- Date: Thursday, February 25, 2010 -- 8pm
- Location: Berkeley, CA
- Kitchen: Our Temporary California Home
- Fellow Chef: Chris
- Dining Companion: Matty
- Recipe Rating: C+
I made a birthday dinner for Chris the day before his birthday, and it seemed like the right thing to do to have a dessert. Typically, birthdays call for cake. However, I have already completed the Cakes section from The Book. True, I could have chosen to make him a cake, not from The Book (*gasp*), but I am trying to stay focused on finishing my project, so I select a non-cake dessert from The Book instead. Truth be told, the dessert choices that are left in The Book are getting a little sketchy. There are definitely some things left that sound delicious, but I didn't have the right equipment here to make them. So I tried to pick something that A) Sounded like there was a possibility that it could be tasty, B) I could find the ingredients for, and C) I had all the equipment to make in the house we are renting in California. The intersection of A, B, and C was quite small, and from the few options I chose this recipe. So instead of getting a birthday cake, Chris got Birthday Snow Eggs with Pistachio Custard and Chocolate Drizzle (such are the dangers of being my friend!).
When I started the lengthy project of making this recipe, I saw that The Book listed an Active Time of 2 hours and a Start To Finish time of 10.5 hours. The recipe only had 7 ingredients and the concept seemed pretty straightforward, so I thought to myself, "How is this possibly going to take 2 hours to make?" It wasn't until I started that I realized that this recipe was a huge pain in the ass. I started with the pistachios. I blanched the shelled pistachios in boiling water for a couple minutes, then I transferred them to an ice bath. I drained them, then one by one peeled the skins off the pistachios. I have certainly shelled plenty of pistachios over the years, but peeling them? I can honestly say that it never even occurred to me to remove the thin skin on pistachios. But I did it for this recipe, and had the thought several times, "This better be worth it!" Once I had peeled all my blanched, shelled pistachios, I toasted them in the oven. I chopped a couple tablespoons of the nuts and set them aside. I took the remaining nuts and ground them with sugar in a food processor. I added some whole milk and processed them more. I refrigerated this pistachio cream for 8 hours.
Next came the most bizarre part of this recipe: making the snow eggs. I whisked together milk and sugar and brought it to a bare simmer. I beat together egg whites, lemon juice, and salt to soft peaks, then added sugar and beat the meringue to stiff peaks. Using spoons, I formed the meringue into egg shapes and dropped them into the simmering milk. I cooked them for a couple minutes, then carefully flipped them over and cooked some more. Then I transferred them to a baking pan lined with plastic wrap, and continue in this manner until all the meringue was gone. I love meringue, and I have made it many times. But I have never made (or eaten!) meringue poached in milk. It was a little bit of a disaster. When I made my first batch the milk got a bit too hot and started to boil. This had a very negative affect on my little meringue eggs. Indeed they collapsed into rubbery little white disks, which were both unattractive and had a horrible texture. With batch number two I was very careful about the temperature of the milk. The eggs maintained their shape better, but they had a spongy texture I hadn't expected. Apparently that is the intended outcome, as another name for this dish is "little sponges," according to The Book.
Once all my meringue eggs were done, I strained the poaching liquid. I whisked together egg yolks, sugar, and salt, then added the poaching liquid and cooked the mixture to 175 degrees. I added the pistachio cream and some almond extract to the custard. I cooled it in an ice bath, then strained the custard. Chris melted some chocolate and then we assembled the dish. We put some of the pistachio custard in bowls, then added the meringue eggs, drizzled with chocolate, and topped with the reserved, chopped pistachios. That's it: Birthday Snow Eggs!
This recipe was a huge pain and the outcome was disappointing. As I mentioned, the texture of the snow eggs was very spongy and unappealing. The pistachio custard was ok, but even after all that effort preparing the pistachios, the pistachio flavor didn't come through as much as it could have. The custard was a bit bland, and too thin. We all picked at this dessert for a while, and then ended up pushing it aside, half-eaten. The only thing that got completely consumed was the bowl of melted chocolate!
The recipe is here.