Friday, August 31, 2007

Cream of Blueberry Soup with Yogurt Charlottes

Remember that song from A Chorus Line: "Dance 10, Looks 3"??? Or when someone says, "Wow, you have a GREAT face for radio!"??? Um, yeah. That pretty much sums up my experience with this particular dessert.

Taste? The best.

Presentation? Not so much.

I'll explain it as I go.

Up first? The yogurt charlottes. The first thing I did was combine some cream with some of the sugar in a small saucepan and bring it up to a simmer, stirring until the sugar was dissolved. I then soaked a gelatin sheet in some cold water to soften it, wrung out the excess water and stirred it into the hot cream and sugar until it was dissolved:

Then, I stirred in the whole milk, plain yogurt and let the mixture come to room temperature:

Time to pour them into little 4-ounce stainless steel molds! The kitchen supply store didn't have any, but what they did have were 3.5-ounce plastic molds in one sheet, so I took a chance and made them using these:

I covered them with some aluminum foil and put them in the refrigerator for about a day and a half. Next, I made the crème anglaise. I scraped the seeds from a vanilla bean into a saucepan, added the vanilla pod, cream, milk and some sugar and brought it to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar:

Separately, in a bowl, I whisked 5 large egg yolks with some more sugar, tempered it with the hot cream mixture, then poured the tempered yolks back into the saucepan with the cream mixture and stirred it until the custard thickened and coated the back of my wooden spoon. Sound familiar? Yeah -- you read about this process a few posts ago when I made the ice cream... because crème anglaise is pretty much pre-frozen/melted vanilla ice cream. I don't have a photo of the final crème anglaise, but melt yourself a bowl of vanilla ice cream and you'll get the picture.

The next thing to do was make the tellicherry pepper syrup. The Co-op was fresh out of tellicherry peppercorns, so I used regular black peppercorns instead. Here's the mise en place:

This was the easiest part of the whole dish. I just put all these ingredients into a saucepan, brought it to just under a simmer, and let it cook for 45 minutes. I then strained it and there was about 2C of syrup when all was said and done:

Next, I did the blueberry soup. Again, pretty easy. I brought a cup of white wine to a boil, then added some lemon juice and zest:

I simmered it until it had reduced to a quarter-cup of liquid. Then, I strained the liquid into a larger saucepan, added the blueberries, and cooked them over medium heat until they began to burst:

I then added a cup of the tellicherry (or, um, black) pepper syrup and some sugar, and simmered the mixture for about 15 minutes:

Then came the fun part -- I had to pour this hot blueberry mixture into a blender (in parts, of course, since there were so many blueberries) and liquefy it. I had visions of the blender top flying off, despite my practically sitting on it to ensure that wouldn't happen, and coating my kitchen in blueberries, much like the projectile-vomiting-pie-eating-contest scene in Stand By Me.

Alas, and lucky for me, that didn't happen. I successfully liquefied and strained the blueberries and let the mixture chill in an ice bath.

Once it had chilled, I poured some of the crème anglaise into the blueberry liquid to make and further chill the cream of blueberry soup:

At this point, as far as I was concerned, everything was going swimmingly. The afternoon had progressed nicely, I'd made plans to have dinner with my neighbors, and in return I would treat them to this dessert. I was a happy camper. And then, the dacquoise reared its stupid head.

I've shown how to make dacquoise here. This was almost exactly the same recipe, but with almonds instead of hazelnuts. I'm not sure that's why this didn't work. In fact, I thought I did everything right, but these suckers were just a mess and didn't crisp at all. They got sort of crispy around the edges, but then remained chewy in the middle of the baking sheet.

Looks like someone needs a pastry class, eh? What an annoyance. But wait, there's more. When I went to get the yogurt charlottes out of their molds, they were set nicely. And as soon as they hit the tray I was removing them to, they started to get all glurpy. Time to improvise, as my neighbors were due to arrive in two minutes.

So, what do you do when your charlottes are glurpy and the dacquoise is pissing you off? I am about to blind you with some serious f-ing science right about now. You pour the soup into the bowls, add the yogurt charlotte the middle (like a dollop of sour cream in a savory soup), then crumble the dacquoise on the top (like tortilla chips in a Mexican soup). Ta-da!

Those of you who own The French Laundry Cookbook can turn to page 266 to see what this was supposed to look like, and then have yourselves a good laugh. Especially you, Stephen Durfee. You probably created this recipe because you knew someday I would want to make it, and would crap it up somehow. I know how you roll, you wiley little coyote. I bet you're cackling up a storm out there. Fine. Be that way. See if I care. Crap. I do.

But let's talk for a minute about how gooooooooooooooooooooood this tasted. A certified PlateLicker™, that's for damn sure. We swirled the yogurt into the soup and enjoyed the crunch of the dacquoise in some of the bites. The textures weren't off-putting in the least, and it was rich enough to be a real treat, but clean enough to make you forget about all the cream and sugar throughout the dish. In fact, my ten-year-old neighbor "M" ate every last drop AND took home the leftovers. Usually, she tries a bite or two of these dishes and lets the rest of us pick over the rest of her plate like the vultures we are. When she ate this, she was hunkered down over the plate, spoon to mouth every six seconds, not a word coming from her mouth.

That, my friends, is success, indeed.

Up Next: Chocolate Cakes with Red Beet Ice Cream and Toasted Walnut Sauce

Organic Valley milk and cream
Eggs from Smith Meadows Farms
Stonyfield Farm yogurt
Vanilla bean and almonds from TPSS Co-op
Fruit from Whole Foods
Mint from neighbor Linda's garden (thanks!)
Bogle sauvignon blanc

Music to Cook By: Simple Minds; Once Upon a Time. Since I've gotten back from vacay, I'm feeling a tad retro and am listening quite a bit to music from my high school years, and loving it. The food-memory connection is so strong for so many, but the music-memory connection is equally as strong for me. This Simple Minds cassette didn't leave my rockin' two-toned gray Ford Escort at all from 1985-86. We'd pop out the sunroof, store it in the trunk (remember those days?), and jam out (sort of) to Simple Minds, Tears for Fears, Roxy Music, OMD, INXS, 'Til Tuesday, and a-Ha in the school parking lot during lunch. I also had a curly perm back then, but won't talk about that because HOLY CRAP WHY DIDN'T SOMEBODY TELL ME HOW BAD I LOOKED?!


JoP in Omaha said...

Looks yummy if you ask me. I had great success with the CIA's red plum soup, so I'm thinking I'll do this one this weekend. I'm glad to know it passed the taste test with flying colors!

Buda Baby said...

We make lots of cold fruit soups in the summer in Hungary, but I haven't tried a blueberry one yet. This one looks and sounds delicious and your presentation doesn't look that bad! Looking at p. 266, you can tell that those thingies are just going to get all crumbly anyway!

Pastrymann said...

Hi Carol,
Great to have you back from your vacation…
If you try the dacquoise again grind your 'toasted' & cooled almonds with half of your powdered sugar first and then add the sifted cornstarch, making certain that the sugar/almond mixture does not heat up in the food processor. The heating will create a dense / chewy dacquoise instead of crisp. The whites (as you know) are beatten stiff with the remaining sugar...

Kevin Kossowan said...

Fun post to read, and fruit soup is a new concept for me, so thanks for enlightening!

Mercedes said...

Hm, perhaps it was very humid? Meringues can be finicky things. Nonetheless, at least it tasted good.

I make a homemade beet ice cream that rules. I had no idea TK had one, but I have a feeling you're in for a treat!

Sally Forth said...

That looks really good! I have the very same molds except they're holding strawberry gelatin right now, much less exciting.

John said...


check your oven temp with a with an acurate thermometer.380 to 400 is optimal..
you live in a very humid area. was the humidity up that day...
alot of problems occur when the quality of the eggs are in questions....
sometimes over whipping or underwhipping can cause problems...

love your are a pastry chef in the making!!!

great blog..keep it up!!!

Catherine said...

A pie-eating-contest-gone-bad reference from Stand By Me asks for one thing and one thing only:



Oh, yeah - the soup looks delish. :)

Kristin said...

First-time commenter here. I had to chuckle when I saw the photo in the cookbook, but then I reminded myself that at least you're USING said cookbook. Every time I open it up I am overwhelmed by the 90 hours of microwave time to get beet powder and the soaking of some such ingredient for like 40 hours. Very intimidating!

I'm going to try the Heirloom Tart thing you made recently for company this weekend. Wondering if I can...GASP...use store-bought puff pastry?

spooneroonie said...

Carol--No one told you how bad you looked because they were all way too busy looking awful themselves. Try living with curly-perm hair that's natural. But I digress.

Soup looks wonderful, and I'm pleasd to see that the lid to your blender didn't become enraged and run away, like some other blender lids that we know.

carol in VT said...

Ah. A blue soup, in the great blue soup tradition...

Carol, I'm de-lurking to say how addictive I've found your site. Surfing food blogs is what I do instead of actual work, and yours has become my favorite.

Thanks for doing this project!

(btw - my name's also Carol and I just celebrated my SECOND (annual) 39th birthday on Aug 14th. I forsee these 39th birthdays just getting better and better!)

JoP in Omaha said...

As my first step in making the blueberry soup, I'm making the tellicherry pepper syrup, using plain old black peppercorns like Carol did. It needs to cook 20 more minutes, but I just tasted it. OMG, it is ever awesome. The mix of flavors totally rocks---a bit pungent from the pepper but sweet, too, with a refreshing sort of feel from the mint.

I'm new to this cooking thing, but my confidence raises each time I try a little bit of Keller. Each thing I've tried has succeeded beyond my expectations. I love being able to do a little bit of Keller, and it's given me the confidence to keep on going to try other things.

Kudos once again to Ruhlman and Keller, who changed my life, and to Carol's French Laundry diary which provides inspiration and a sense of adventure in the kitchen.

pdxblogmommy said...

Yeah, that hair WAS bad, but we ALL had it. While you had the bad frizzy perm, I had the sprayed stiff bangs that stood straight up from my forehead and were glued there with "Stiff Stuff". Remember that??

And I was talking to the hubby about "E.G." socks the other day. EGs crammed into Keds. Nice. We looked awesome didn't we?

But I digress...I rather like the yogurt charlotte as a dollop instead of something with a consistency that would likely make me gag.

So BRAVA! Looks marvelous!

JoP in Omaha said...

I made the blueberry soup yesterday, skipping the yogurt thing and the dacquoise. When I tasted it after it was done and chilled, my reaction was---a laugh! Of joy! OMG, this is incredible. Somehow, I think Chef Keller would be pleased that his blueberry soup made me laugh with joy.

And the color---it's so awesome. In the photo in the book and that Carol shows above, the soup seems to have a strong red color. But mine was a deep lilac color--definitely purple. It's so gorgeous. I wish you could see it.

This recipe is the one I love enough to marry. And what deep satisfaction that I, a novice, could turn out this awesome soup following Chef Keller's direction. There are several reviews of this cookbook on Amazon that describe it was coffee-table only, far to difficult to attempt at home. This is so wrong, as Carol has shown in this blog. This recipe is a great's SIMPLE to do, even for a beginner cook. I'm still smiling inside that I did it with such an excellent result.

JordanBaker said...

This sounds amazing--I've been on a big fruit soup kick this summer since I had a chilled peach/champagne soup in New Orleans.

Karen said...

No one carries off a perm--not in the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, or today. Trust me. But I do think High School '80s were worse than mid-20s '80s: I went the Tenax-ed "Human League" route, and still love looking at photos from back then.

But I digress.

I am profoundly impressed by your ability to recover, regroup, redesign in the face of disappointing results. I haven't seen the cookbook photo yet, but the photo you provide looks plenty damn fine to me, and easier to eat to boot.

I am so loving this blog--I will cry when you're finished with the book....

Jim said...

I think it looks amazing, but then I'm proud when I make an awesome grilled cheese...

And "Don't You Forget About Me" is better!

Sarah said...

Oh this was too funny, I have had the same thing happen!!! But the best part is when at the end you stand there in your kitchen scratching your head and wondering what happened for at least 30 minutes. Or at least that is how long I have.

As always looks delish, even if it didn't turn out quite like the picture ;)

Diner Girl said...

Pastrymann: thanks for the insight and tips. I do want to try making dacquoise again. It's just so humid here all the time, I know that can be a factor. I will try your advice and hope it makes a difference.

Catherine: HA!

Carol in VT: Welcome! And happy belated birthday to you!

JoP: I'm so glad you're loving the book and making some of the dishes. Keep me posted on what you're doing. I think the Ruhlman/Keller combo have a powerful impact, that's for sure.

PDX: The socks in Keds? Did you forget our awesome Reebok high-tops and leather bomber jackets? And those stupid bow hair barettes? Holy crap, the late 80s were awful.

Sarah: I admire the ability that you can stand there for 30 minutes to ponder what went wrong. I spend days thinking about how I could've done it better. I am so annoying. ;)

Ruth Daniels said...

I just came across your site and so glad I did. It will be my place to visit often for a good belly laugh and some great recipes.

Thanks for sharing.

ann said...

Heya Carol!
you need to get yourself an immersion blender. They're such a revelation after using a traditional blender to puree hot hot stuff. You just stick it in, let it go and voila! no scary purple covered walls. And many of them come with really useful attachments that you can use to whip things and moosh things. Good stuff, and relatively cheap too!

thanks for the blue soup insight. I might have to give this one a go!

Diner Girl said...

Ruth -- thanks! Glad you're here.

Ann -- I burned out my immersion blender last fall and have yet to replace it. Thank you for reminding me. Time to put my Sur La Table gift card to good use!

Anonymous said...

Diner Girl - Belated thanks for your card. Plastic molds are difficult, because you can't warm them very efficiently and so the gelatin softens and you wind up with....well, you know. Sorry.

So, if it helps, here's my updated view on Panna Cotta... since nobody really likes the wiggly texture of gelatin anyway, you can make a nicer (and ultimately easier) dessert if you use less of it and simply pour the mix into a pretty bowl and let it set up for a few hours. Maybe its a little less dramatic, but since you don't have to unmold it, you will save a step, and eliminate the likelihood of glurp.

Can't wait for that Beet Ice Cream! sd

Diner Girl said...

Thanks, SD. I may have to try that when I make this again. Beet ice cream is coming soon!