Tasting or sample menus, especially in regards to appetizers have been on the restaurant scene for quite some time now.
By Alisha Randell
No longer does a tasting menu merely included the selection of chicken strips, mini quesadilla and onion rings, but oh so much more. The restaurant world has taken us to new heights with special seasonal offerings, tasty chefs specials and a vast array of delicacies to sample.
Stores and specially shops are quickly filling their shelves with innovative and decorative dishware to entice most any willing host or hostess to be. The mini offerings are flooding our gourmet senses with creative ideas to stretch our culinary muscles.
Whipping your own fresh cream is far easier than one might expect. By it’s nature whipped cream is one in the family of culinary foams. Although we generally think of this as a tasty topping four our favorite sweet treats, it can also play a magnificent role in savory dishes.
Today we are leaning on the sweet side, with just a hint of heat here and there. You can of course use any combinations that you desire or have available to you. The main objective here is to spend a minimal amount of time and effort, but to disguise it under the gentle hues of elegance and sophistication.
There are a few key things to remember while preparing whipped cream. One factor is the basic, very basic science behind the process of whipping cream. This science tells us that both the temperature as well as the length and speed of whipping time can drastically alter the outcome. The whipping process introduces bubbles into our cream, the longer we whip the smaller the bubbles. And since our cream has no shortage of fat, this fat surrounds these bubbles and becomes creamier as we progress.
So if we were to do a scale diagram for whipped cream, the far left would have us enjoying a light fluffy cloud of puffed cream, while the far right would produce an equally delightful butter… However somewhere in the middle we will achieve a mousse like texture, and this is what we are striving for today.
Fresh summer fruits are typically abundant by this time in the majority of the northern hemisphere. We have a fun variety of berries here that you may or may not be familiar with. If you note the photo showing the basket of berries, on the right we have typical fresh blueberries, in the center fresh gooseberries and on the left goldenberries.
The gooseberry bush is generally classified as a subgenus of Ribes, which includes the Current family along with a hybrid of the gooseberry and blackcurrent known as the Jostaberry. Some on the other hand place this berry within it’s own genus of Grossularia. The fruit is quite tart and makes an excellent berry choice for jams, pies or along side sweeter berries.
The goldenberry plant is withing the Solanaceae which includes the tomato and eggplant. The goldenberry is also closely related to the tomatillo. You may see several other names for this berry like cape gooseberry, Chinese or Indian gooseberry. However it is not related to the gooseberry and is far sweeter.
In addition to our fresh fruit finds we will, as our title suggests, be tinging our whipped creams with various treasures. Starting with our Black Onyx Dutch Cocoa, an alkalized cocoa powder that has a rich beautiful purple/black hue. This cocoa is lower in fat that more traditional cocoas and is recommended at a 25-50% blend. Our other cocoa is a Mayan Cocoa that includes a mix of chile pepper, cinnamon and vanilla powder.
- 1 pint heavy cream
- 1 Tbs raw sugar, fine grain
- 1 large mixing bowl, chilled
- 4 small mixing bowls, chilled
- Hand mixer or whisk, attachments chilled
- 6-8 small mint leaves, finely chopped
- ⅛th tsp cardamom, finely ground
- 1-2 pinches black pepper, finely ground
- 1 Saturn peach, diced
- 1 nectarine, diced
- 1 Tbs Mayan cocoa
- 1 mango, diced
- ½ Tbs black onyx cocoa
- 1 banana, diced
- 1-2 Tbs 75% or higher cocoa, shaved
- For the honey Anise:
- 1 Tbs honey powder
- 2-3 drops anise essential oil
- Starting with our whipped cream, place heavy cream in a large chilled mixing bowl. Beat with a hand mixer or whisk that has been chilled. Continue to beat cream until just softly peaked.
- Add sugar at this point and continue to beat until you have just achieved a slightly firm peak. Then quarter your whipped cream and transfer to individual chilled bowls.
- Add flavorings such as above or your own desired flavorings until just incorporated and chill for 20 minutes or so.
- To arrange, depending on you mini servers, add one layer of chosen fruit then top with creamy tinged mousse. Add an additional layer of chopped fruit and chocolate shavings where specified or desired.
Alisha Randell is a former Executive Chef turned Private Chef and Culinary Instructor. She is the Co-Creator/Author of The Ardent Epicure blog “An Ode to the Pleasures of Food”. Growing up with a dad as a culinary guide, whom was as well an executive chef, food and seeing food as an art form has been a lifelong passion and exploration.