pacojet-style frozen dessert
If you’ve ever been in an upscale restaurant and ordered a sorbet or ice cream with a consistency that seemed to defy the laws of physics, it was probably made in a Pacojet.  This $4000 machine is a staple in many restaurant and hotel kitchens for its ability to produce exceptionally smooth and creamy desserts and savory dishes.  However, if I’m going to drop four grand on a kitchen machine, it damned well better take voice commands and wear a skimpy outfit.

My method uses dry ice for instant freezing and Xanthan Gum, a popular soy-based gluten substitute, as a thickener for a more velvety texture.  In addition, I’ve added a small amount of Versawhip, which creates a subtle but stable foam, giving the finished product the unexpected lightness usually associated with mousses.  You can substitute the sorbet base of your choice, following the same basic steps.

Makes: about 6 cups
Total kitchen time: 10 minutes

Shopping list:

  • 20 oz. canned pineapple (crushed, slices, or chunks), including juice
  • 6 oz. fresh raspberries
  • 1 oz. (a small shot) St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur (optional)
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. Xanthan gum (also available in the baking aisle at better grocery stores. Look for the Bob’s Red Mill label)
  • 1/2 tsp. Versawhip
  • 1 lb. dry ice, crushed into 1/2” or smaller chunks
  1. Combine the pineapple (including juice), raspberries, St. Germain and sugar in the bowl of a large food processor.  Process for one minute or until smooth.
  2. Add the Xanthan gum and Versawhip and process until combined.
  3. With the food processor running, add the dry ice and continue processing another 1-2 minutes, or until the sound of the dry ice cracking has stopped.
  4. Remove from the food processor and serve, or store in the freezer.  Can be made 2 days in advance.

It is true that the Pacojet doesn’t require any added thickeners to achieve its magic consistency.  However, it does require you to freeze your sorbet mix at –20C for 24 hours before churning.  I’d love to do a blind taste test comparison between this method and the Pacojet. As soon as I trip over a pile of cash, I’ll let you know how the test turns out.

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Hot Sauce Salmon Roe
Spherification is tricky, not just because of the chemistry involved, but because the technique has become associated with the most farcical extremes of modernist cooking.  However, when used with purpose and not simply ‘cause, spherification can still provide an element of surprise and delight to your cooking.  Tomorrow, I’m going to cook salmon (sous vide, if you’ve been playing along at home) with mascarpone and greens, an homage to the salmon crostini at Spur.  I wanted to top the fish with a spoonful of salmon roe for added saltiness and for their funny, squirm-inducing texture.  Unfortunately, roe is expensive.  So, I came up with a substitute: spherified hot sauce that looks like salmon roe.

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sous vide tempered chocolate
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Reading time: 3 min