Sunday, February 27, 2011

Blueberry Jelly & Strawberry Pistachio Tart

In Jams & Jellies on Monday February 21, we made our first jelly of the semester. To recap, up until this point we had been making jams. The difference is this:

A jam is a fruit gel made from fruit puree and sugar (where the fruit puree can come from fresh or frozen fruits).

A jelly is a fruit gel made from fruit juice and sugar (where the fruit juice can come from fresh or frozen fruits).

The process for both is basically the same; the difference between the puree and the juice results in the different texture in the final product.

I can't remember if I have said much about using fresh or frozen fruits to make these products, so let me say a few words. The gelling agent in fruits - pectin - is stronger when the fruit is closest to being most ripe. When choosing fresh fruit for preserving, it is best to use a product that is as ripe as possible or slightly under-ripe to ensure the best levels of pectin. A product that is over-ripe may see decline in the gelling capacity. You could even choose to use a combination of ripe and under-ripe to ensure the best results. Frozen fruits are equally as good in this case because they are frozen at the peak of their ripeness; this is actually a way you can sort of control the ripeness. In general, though, frozen fruits can have just as great results are fresh fruits.

My group made blueberry jelly, and we did this using frozen blueberries. We first brought them to boil in a pan and allowed them soften over the heat for 10 minutes. Once soft, we placed them through a sieve to remove the pulp; to ensure only juice, we then strained them through cheesecloth, being careful not to squeeze the cheesecloth because this could result in cloudiness in the final product. We allowed the juice to strain on its own through the cheesecloth. Once drained, we returned the juice to a pot with sugar, water, and lemon juice to make the jelly as usual. This product had no pectin added.

The other groups made peach-lavender jelly and red wine jelly using similar methods. Once the jellies were completed, some were jarred and others were placed into containers for tasting. It's usually at this time during the class that we have "snack time" and we cut up some bread to sample each of the jellies. Yes, I said snack time - just another way in which culinary school is quite fun.

Here's a random picture I took during class. The jelly was so clear I noticed that I could see my reflection in it, so here's a photo of my face reflected in the blueberry jelly:

The goal of the night was to use the blueberry jelly in a tart, but the fresh blueberries for garnish did not arrive with the shipment, so we improvised. Instead, we used strawberry jam from a few weeks ago. We made a simple tart dough which was completely blind-baked. Once cool, we spread a thin layer of melted white chocolate onto the bottom and sides of the tart shell. We filled this with a pistachio flavored pastry cream, which is pretty delicious and has a fairly unique color. We then had the flexibility to garnish with strawberries, pistachios and/or white chocolate however we wanted. This is where we basically have "play time" or "creativity time" in class. Did I mention how much I love culinary school for these reasons? Anyway, I really liked my circular idea for my strawberry garnish, but I felt it needed something else. After some experimentation, Chef taught me a technique with the white chocolate, and I think you'll agree the result looks great. I also added some crushed pistachios for the final element in the garnish.

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