Saturday, January 26, 2013

Demo By Chef Terri Wu, Farallon

It has been a while since I last posted a cooking demo review, partially because I haven't been to as many lately with the holidays, but also because I only post them when I'm particularly impressed.  Many are good enough, and I learn a few handy tips, but aren't really worth telling you about.

Today's demo, held in the beautiful Macy's Cellar, was by Chef Terri Wu, from Farallon, and she was demoing their top selling dessert.  It is easy to see why.  It combines two of my absolute favorite things: chocolate and ice cream!  I'm coming down with a cold, and was very tempted to skip the demo, but I couldn't resist the appeal of a dessert demo, particularly once I read the description.  I'm glad I dragged myself there, because it was quite a treat.

Chef Wu gave a demo full of helpful tips, particularly surrounding how to make the texture of the gateau come out right: don't let the chocolate get too hot, else it comes out grainy.  Sift the cornstarch so it doesn't get lumpy.  Bake it in a water bath so the middle cooks without drying out the edges.

She also gave us some interesting historical information about some of the ingredients, like the fact that malt was originally developed as a supplement for infants, and then was used by trekkers as a nutritional aid.  We also learned about vanilla, which I knew to be the second most expensive spice after saffron, but I never really knew why.  It turns out that it needs to be hand pollinated, the flowers last only a day, and it takes three years to mature!

She also gave us one incredibly handy tip: she said to cover the semifreddo with plastic wrap in the freezer, so it didn't develop an icy layer.  She then added offhand that we could do the same with any ice cream once we open it.  Why have I never heard of that before?  I always have to scrape off the top layer!

I've somehow not yet been to Farallon, even though it has been on my list for quite a while, as they are known for their seafood, and I'm a seafood lover.  I had no idea that they had such a great pastry program, but now that I know, they are climbing even higher on my list!  Or perhaps, I'll even just go for dessert at the bar :)
Valrhona Grand Cru Tainori Feve.
To start, chef Wu had us taste the chocolate itself.  She uses Valrhona, a chocolate I'm a big fan of (somehow, I haven't ever posted my reviews of their chocolate ... stay tuned!)  It is a 64% from the Domincan Republic.  It was very smooth, yet had a remarkably fudgy finish.  I'm used to chocolate with a strong fudgy taste like this having a thicker mouthfeel, but it had a nice snap to it and was really clean.  Definitely quality chocolate!
Bittersweet Chocolate Malt Gateau with Vanilla Bean Semifreddo, Milk Chocolate Caramelia Pearls, Cocoa Nib Praline, and Espresso Malt Crème Anglaise.
She really gave us a taste of everything, featuring a bit of all of the components that they feature on the dessert at the restaurant.  When I saw it on the menu for $10 I thought it seemed a bit high, but there are  a slew of elements to the final dessert.  Each element was fantastic, and certainly combined together to create a masterpiece.  And look at the plating, just for the demo!

Of course, there is the chocolate malt gateau.  It was everything you want a flourless chocolate dessert to be: rich, decadent, super fudgy.  It was fantastic on its own, and would have been great with just some whipped cream or perhaps a little berry coulis.  But Chef Wu stepped it up a bunch of notches with her accompaniments!

The zig zag is the espresso malt crème anglaise.  It had a strong bitter coffee flavor to it, which paired very well with the rich chocolate gateau.  The little balls are milk chocolate caramelia pearls, another Valrhona product, made with their milk chocolate and real caramel.  They added a nice crunch and as someone who loves toppings on ice cream, I enjoyed them most with the semifreddo.  The little bits that look like salt are actually cocoa nib praline, another nice crunchy component, particularly when you got a cocoa nib (although, I think salt would work beautifully here too! Dark chocolate and salt is always a winning combo!)

My favorite element was the semifreddo.  It was far creamier than I expected and had a lovely malted flavor to it, along with some intense vanilla.  Given how much easier it is to make than ice cream (it doesn't require an ice cream machine), I'll certainly be trying this out at home!

This was a great dessert, and it is easy to see why it is such a crowd pleaser at the restaurant.  I'd certainly order it!
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