Thursday, January 27, 2011

Key Lime Pie

I will admit that I don't like a lot of citrus desserts.  I like my lemons sour-I eat them with salt-and I'm not too keen on key lime pies, though my mother loves them.  Making lemon curd is torture to me.  To stand over the pot, stirring the mix of yolks, lemon juice and sugar while smelling the proteins in the yolks coagulate is not a thing of pleasure.  I honestly think it stinks myself, but to each his/her own.  This doesn't mean I don't make the things I don't like very well.  In the world of pastry, you have to cook for your guests and customers, even if that means making something you don't eat.

When changing jobs, going into a new kitchen and executing the previous chef's menu, you're torn between keeping their style, and asserting your own (these events are often booked months in advance, and some have tastings where the expectations are established).  So when I read Deconstructed Key Lime Pie on the menu, like a flip book, the ideas flickered in my head.  I asked if there had been a tasting and they had not had one.  I pulled out some resources and experimented.  I re-read recipes and techniques because I wanted to present it in a different way.  I used ideas I'd learned from other chefs, shook them up, and this was the end result (there is never an end-you're always evolving your techniques and plating styles in the business):

Key Lime, Deconstructed: key lime curd, torched meringue, graham streusel, raspberries, white chocolate decor

Not exactly an "original" idea, it worked for me.  I basically made a key lime curd set with agar, a recipe based on one from Alex Stupak, and tweaked a sable dough.  My experience with agar is that it creates a brittle set, and I wondered how this would turn out since I wanted to retain that luscious, creamy mouth-feel of a curd or custard.  Even when making a fluid gel, the result is, well, gel that is fluid, similar to a sauce, not something that would hold a shape.  I'd wondered if the cooked yolks had something to do with that, and if the mounting the butter at the end of the process allowed the gel to soften.  I poured the curd into fleximolds, popped them in the freezer and whispered a prayer to St. Joseph while I made the other components.  Hours later-I gave myself enough time to come up with a Plan B if needed-I unmolded one and allowed to thaw so I could test it.  I was not disappointed. It held its shape, but was ultra-creamy on the tongue.  This was a curd I could fall in love with!

It's great when things turn out the way you conceptualize them in your head.  But it's those times when things fall apart and you have to think on your feet against the clock that test your abilities and willingness to adapt and make you stronger.  The "easy" days are the days when you can claim some of the sanity lost the other times.

1 comment:

This Limner said...

Hmm. I am strictly old school when it comes to lemon and key lime pie. There's something to be said for original, honest to goodness simplicity, and ease. If it needs frippery to make an impression, then it should stay home.

However, I am brave when it comes to stepping outside my comfort zone. I have learned to like different and innovation. Would I try this work of art?

In the words of someone I respect: Why, certainly! (Only say it the way Curly from The Three Stooges says it. I don't know how to spell it that way.)