There is no conception in man's mind
which hath not at first, totally or in parts,
been begotten upon by the organs of sense.
---Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Brown Butter Ice Cream Recipe

Brown butter is one of those elusive things that I've become enchanted with in the past month or so after catching up on years of brown butter posts on Ideas in Food. What is the big deal?

Brown butter, is traditionally made by simply putting some butter in a saute pan and cooking it over medium heat until the milk solids separate out, settle to the bottom of the pan, and begin to turn brown. This happens to us all the time when we get distracted with a patty of butter in the frying pan waiting to make french toast, eggs or grilled cheese. Often this is called "beurre noisette," although Escoffier calls brown butter Beurre Noir. Beurre Noisette is hazelnut butter (to him).

Nomenclature aside, browned milk solids are a delicacy that is vastly under-appreciated. The flavor of pure brown butter solids is savory but brings up connotations in the mind of caramelized milk. It is at once a novel roasted note that is neither completely toasted nor caramelized, but somewhere in-between. Brown butter, poured over light fish or gnocchi accentuates delicate flavors without covering up. A marriage of bass and flutes. And it brings up memories of the already-mentioned grilled cheeses I used to eat all the time growing up (as long as the butter didn't get black!).

So a few weekends ago I set out to make brown butter ice cream. My issue was that many others alluded to it on the internet, and there was even one recipe, but I was not satisfied with anything I read so I'm offering my own. One of the primary differences between this recipe and others you might find is that I keep the fat content of the ice cream around a happy 12-14%, nothing like the 20%+ I calculated with one of the more popular online recipes. This is done by substituting heavy cream with skim milk and making up the difference with butter fat, rather than just adding butter fat. The other major difference is that I bump up the amount of solids in my butter in order to make a super concentrated syrup, which is then used in the ice cream, providing an extremely strong flavor. Not light and subtle at all. It will *definitely* hold up to any sauce or pairing you put with it.

Brown Butter Puree

Melt 1 pound butter in a sauce pan.  Add 200g non fat dry milk powder and cook on medium heat.  At first it will be thick and homogenous.  Keep stirring and cooking, scraping the pan thoroughly as you go.  Eventually it will start to brown and will separate out into a clear solid and butterfat portions.  It WILL happen eventually - you can turn the heat up if you get concerned. You want the solids to turn a dark brown without turning black.  The entire process will take 30 minutes or more, especially the first time.

Strain the butter in a fine mesh sieve.  Save 6 fl. oz. of the liquid portion, and all of the solids.  (Actually, save the rest of the liquid portion to use in your everyday cooking as clarified butter, but 6 oz. is what we need for the recipe).

Transfer all of the solids to a blender.  Add just enough water (or skim milk if you prefer) to blend to a thick puree.  Let this rip for 10+ minutes.  It will be sandy at first, but eventually you will achieve a smooth puree.  Reserve.

Brown Butter Ice Cream

 Skim Milk  20 fl. oz.
 Milk  4 fl. oz.
 Butter fat from Brown Butter  6 fl. oz.
 Sugar  7 oz. (weight)
 Corn Syrup (Light)  1 oz. (weight)
 Vanilla Bean  1 ea.
 Egg Yolks  10 oz. (weight)
 Brown Butter Liquid  to taste

1) Add half of the sugar to blender.  Add butter fat with blender on.  Add egg yolks and blend just until homogenous.  

2) Put Skim Milk, milk, corn syrup and the other half of the sugar into a pot.  Scrape in the vanilla bean and put the pod in.  Bring this to a simmer, slowly.

3) Turn on the blender and slowly strain the milk mixture into the butter fat mixture.  Mix until incorporated well.

4) Return mixture to the pot on low heat and bring to 160F, or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.  While it is coming to temperature, add in Brown Butter Liquid to taste (you will probably use all of it).  Strain over an ice bath and cool in the refrigerator overnight.

5) The next day spin the ice cream.  Let cure for one day before serving (if you can wait!).  

Ideas in Food, Brown Butter Solids Recipe

Ideas in Food, Brown Butter Liquids Recipe

Michael Laiskonis, "Color is Flavor"

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Chemosensory Sorcery Part 1

On March 20th I was at the Research Chefs Association annual conference in Phoenix. The RCA is an organization of chefs and food scientists who work outside the typical one-unit restaurant world. The Chefs that belong to RCA work for such varied companies as McDonalds, Brinker (Chili's), Wegman's Grocery, and multiple flavor and ingredient manufacturers. All told about 400 or so people were there.

I was invited to give a presentation on Trigeminal Sensations, which I titled "Chemosensory Sorcery." Feel free to download an Adobe PDF of the presentation here." The breakout session was supposed to have about 80 people, and 140 or so showed up for the hour long presentation, followed by a solid 45 minute Q&A. There's an excellent writeup of the presentation in the trade newsletter Food Navigator.

The Trigeminal Irritants are compounds that provide interesting textural sensations in the mouth and across oral and nasal surfaces, including cooling, spicy, tingly, electric, heat and pungency (among many others). Typical foods include wasabi, mustard, chilies, black pepper, and spearmint.

I did get a chance to step away and eat at Pizzeria Bianco for a fantastic wood fired pizza. This was one of the first wood fired pizza's I've eaten that actually had a strong smoky note to the crust, which I loved. I also had a chance to spend some time with family, whom were out visiting other family.