There was a time when I thought my calling was in pastry arts. I baked a lot, entire cookbooks. I took classes. I even sold some of my cookies and would send dozens to my brother who was single and living in California. Now, I still love the creativity that comes with baking and I still have my baking books to peruse every so often. This recipe comes from one of them. A former pastry chef at the White House, Roland Mesnier baked for a string of Presidents and First Ladies. He was a young French boy when he started his apprenticeship in France at the tender age of twelve and baked in the finest pastry shops of Europe and the Caribbean. His experience there as well as at the White House for twenty-five years is encapsulated in his book, Dessert University.
This is his recipe. Light and sophisticated, with a touch of whimsy. It calls for poaching apples in a syrup, then coating them with a homemade jelly studded with confetti made of the apple peels, cut in little tiny squares.
This recipe can be made in advance. The apples can be poached up to one week in advance. The confetti jelly can be made a few hours beforehand and needs a few hours or a whole night in the fridge to firm up sufficiently.
Poaching the Apples:
4 Granny Smith apples (green ones)
1 large lemon, halved
4 cups of water
2 cups of sugar
- Fill a bowl with ice water and squeeze the lemon and drop the juice and the lemon halves into the bowl.
- Peel and core the apples and immediately drop into the bowl of iced lemony water.
- Pour the water and sugar into a large pot (one that can hold all the apples) Bring to a boil and drop the apples in the pot.
- Hold the apples down with either a small plate or a piece of parchment paper. Cook the apples at a slow simmer for a few minutes until they are tender(you can poke them with a thin skewer to check)
- Cool the apples in the syrup. Make sure the fruit is still under water as it cools.
- Keep in the fridge up to one week.
Making the Confetti Jelly:
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
- 1 cup of water
- 2 cups white grape juice or apple juice or fruity white wine
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- Peel of red and green apples (about 4)
- Remove the peel from the apples (with a vegetable peeler). With a sharp knife, cut the peels in tiny squares-the confetti.
- In a double-boiler or a saucepan, bring one inch of water to a simmer. Take another small bowl or saucepan and pour the one cup of water and the gelatin. Let it dissolve over the hot simmering water, but without letting the bowl touch the water. Add the 6 tablespoons of sugar and stir to dissolve, 1 or 2 minutes.
- Remove the saucepan or bowl from the heat, cool it a bit and add the juice (or wine) and the little apple confettis.
- Set the saucepan over a larger bowl of ice water to cool it and let it thicken, about 30 minutes.
- Place the apples in a serving dish with a rim. Place them in the freezer for 30 minutes.
- Take the apples out of the freezer and ladle some jelly over them. Return them to the freezer for 10 minutes. Repeat the operation 2 or 3 times, until the apples are well coated with jelly.
- Ladle the rest of the jelly around the apples and refrigerate the apples uncovered for about 3 hours until the jelly is completely set.
- Serve as is or with some whipping cream on the side if you wish.
Chef Roland Mesnier used a German sweet wine for his jelly (Gewurztraminer); since we don’t consume wine at home, I picked a light grape juice.
If you poach the apples in advance, you have to peel fresh apples for the peel. Here is his suggestion for the leftover apples: Pre-baking the apples in chunks in a 400F oven for about 10 minutes with 6 tablespoons of butter and 6 tablespoons of sugar, dotted on top, until the apples are soft. Cool the apples and place in freezer bags for up to 3 months or in the fridge for up to 3 days. Use for apple cake or turnovers or crepes or anything that calls for apples that won’t be seen.
The trickiest part of this recipe is poaching the apples properly. Timing is key. Overcooked, they fall apart. Undercooked they are hard. They should poach in no more than 3 minutes or so.
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