Heston Blumenthal Hires a Magician

Appearing at last week's inaugural Tokyo Taste ("the world summit of gastronomy"), crazy genius Heston Blumenthal offered a glimpse at what's coming up next from the chef who makes diners listen to iPods while eating:

At the moment, he's working with a magician to find a way to ignite his signature flaming sorbet with a snap of the fingers.

The sorbet in question, by the way, contains 26 ingredients, not including dry ice pellets, "small wooden twigs, for serving nests," and a perfume of leather, wood, fire, tobacco and whisky. In its current incarnation, it is ignited with a cigar torch, rather than with magic.

Recipe: Heston Blumenthal's Flaming Sorbet

as printed in Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine
(Serves 6-8)

For the sorbet
100g unfiltered pressed apple juice
500g water
6g malic acid
200g spray-dried apple granules
8g gellan F

For the whisky blend
50g Caol Ila 18-year-old whisky
25g Talisker 18-year-old whisky
25g Macallan 15-year-old whisky
10g Laphroaig 10-year-old whisky

For the caramelised apples and sultanas
3 Cox's apples
50g unfiltered pressed apple juice
100g fructose
40g large sultanas

For the crumble topping
50g hazelnuts
100g plain flour
2g ground cinnamon
75g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and frozen
75g Demerara sugar
5g fleur de sel

For the diced raw apple
80g fructose
150g water
1g table salt
10g lemon juice
1g vitamin C
1 Granny Smith apple

To serve (per portion)
Reserved sorbet
Reserved caramelised apples
Reserved sultanas in syrup (at room temperature)
Spray-dried apple granules
Reserved crumble topping
Reserved diced raw apple
Dry ice pellets
Popping candy
Small wooden twigs, for serving nests
Reserved whisky blend
Perfume of leather, wood, fire, tobacco and whisky

For the sorbet: put all the ingredients except the gellan in a saucepan and bring to 95°C. Add the gellan and mix well using a hand-held blender. Take the mixture to the boil, then remove from the heat. Cool over an ice bath while blitzing continuously with a hand-held blender. Pour the chilled base in to a Pacojet beaker and freeze until solid. Process the sorbet in the Pacojet, releasing the air valve continuously. Cover and store in the freezer.

To make the whisky blend, combine the whiskies, then cover and set aside until needed.

For the caramelised apples and sultanas: preheat a water bath to 90°C. Peel, core and quarter the apples. Combine the juice and fructose in a sous-vide bag and add the apples in a single layer. Seal at full pressure, then place in the water bath for 14 hours. Remove and cool to room temperature. Open the bag and strain off the liquid into a saucepan.

Add the sultanas to the pan of syrup and heat to 70°C. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until needed.

Place the apples in a single layer in a saucepan. Over a medium heat, evaporate the moisture from the apples, turning regularly with a spoon until the surface is lightly caramelised. Remove, and set aside to cool to room temperature.

For the crumble topping: preheat the oven to 150°C. Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and toast for 10 minutes, shaking the tray regularly. Remove the nuts and peel off the skins with a cloth while still warm. Finely chop the nuts or blitz them in a food processor, but not to the point where they turn into a paste.

Combine the flour and the cinnamon in a bowl. Add the frozen butter and mix by hand until the texture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Fold in the hazelnuts, sugar and fleur de sel so that the mixture forms large clumps. Chill for at least one hour in the freezer.

Preheat the oven (preferably convection) to 200°C. Spread the mixture on to a baking tray and bake until golden brown. Cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container.

For the diced raw apple: combine the fructose, water and salt in a saucepan and heat until the fructose and salt have dissolved. Cool the syrup over an ice bath then add the lemon juice and vitamin C.

Peel and core the apple and chop into 5mm dice. Add the apple to the syrup and then refrigerate until needed, but no longer than two hours.

To serve: preheat the oven to 200°C and place an individual cast-iron cocotte dish and its lid inside to heat.

Place a rocher of sorbet on a baking tray lined with parchment and place in the freezer to harden.

Once the cocotte dish has heated through, remove from the oven and place on a work surface. Put a 50mm ring mould in the centre of the dish, spoon in the caramelised apples to a depth of 5mm and pack down with the back of a spoon. Drain the sultanas and spoon three on top of the apple. Cover the top completely with spray-dried apple granules and the crumble topping, then add three cubes of raw apple. Remove the ring mould.

Place a leather-bound bowl on a work surface and spoon in enough dry ice and popping candy to loosely cover the bottom of it. Make a nest of wooden twigs in the bowl and place the cocotte dish inside it. Working quickly, place the rocher of sorbet on top of the moulded garnish and cover with a hit lid.

Transfer the whisky blend to a container with a spout. Dilute the perfume with warm water (five parts perfume to 95 parts water) and place in another container with a spout. Take the cocotte dish to the table and, as the lids are removed, pour 8g of the whisky blend around each sorbet. Ignite using a cigar torch. At the same moment, pour the perfume on to the nest of twigs, allowing it to flow into the bottom of the bowl and release its aroma.

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