Monday, May 19, 2008

Alinea Weighs In - Zesty!

Professional chefs who write recipes in cups and tablespoons deserve to have chicken stock ladled down the back of their pants. No, not just chicken stock. The greasy, floating scum from the impurities rendered out of the bones in the chicken stock. How dare they fold to the ignorant yearning of the masses at the expense of perfection! It's so frustrating to see absolutely stunning, beautifully photographed cuisine that can be labelled as nothing other than low grade food porn because the erroneous recipes have been dumbed down and gone unchecked.

After my most beloved knives and diamond steel, a set of scales are the next thing I would not want to live without. Every single time I'm handed a recipe I convert all the volumes to weights and every single time I make an experimental change or adjustment I weigh, weigh, weigh. I weigh eggs, I weigh water, I weigh a pinch of salt because ultimately a chef's career depends on his or her ability to punch out tasty and consistent food.

Some industry professionals who I have met (especially the line cooks it seems) have this unlearned impression that pastry chefs can't cook and scales are just for sissies. For some reason you're not really a great cook unless you can guesstimate weights and volumes and do everything by sight. Well I really only have one thing to say to those suckers -"Try working on the other side of the kitchen". We'll see who looks like the bigger sissy when chef turns around to throw discordant food in your face!

Ever since I came across the awesome NY blog
Ideas In Food, I've been slowly progressing my way through the archives. Just this morning I stumbled over last year's post on the opportunity to pre-order the soon to be released Alinea cookbook. Apparently it doesn't come out until October this year which isn't soon enough. When you register for a book (extremely cheap for a book of it's calibre) you also get access to the Alinea Mosaic which is a collection of unpublished recipes, pdf page previews and short videos. I've already signed up, it didn't take much convincing to fork out the $50 I must say. The recipes are all in metric weights and boy I can't wait for October to come around!

To keep the rest of you satiated until then, for
Sugar High Friday #43: Citrus held by Tartlette this month I present to you my recipe for sheep's milk yoghurt sorbet. You could substitute this recipe with any kind of yoghurt you fancy or even a mixture of strained fruit purees but I personally find that the combination of lemon juice with the sheep's milk yoghurt really lends a hand in bringing out the wonderfully fresh and tangy flavours. I've accompanied it this time with crushed raspberry ice to accentuate the citrus zing, polvorones (Spanish shortbread) for a textural contrast, white pepper ice cream for a different kind of sweet smoothness and manzanilla olive cheeks for a little savoury saltiness. Anyway enough talk, more plate.

Sheep's Milk Yoghurt Sorbet
100 g water
150 g liquid glucose
50 g castor sugar
25 g lemon juice
500 g sheep's milk yoghurt
Combine water, glucose and sugar in a small pot.
Bring to the boil, stir to dissolve then refrigerate until cold.
Empty yoghurt into a medium bowl and add the lemon juice and syrup.
Whisk until smooth and churn immediately.

Crushed Raspberry Ice
175 g water
65 g castor sugar
star anise
2 cardamom pods
300 g raspberries
10 g lemon juice
Combine water and sugar in a small pot.
Crush the aromatics with the heel of a large knife and throw them in.
Bring it to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow aromatics to infuse until cool.
Strain the syrup and discard the spices.
Combine syrup with raspberries and lemon juice in a shallow tray.
Place in the freezer and fork once every hour until set.

White Pepper Ice Cream
250 g milk
250 g cream
125 g egg yolks
85 g castor sugar
20 g white peppercorns

Bring milk and cream to a simmer.
Cream the yolks and sugar in a large bowl.
Temper the yolks by slowly pouring in the hot half and half while whisking continuously.
Place bowl over a bain-marie and stir continuously with a spatula in the figure eight.
Remove from heat immediately once it reaches 83ÂșC, strain through a fine chinois into an ice bath.
Refrigerate until cold then churn.
Grind the white peppercorns (but not too finely) with a spice grinder or mortar & pestle.
Throw them into the churning ice cream just before it's ready.


  1. Love the combination of the different ice cream and sorbet. Thank you for your entry!
    For the purpose of the blog and after getting many emails on the subject ("all your recipes are in grams...why?"...Well...Duh!) I convert in cups in tsps which are the weirdest forms of measurement in pastry and it always made me wonder who on earth came up with such a erroneous measuring method. Maybe we should start a revolution :)

  2. I really love all these flavor combinations. I prefer having lots of little tastes of several different things, rather than a whole lot of the same. I also am a huge fan of yogurt in sorbets. Pastry chefs and pastry people rock (coming from one who is not)!

  3. Most of my recipes are in spoons and cups and I prefer these measurements to grams etc. I don't weight eggs....if you go for medium eggs - it works most of the time (never failed me). Also depending where your recipe is from (US has different measurerings than Europe), just stick to the ratio and you should be fine. Really no need to pour something onto anyone.....saying all that, I love the sorbets ;-)and yes, pastry chefs rock big time

  4. A revolution eh? Perhaps a 'Metric Recipes That Would Otherwise Be Totally Fucked If Not Weighed' event? Ha ha! I'm just imagining it now.. MRWBTFINW #1: caramel
    (- "I don't see why you need to weigh everything. I mean really, I can make a perfectly good caramel every time with exactly 1/5 cup water, 1/4 squeeze of half a medium lemon the same weight as nov 06 issue of O Magazine , 1 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons of granulated sugar")

    I'm not saying it's impossible to do virtually any recipe you desire without using the metric system but it just makes it so unnecessarily complex to scale up when cooking commercially and to do so with precision and consistency.

  5. Michael Ruhlman would agree with you I think.

    But for the average home cook, with limited time and resource, cups and spoons are an easy way to describe.

    when catering for the masses and cooking commercial, I am sure you are dead set on.

    The art of recipe writing is also something that has been hereditary - one treasures recipes from grandma and she had her set she learned from her mother etc. There were no electronic scales back then and so it is as much a cultural thing as anything else i suspect.

  6. Oh this sounds like my kind of dessert! And I totally agree about measuring cups, but I don't mind spoons. I used to get by without cups but there are too many recipes out there requiring them, so I gave up and bought a set. It's easier just to use them than to have to convert each separate ingredient, especially when you want to downsize or upsize the recipe!


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