Tuesday, May 1, 2007

"Candied Apple": Crème de Farine with Poached Apples and Ice Cream


I am in a foul mood.

A little advice from me to you: do NOT try this dish if you are busy. Or not busy. Or have a life. Oh yes, you may look at the recipe, scrutinze the three pages it takes up in the book, and think, "well of course I can do this over three days, with just doing a little bit here and there like the book suggests." Yeah, I dare you. Call me if you can do it and not be annoyed.

Granted, this week is not the easiest one for me, work-wise, but still. I started this on Sunday afternoon and it's now Tuesday evening, and we just finished eating it. Every little step is not such a little step. (and GREAT, now I'm singing "Every Little Step" by New Edition. Awesome. Thanks a lot.) Some of these little steps take a few hours. Even though I read through the recipe more than once, I still miscalculated the prep time on some of these elements, so of course I got annoyed. Not at myself, of course, but at French Laundry pastry chef Stephen Durfee, who came up with this dish. I'm sure he's a lovely man and all, but dude: this dish was stupid and annoying. Sorry, it just was.

In fact, it was so stupid and annoying that I will now share with you the top five long, drawn-out, annoying things I'd RATHER do that make this dish again:

5) Watch paint dry. In Akron, Ohio. With Jake Busey.

4) Stand behind someone in the checkout line who waits until the total is rung up and THEN they get out their damn checkbook and ask a bunch of stupid questions about who to make the check out to. And also? They don't have the proper photo ID or check-cashing card for that grocery store so it requires the manager to come over with the key on the plastic coil around her wrist to void the transaction or override it or some shit.

3) Strip the hardwood floors in my dining room, sand them, refinish them, scratch them up again, then resand and refinish them again.

2) Go to a Celine Dion concert wearing gauchos. With Dwight Shrute.

1) Iron or sew pretty much anything.

On a positive note, it turned out great, tasted amazing, and everyone loved it. Blah, blah, blah-ba-dee-blah. A+ from the adults, A- from the kids, 10 out of 10 among the teenage set. But by the time I finished making it, I just didn't care.

Alright, let me take a break from all this bitching and moaning to actually talk about the dish. Here's the mise en place for the poached apples:

I made the poaching liquid with the wine, sugar and lemon juice, then sliced two 3/4" rings out of each apple, then poached the apple rings in the poaching liquid.

Here's what they looked like when they had cooled:

I reduced some of the poaching liquid to make the cinnamon-apple syrup that's used in the final plating.

After making the apples and syrup on Sunday afternoon, I made the "candied apple" ice cream on Sunday evening. Here's the mise for the ice cream:

I brought the apple juice to a boil, then reduced it to about a cup of liquid. I let it cool while I combined the milk, cream, a quarter of a vanilla bean (scrapings and the pod) and some of the sugar in a saucepan.

While that was coming up to a boil, I whisked togther 10 egg yolks and the remaining sugar.

I added some of the hot milk/sugar/cream mixture to the eggs to temper them, then poured that mixture into the saucepan and cooked it over low heat until it had thickened.

I really could've stood over that saucepan for nine million years just smelling what was in it. Wow. That may have been the only bright spot in this whole dish. How depressing.

I poured this custard-y mixture through a chinois into a metal bowl in an ice bath, added the reduced apple juiced, stirred it, and let it cool off before putting it in the ice cream machine and then the freezer:

Are you bored yet? Annoyed? I am, just typing this. And we haven't even gotten to the friggin' PUFF PASTRY YET. Seriously, kill me. Just kill me now.

But before we get to the puff pastry, let's talk about the crème de farine, which I did on Monday afternoon. Here's the mise en place:

WAKE UP!!! I can hear you snoring from here. Seriously. That is SO rude.

Alright, I'll get straight to it: you add the star anise, cinnamon stick and allspice berries to the water, boil it, steep it, strain it, keep 3 cups of it, add some salt, bring it back up to a boil, add the farina (Cream of Wheat), stir until thickened, then whisk in the butter and mascarpone. Then, you put it in a plastic-wrapped 9x9" baking dish and chill it for at least 3 hours. Here's what it looks like before going into the fridge to chill:

Now, for the puff pastry, which is used in what turned out to be the saddest, most pathetic-looking cinnamon twist cookies. Believe it or not, as annoyed as I was by making puff pastry, it really is easy. It just involves a lot of rolling, folding refrigerating, waiting, and repeating that process about six times. I have photos of every step, but really, it's so boring I can't bear to post them. Also, because there are 852,341 more steps to this dish to show you, I can't take up a ton of time on the puff pastry.

Here's step one:

Here's what it looks like when it's done:

This made about 2-3 pounds of puff pastry, even though I ONLY NEEDED 4 oz. for this dish. I'll stop bitching at some point, I swear. Just not right now.

Think we're done and ready to plate it? HA! NO WE ARE NOT! WE HAVE TO DEEP-FRY THE FARINA!!!! The French Laundry Cookbook says that you're supposed to cut 2" circles of farina (easy) and then dredge them lightly in flour, dunk them in milk, coat them in panko (Japanese bread crumbs), then deep fry them. Yeah. I did the first two and the panko fell right off and looked like something you might find on the tread of your workboots if you were a farmer. Or a mud wrestler. Or Jake Busey on a bender in a crackhouse. So, I made the executive decision to dredge those little f-ers solely in flour before dropping them gently into a giant pot of boiling oil to fry them. It was the right decision because they were pretty freakin' awesome.

Huh. That's what the scallops should have looked like in this dish.

So, we're done. That's all. This Candied Apple dish was okay, and I just want to.... wait... what? What did you say? You want to see the final plating? You're still here? Man, I would've left hours ago if I were you. Sucker. What's WRONG with you?

Here's the final plating:

First on the plate was a spoonful of the apple syrup that I made in what now feels like 2004. On top of that went a deep-fried farina cake. On top of that is a poached apple ring, upon which I put a scoop of the homemade ice cream, and last and certainly least went my welfare cinnamon twist cookies. Seriously, I think kindergarteners can twist dough better than I can.

So there you have it. Cross that off the list. Done and done. Even though it was delicious, I will never make this again. Instead, I'd rather make ... wait for it .... the grape jelly candy. I KNOW!! Who'd-a-thunk-it?

Up Next: Strawberry Sorbet Shortcakes or Lobster with Leeks (depends on what I can find that looks good this week/weekend. Sad note: DC's oldest and best market -- Eastern Market -- burned down late Monday night, so many of the vendors I've been working with and have gotten to know no longer have their stands. You can read more about it here. It's really sad news for the community and for people who love food.)

Brands Used:
All-Clad cookware
R.W. Knudsen organic apple juice
Vermont Butter and Cheese mascarpone cheese
365 organic butter and milk
King Arthur flour
Ian's panko breadcrumbs
Horizon organic cream
Produce from Whole Foods
Eggs, spices and aromatics from TPSS Co-op
Les Fumees Blanches Sauvignon Blanc; 2005 Jacques & Francois Lurton
Cream of Wheat farina

Music to Cook By: Since I did this dish over three days, I just had my iPod on Shuffle. That said, there was a lot of Chuck Brown, U2, David Bowie and Pink Martini goin' on up in herrre.


Deb said...

I had NO IDEA about Eastern Market. I used to love that place. I cannot believe the suckitude of this. I'm pretty bummed.

Sorry this dish was such an excessive amount of work, but the post still cracked me up. I'm wondering if the ice cream alone is worth repeating. For the scent alone, right? Hey, did the apple juice seem odd to you in the face of all those fancy and authentic ingredients?

Sally Forth said...

Dang. I was so hoping that this dish would be a home run. It seemed like such comforting recipe, the farina taking me back to childhood and all.

Sorry about your market. Will the vendors have a temporary location to set up or will they have to close altogether?

Alice Q said...

This is a crackup! That is a lot of time to spend on a dessert - but I'm glad it was good!!

ann said...

wow. That is futsy to the nth degree. I can't believe the recipe had you make that much puff pastry for 4ozs! It's like, get off your high horse and just say "go buy some puff pastry, or a few cookies or something," because, let's be honest. It's just a tuille, and everyone hates tuilles. They're stupid and should be banished from plates along with savory foams.
That said, I'm really looking forward to the next dish!!!

spooneroonie said...

I'm sorry to have a bit of pleasure at your expense, but that's what happens when you write posts that are so 'effin funny.

When I saw the end plating, I thought, "That? That's all she got for all that work?"

But, like alice q, I'm glad it was good.

Sam said...

Check out http://www.saveeasternmarket.org/ for news about the market.

corycm said...

Way to persevere. Umm. Good hustle. A for effort? I'm out of cliche gym-teacherisms. But the end result of your frustration looks pretty delicious, and I'm not a dessert guy necessarily. So you go.

I'm pretty sure I'd have cheated out on that one with the puff pastry dough. That's what makes you a better masoch...er...person than I am.

Keep at it. I vote the lobster for the next one. I've heard this has been a pretty brutal year for lobster...trappers(? Fishermen? Lobsterers? Whatever). Noticing any difference in quality or prices on your side of the country?

pdxblogmommy said...

Um...I'm diggin' on the cinnamon twist cookie thingies. Not.

Don't make me tell you what I equate their looks to...

Hey, if nothing else, and as everyone already mentioned...at least it was tasty. Because nothing would piss me off more than schlepping my ass through all that to have a dud.

Good news though...the shortcakes should be relatively easy, right? RIGHT?

Diner Girl said...

Deb - yes, i'd make the ice cream again, but I'd mess with it a little bit. I didn't like the consistency of it with the apple juice. I'd pretty much make anything that involved fresh vanilla.

SallyForth -- there are a few non-profits working to provide space for the vendors who lost everything. Nothing is certain yet, but people are working on it.

Ann -- I know... foam is so stupid and serves no purpose. I don't mind making puff pastry because I can make tomato tarts and other items with it. It was just a pain in the ass to have to make this week, and I didn't wanna cop out and go all SandraLee and buy it, you know? Julia Child's recipe for it is a tad easier, so I think I'll stick with that next time.

PDXMommy -- yes, the twists look like dog crap. I know. After the dog has gotten into a box of Kleenex. They tasted okay, though. Unlike dog crap, I imagine.

rob said...

Sorry to hear about the Herculean effort required to make this dessert. Would you ever consider making it again if you could cheat a little by using frozen puff pastry? Also, I'm shocked that the farine is "awesome." I have to admit that the words "Cream of Wheat" do not generally inspire in me visions of flavour. I suppose the moral of that story is that mascarpone and deep frying can work wonders with pretty anything.

Julie said...

This was hysterically funny and I'm impressed that you stick with this the way you do. One session with only half as many steps would have left me... well, I can't even imagine considering something as ambitious as this, much less actually doing it.

I'd be interested to hear when this all over, or even partially over, which of these things you'd actually make again and if there are any that you'll be whipping up on a regular basis.

Jo said...

Oh my gosh. I had a similar unhappiness when I made a cake. Two days to make a cuatro leche cake. and no one in the house liked it. Too sweet and mushy was the verdict on that one. I wanted to throw it out the window when I was done.

Diner Girl said...

Rob: Even if I cheated and used puff pastry, I'd still never make this dish again. I hated it that much. And, believe it or not, the farina cakes were the best part of the dish. Counterintuitive, I know, but really, really good.

Julie: I'm keeping pretty detailed notes about what I'd do again, and what pages I want to tear out of the cookbook and burn. There are also elements from some of these dishes that I'd modify to make other things.

Jo: YES! I wanted to throw this dessert out the window, but then the raccoons would come and not want to leave, and start scratching on the windows in anticipation of more sweetness flying out of the house, and I can't let that happen. ;)

Anita said...

I laughed so hard as I read this -- my husband thinks I am nuts. (Well, he knew already, but...)

Seriously, though: It's been a long time since I found a new favorite blog. I read about your blog on the "Chow: The Grinder", and am so glad that I clicked over. :)

shuna fish lydon said...

This is a great site! Very funny indeed.

I was the pastry sous chef there when the book was created. I understand your woes, indeed. It's easier to poach the apples in a wider pot-- this way you can watch them more closely as, as you know, some of them poach faster than others.

Contact me before you make the chocolate mousse for the fondant... I begged the reipe tester to exclude it from the book.

(I'm the one in the back with the Adidas on.)

Lisa said...

I absolutely loved the Dwight Shrute reference!
Sorry this was so miserable for you.

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog - it's fantastic! In 2004, I spent a week in Napa Valley at the CIA taking a baking and pastry class taught by the very Mr Stephen Durfee who was an instructor at the school. I thought you'd like to know on bread day he burned all the challah loaves.

Diner Girl said...

Anita -- welcome! Glad you're here and thanks for your kind words!

Shuna -- so glad you're here, and yes, I will definitely email you before I try the fondant. Love your website, by the way. Really great stuff there.

Lisa -- welcome, too!

And, Anonymous -- you made my fucking day. Stephen Durfee burning challah. That rocks.

recordkitten said...

Wow, that was an "involved" process for such an anti-climatic end product.

deep fried Cream of wheat-heh!

Ya know, you could of enhanced the prisonttion by laboriously putting individual dragees on it with tweezers. or plopping a big tree of mint on it.

The process did seem a bit SLop-like in it's numerous steps.

s_durfee said...

Hi Diner Girl. Sorry you had such a rotten time with the Cream of Wheat - its really my favorite of all the desserts that I created at TFL! C'mon, you must have enjoyed EATING it at least....I'm sure you realize that in the restaurant, puff pastry is a "par" item, meaning that we have it in stock all the time. Even I wouldn't bother making 2 lbs. of puff pastry just to get 8 cookies (Although, they are delicious, and I really applaud your effort...)

Anyway, I'm glad you had better success with the strawberry short cake and the walnut soup - lest you think I was a one-flop-wonder- those are my recipes as well, so don't hate me too much. And just between you and me, I've burnt way more than a few loaves of challah along the way... Thanks for a great read - I was laughing out loud!

Diner Girl said...

Stephen, Stephen, Stephen..... you HAD to go a post a comment, didn't you? You HAD to go and be all nice and funny and stuff. You HAD to point out that YOU created the Cream of Walnut Soup I want to bathe in. You HAD to make a special point to take credit for the strawberry sorbet/shortcakes I loved so much. Damn you, Stephen Durfee for being a nice guy. DAMN YOU. :)

shuna fish lydon said...

Stephen IS a good guy, and very funny indeed. I encouraged him to leave a comment when he saw the bashing. It's important to remember that in most cookbooks the savory chef takes credits for the desserts! If it's great it's their fault, if it's not, then, and only then, is it about us pastry chefs.

Stephen may have been one of the last whimsical, experimental pc at TFL. Not to say that what's there is not delicous, it is very, but when this cookbook was created it was a very lively, dynamic time in the kitchen.

Diner Girl said...

Shuna: Thanks for making the connection. I will go on the record as saying that I think Stephen Durfee is a stand-up guy who, no doubt, is a brilliant pastry chef. It's just that I HATE IT when a recipe outsmarts me. :) And, instead of accepting responsibility for my lack of mad pastry skillz, it's more fun to have a go at someone else. You guys were certainly there at what must've been an amazing time in the restaurant's history!

Leslie-Anne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leslie-Anne said...

I've been addicted to your blog for 3 days now, I just-can't-stop-reading. I bought the TFL book a week ago and have yet to try anything out, I think I'll see what your successes were first!

I can't wait until you make the Pig's Head...or have you? I've only read up to May...the anticipation is killing me.

Great read, thanks!

oh so hungry said...

Ok, so I know you did this eight months ago, but I had to re-read it with a Durfee search (following your chocolate, coffee, etc. yummy success). I should remember to read this every time I'm feeling shitty. IT AND YOU ARE HILARIOUS!!!

pizzadiavola said...

Just saw this linked from one of your more recent entries (the chocolate dentelles, maybe) and just had to say that it was really helpful! I got TFL cookbook recently (mostly inspired by your blog and how you said you'd learned a lot from the techniques and recipes) and was looking at this recipe thinking, "WTF does he mean by apple rings?" So the pictures clarified a lot!

Btw, the mise en place for the creme de farine is impressively large!

Swerveon said...

Wasn't "Every Little Step" by Bobby Brown after he left New Edition? Just Curious.

BTW Love the blog, I recently found it via Chowhound and love reading it. I'm almost done and I'm gonna' start following your culinary exploits with Alinea at home .

Andrew_S said...

OMG, i dont know if you check this anymore but i kinda copied this and it was sooo good!!! I was able to do it all in one day (but im sure yours was more labour intensive/nit picky)
I used the rough puff pastry recipe from the zuni cafe cookbook, ice cream from the art of simple food (but reduced sugar and added reduced AJ), poached apples in sugar/cinnamon/lemon water and panfried oatmeal cakes instead of cream of wheat, which tasted AMAZING but looked like chicken nuggets...no lie.
Its kind of like a deconstructed apple pie a la mode.

Linkmarkr said...

OK...I'm late to this one too. I must admit...this is one of my favorite recipes in FL! I've made it about 8 times. I know there are a lot of steps, but it's so damn good. Seriously...you are nuts to make the puff pastry. I don't think you would have been so frustrated if you'd bought frozen. That's how I keep my sanity. Sometime when you're in a good fall mood, you should really try it again...with the panko (it's much better with the panko) Thanks for the laugh!