Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cooking Class: Part 3

Week three in our wonderfully exciting class was really terrific. We can hardly believe that there is only one more class, and we are sad at the idea of having this experience come to a close.

Robb discovered that he likes coconut after all! Naturally, the coconut used by Chef Steenman is top notch. We used a wonderful puree of coconut and a grated coconut. This is not the flaked sticky sweet stuff you are used to. It is a smaller piece and is not sticky or coated with sugar. It gives a coconut flavor that you cannot achieve with the sugared angel flake. The coconut was added to (our favorite!!) Italian meringue and whipped cream to make a delicious, brilliant white mousse.

We made a vanilla sponge cake- pretty standard, although there is always something to learn from Chef Steenman. For example there is no vanilla in this vanilla cake. In fact, we noticed that there has been no vanilla extract in anything thus far. For pastry cream, creme anglais, etc. he does use beans, that is, he uses the most fantastically terrific vanilla beans from Tahiti. He gave us each one to take home. I had never seen a vanilla bean so moist, fat, soft and dizzyingly fragrant. As we've said before, his ingredients are tip top.

We also made a mango mousseline. What's the difference between mousseline and mousse you ask? Good question. A mousse seems to be lighter in texture, although not the fluffed up stuff you may have had. Chef Steenman's mousse is light and smooth in texture, like a good gelato. In this case it was made with Italian meringue, whipped cream and fruit puree. The mousseline was firmer and more dense, made with pastry cream and knock your socks off mango puree, and the tasty Plugra butter.

The cake was assembled in a terrine mold, like what you'd use for pate, or well, terrine. The sponge was cut to fit- yes Robb got to measure with a metric ruler and math! The mango mousseline was piped- yes more piping- onto a long skinny rectangle of sponge cake, topped with another rectangle of cake and chilled until it was firm. It was a sort of ice cream sandwich, but not with ice cream and much longer. Cake lined the mold, coconut mousse was spooned in, the sandwich of mango mousseline was nestled in, topped with more mousse, and topped (bottomed really) with the last layer of cake. Once unmolded, we covered it with Italian meringue and had fun using a torch to get it brown. The most delicious coconut tuile cookies decorated the sides.

Normally one would not combine the textures of mousse and mousseline in one dessert this way. The mousseline is much firmer than the mousse and that makes them incompatible. But Chef wanted to show us how to do as much as possible.

I know that some of you are thinking, yeah coconut and mango, what ever. Tropical flavors are so so, and you're thinking about syrupy sweet pineappley polynesian stuff, or the hurt your teeth with so much sugar creamed coconut that you put in a pina colada. Well, that's not what you get with Chef Steenman. Each of the components of this were tasty individually, not favorites for me, but darn good. None of the flavors were too sweet. Instead they were concentrated fruit flavors. The mousse tasted like actual coconut not like Coco Lopez. The mousseline tasted like buttery melt in your mouth mango. And then put together- Pow! Zoom! Bam! (picture batman fight scenes). The combination of flavors with the crunch and toast of the coconut cookie totally blew me away. It was amazing, and a lot of fun to put together.

Visit La Tulipe if you can. It's expensive, there's really no way to suggest otherwise. But, you won't be simply purchasing a dessert, pastry or chocolate, you'll be supporting an artist and you get to take home a work of art.



octavius' human said...

What's not to like about mango, coconut and Italian meringue all wrapped into one dessert? I'm formally requesting this for our next visit!

Nan said...

Breathtaking! I'm going to go look into cooking classes now!