Nachismo: el Bulli's Doritos croquant polvoron
Some members of the fooderati look down their noses at Doritos and other junk food, but let's be honest here: Doritos rule! Salty, cheesy, and mildly spicy, they are flat out addictive. There are times (and perhaps it's best I not elaborate on what times I'm talking about), when the craving for a Dorito is so strong I swear I can hear the siren song of a large bag of Sweet Chili Heat beckoning me to crash on its crunchy shores.
So you've got to love the cojones (by the way, how do you say "balls" in Catalan?) of Ferran Adria for even thinking he can improve on the humble Dorito. Adria's solution: polvorones. What's a polvoron? It's a Filipino dessert made by mixing toasted flour with melted butter, powdered milk (or baby formula, apparently), and a little lemon or vanilla extract, then molding the mixture into bite-size cakes using a polvoron stamper. For an overview of the process, click here. For a recipe, click here.
Adria introduces his version of polvorones in el Bulli: 2003-2004. The technique was developed as a response to two unique problems: first, el Bulli makes a huge assortment of croquants (trust me, I know), which means they have lots of croquant leftovers; secondly, hard crack sugar confections absorb humidity greedily, and Spain is one humid place. Under such circumstances, caramel dust clumps uncontrollably. So why not turn the problem into a recipe? Take the already clumping caramel, shape it between two teaspoons, and serve it. Bam! Faster than you can say, "increased profit margin," polvorones are born.
This polvoron is simple: heat glucose and Isomalt, then mix with Doritos blitzed in the food processor. Once molded, dress the oval with some Maldon salt, lime zest, and "lime pearls," little teardrops of lime jelly made with agar agar, and serve.
I wanted to love these. Badly. The problem is that they're good, but they're not better than a regular Dorito. This may sound obvious, but the glucose and Isomalt impart a noticeable element of sweetness, though it is more muted than you might expect. The nacho flavour is still dominant, however. The lime pearls are the best part of this dish: acidic and tangy, they brighten this preparation considerably. So far, so good. My issue is a matter of texture: I enjoy the crackle of a Dorito. Doritos polvoron has a softer, almost chewy mouthfeel, a texture that usually implies staleness in any nacho.
Some of the responsibility for these issue lies with me, I think. For one, I'm not sure my polvoron was sufficiently processed. Hard as I tried, I couldn't get as fine a powder as I was hoping for. Also, I prepared my polvorones with fewer lime pearls than perhaps I should. A quick scan of the el Bulli catalogue photo shows that they use a lot more pearls than I did.
For those of you looking for a great way to incorporate the humble corn chip into your culinary life, I urge you to visit Matt Bites and bask in the glory of his irresistible Fritos pie. As for Doritos, stick to au naturel.