turned back to the idea of the rum sphere from the Guava dish, with a few modifications: both fruits also pair with orange, and I had some Cointreau, so I decided to just make a little cocktail sphere of rum and Cointreau. I mixed together water, brown sugar, rum, calcium lactate, and orange peel, brought to boil, and let steep for 30 minutes again.
From the resulting mixture, I filled some hemispheric molds then froze them.
The rum/orange ice cubes I then dropped in a mixture of hot water and sodium alginate to spherify them.
Finally, I wanted to incorporate a peppery note. After tasting a handful of various pepper types, I decided on a mixture of long peppercorns and pink peppercorns. The long pepper has a sort of smoky note, and the pink peppercorns are sweet; both peppers are quite distinctive. I wanted a cool way of presenting them, so I decided to try playing with making a ‘candy wrapper’ out of molten-then-hardened sugar, with encased pepper inside. I’ve never done this before, so I thought it’d be fun to try. I used isomalt because it doesn’t caramelize and remelts easily. After melting a half cupful or so, I poured a tiny bit into a small circular cookie cutter tube.
After waiting a few moments for the sugar to cool a bit, I dropped in a spoonful of peppers then did a little lift-and-twist move to form a hollow chocolate kiss-like shape.
The molten sugar caused the metal tube to heat up enough that I couldn’t hold it for very long. I was moving fast so I grabbed the first thing I could find that would let me hold onto things longer, which happened to be some white duct tape. Working with the sugar was pretty temperamental, and after an hour of playing I only had a few shapes that were reasonably interesting. Still, kinda neat and fun.
After making all this, I took a crack at plating it. It’s nowhere near where I’d like it to be; the sorbet is shapeless and clearly melts easily, the whipped cream has a ‘rip-y’ quality that makes it not conducive for forming smooth plops of it, and my spheres are a little jagged because I froze them sloppily. So my photos of it are under my bar.
It tastes fully great. Like, I seriously feel proud; it tastes interesting and atomic; I can pick apart all the flavors and they all work really nicely together. The dish is sweet but not cloyingly so, and has a refreshing quality that I like (it’s not ‘heavy’ like a chocolate dessert would be). The spheres play nicely with the rosemary and the sorbet, and I really love the bite of the two peppers when mixed in with everything. The candy wrapper offers a nice textural contrasty crunch. Best of all, I still have two gooseberries left, which I think I’m going to plant so I can hopefully play with these fun things again in the future.