20 February 2012

Meringues with a kick

The pasilla chile softening on the comal is a traditional start to a Mexican meal. And next the next step, perhaps, would be grilling tomatoes, onions, and garlic to make the perfect base for a savoury sauce. Well not in this case. This was the start of dessert for last night's dinner. Part 1 of the pudding was to be chocolate-chile ice cream.

Next step is creating a chile and cream infusion as the base to the ice cream. Just steep the softened chile in the cream.  Then you waz it up in a blender, then strain out the bits of chile (which if  you've blended it well, there shouldn't be much of).

While that's all going on, there was chocolate being chopped. Using the good stuff makes a big difference. Then the chile infusion gets mixed together with this lovely chocolate and is well on its way to becoming the custard base for the ice cream.

Add the chile-chocolate-cream mixture to a bowl full of egg yolks and sugar. Now you're ready for cooking the custard.

The custard has to thicken over a double boiler so there's a bit of arm-building whisking action involved. Although it's a lot less arduous than say, making mayonnaise.  And because there's no shortage of steps in this ice cream making process, once it's all up to the right temperature and thickened up, then the custard has to be cooled. So stick it in an ice bath and whisk some more.

At this point, I was wondering if this whole process was ever going to end, but having an array of delicious ingredients, I cracked on with it. A little vanilla, some heavy cream, and a bit of chocolate liquer. Then into the ice cream maker it all goes.

Once this final step is complete, it can go into the freezer for a few hours or overnight to harden up and for the flavours to really marry together.

And since the ice cream only used the egg yolks, and I don't like to waste, I thought I'd try my hand at making some meringues. Last weekend I made a pavlova, which was very delicious but the meringue base was not quite right. So this time, I used the basic recipe for the Joy of Cooking. The trick to the nice stiff peaks: cream of tartar. Conveniently I had some in the pantry, so stiff ones all around.

My initial dessert plan had been to have the chocolate-chile ice cream with grilled pineapple, which I still made, but with the meringues (which I have to say came out pretty freaking perfectly), it was perhaps one of the best desserts I've ever put together. I gave myself quite a few pats on the back.

And, I'm also happy to report, J and our dinner guests enjoyed it. And that's reallly what all the time and effort is about, seeing the clean plates in front of everyone.

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