Blog math: Susur's spice meringue cod + Moto = Froot Loops crème brûlée
Actually, the full formula is: 2/3 Susur's spice meringue black cod + Moto = Froot Loops crème brûlée + 2 * Caesar salad.
In a recent post, I described the marinated black cod baked in spice salt meringue recipe Rachel and I prepared from Susur: A Culinary Life. The recipe calls for baking the cod in a meringue dome made from two and a half cups of egg whites. That's a lot of egg whites -- I stopped after collecting one and three quarter cups of egg white from a dozen eggs. That's when I had to figure out what to do with all those yolks.
I'm a man buffeted by fixations great and small, most of which involve my appetite. After writing a post about our meal at one of Chicago's temples to molecular gastronomy, Moto, I often found myself mentally revisiting Cantu's dish of jalapeno, avocado, and lemon myrtle. What did I love so much about this combination? Why, its "inescapable essence of Froot Loops," of course. (Now there's a sentence you don't read often, let alone as a quote.) I wanted, nay, had, to experiment with that flavour.
I suppose I should be more specific. What I really adore isn't Froot Loops per se, it's actually Froot Loops milk. Ahhh, the lemony-sweet reward at the bottom of every bowl of cereal. As a child, I learned there was a zen-like balance to consuming a bowl of Froot Loops. I wanted to eat the cereal as fast as possible so I could drink that delicious milk, but the path to ambrosia requires the patience to allow the cereal's flavour to steep into the milk in the first place.
For weeks I'd pondered how best to harness that taste. Ice cream, macarons, and crème brûlée all suggested themselves. At their heart, ice cream, crème brûlée, and Froot Loops milk are fundamentally the same thing: an infusion. Viewed this way, they differ only by degree. Having already played with ice cream (and having all those egg yolks), I decided to follow my nose and attempt Froot Loops crème brûlée.
I thought this dish would be simple. Since Froot Loops are all the same sweet-citrus flavour, I thought my job would be little more than selecting a colour -- green, by the way -- infusing it into my custard, then baking it off in a bain marie. I am a fool.
I first realized my plan might not be coming together when, after giving the Froot Loops a full twenty-four hours to infuse into my custard mixture, the loops themselves were still firm. Now, I have no doubt that our friends at Kellogg's use additives in their cereal to retard sogginess, but this cereal was still al dente. On the upside, as good as Froot Loops are in milk, they get even better in a mixture of egg yolks, whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. I guess this is my awkward way of admitting my friend and I ate every last drowned loop we could find. Mmmm... part of this complete breakfast.
The real test of any dish is not in the preparation, of course, it's in the final product. Let's just say Froot Loops crème brûlée needs work. It's not that the flavour was bad, it's that there just wasn't enough of it. The pale green custard tasted slightly sweet and lemony, but it was subtle, and that's not what I was hoping for. I wanted to elevate those citrus notes while letting the custard substitute for the backbone that the milk provides in a regular bowl of cereal. I had visions of bold; I got bland.
I'd like to try this dish again, because there are two obvious changes I can make that should improve its flavour. First, and this is obvious, use more Froot Loops. Second, rather than just steeping the cereal in the custard mix, next time I'll take it a step further and purée and strain them, much like I did with my sticky toffee pudding ice cream.
Oh, well. Sometimes you do the culinary math, and the numbers just don't work out (I'm looking at you, vanilla mucus). If you paid close attention to the blog math formula, you may have noticed that it includes more than just spiced meringue cod, Moto, and Froot Loops crème brûlée. The last part of the formula uses the four remaining egg yolks in two of our sublime Caesar salads.
And that's the bottom line.
Froot Loops Crème Brûlée
This is an adaptation of my standard crème brûlée recipe, which produces a creamy custard heavy on real vanilla flavour. I don't recommend this version, but feel free to try and improve upon it. If you do, please let me know.
750 ml whipping cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
140 g egg yolks (approximately 8 egg yolks)
110 g sugar (approximately 1/2 cup)
180 g Froot Loops (of the same colour)
dash of salt
Heat cream until the mixture reaches 88C/190F, just below a simmer. Don't let this mixture boil.
In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or with an electric mixer or a whisk), whip egg yolks, vanilla extract, sugar and salt until pale and thick. With mixer on low speed, very slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture, stopping to scrape down the sides occasionally.
Add Froot Loops and chill completely, at least 24 hours. Brûlée mix can be made up to 2 days in advance.
Preheat oven to 135C/275 F. Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and another in the top. Place a cookie sheet on the top rack directly below the upper broiler. This is to prevent any direct heat from the upper broiler overcooking the tops of the brûlées.
Place 6, 180ml/6oz ramekins (or flatter brulee dishes) in a pan with at least an 3.8cm/1.5 inch lip. Strain the brûlée mix (Do not throw away the Froot Loops! Go on, eat them, you know you want to.) into the ramekins, this should minimize the amount of bubbles that form on top of the custard. Carefully pour hot tap water around cups to come at least halfway up the ramekins. Note: Be very careful moving the brulees to the oven, as getting water in them is bad. One possible solution is to open the oven door, slide out the middle rack and place the brûlée pan on it, then add the water to the pan.
Bake brûlées until the custard reaches an internal temperature of 72C/161C, or until the edges no longer jiggle when tapped, but the centre still jiggles slightly, approximately 60-75 minutes. Remove from water bath, let come to room temperature, and then chill for at least 3 hours before serving.
To serve, heat broiler. Sprinkle tops of custards with sugar and broil for 1 minute, or use a butane kitchen torch.