About Jeff Dalton

I am a PhD student in Computer Science and a serious food geek.  In my spare time I hack food.  This blog documents my experiments, and what I had for dinner.  I use high-tech and molecular techniques to create new food experiences.  My cooking is hyperlocal and seasonal gastropub cuisine, comfort food elevated using modernist techniques.  I ♥ pork.

@cookingphd on Twitter. 

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Modernist Maple Syrup and Pancakes

Note: I made this dish as an entry for the The Sorcerer's Apprentices contest.

My interpretation of an elBulli dish is what I call Syrup and Pancakes.  It evokes the best components of maple syrup and mapling season in Western Massachusetts.  It is playful and takes you back to visiting a sugaring center.  It takes the smoke from the wood fire with the snow and melting ice.   My dish also uses elBulli's playfulness with textures and temperatures.  For inspiration, I visited my local sugar shack and sampled a doughnut topped with maple cream.  Here are a few photos:

Like elBulli, my dish starts with the best local ingredients: maple sap from Bill's trees down the street, organic fermented sour pickles, frozen blueberries I picked last summer, and my fat washed bourbon made with applewood smoked bacon.  For this dish I made my own maple syrup by boiling sap down to syrup.  There is a 40 to 1 reduction in volume and it took five gallons of sap and 3 hours of boiling to produce a scant 16 oz of syrup for the dish.

My dish has three components: sugar on yellow snow served with buttermilk doughnuts, pancakes and syrup, and a smoked maple espuma.  The presentation starts with an upside down glass filled with apple wood  smoke that you smell first to set the environment.  The scent lingers in your nose as you taste sugar on snow.

The first component is "Sugar on Yellow Snow".  It is take on a historic New England classic, Sugar On Snow.  My recipe is essentially a maple sap snow cone topped with maple syrup that is cooked to a soft candy (335F).  The hot syrup is drizzled over the snow and it immediately forms into a clear maple syrup taffy. How to make the snow yellow is not what you think it is. ;-)  I serve the cone with Buttermilk Bacon Doughnuts which have pieces of salty bacon in them to cut the sweetness.  Dill pickle caviar would go nicely on top of the cone, but I don't have any sodium alginate.

Sugar on Yellow Snow

2 cups maple sap
1 cup pineapple juice
3-4 oz maple syrup 

Freeze the maple sap and pineapple juice in sheet trays.  When ready to serve, crush both the ices seperately until a fine "snow" powder.  Layer the yellow and white snow into a paper cone for serving.  Heat the maple syrup until it reaches the soft taffy stage, 235 degrees F.  Drizzle the hot syrup over the shaved maple snap snow and serve immediately.

Buttermilk bacon doughnuts

1 cup (8 ounces) milk, with 1 tbsp lemon juice (or buttermilk)
1 large egg
1/8 cup (1/4 stick, 1 ounces) melted butter
1 oz melted bacon fat
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 tbsp C granulated sugar
¼ C maple syrup
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of nutmeg
4 oz cooked bacon, chopped
oil for frying  

Sift together the dry ingredients into a bowl.  Combine the wet ingredients in a separate container. Divide the recipe in half (or make a separate batch for the pancakes).   Add the chopped bacon. Heat 3-4 cups of canola oil in a pan until it is between 325 and 350 degrees F.  Fry the doughnuts until brown and crispy.  Consume while warm, they'll be gone before they have a chance to cool.

Note: the sugar in these are halved because they are served with the very sweet maple syrup cone.

Pancakes & Syrup

When I think of maple syrup and spring the other thing that comes to mind is a huge pile of fluffy buttermilk pancakes topped with maple syrup, like the ones served at the Green Bean.  My version is a play on that concept with a pancake frozen on an anti-griddle and topped with a blueberry jelly.  The pancake is a cooked pancake/doughnut that is pureed with cream and milk to create a batter.

3-4 buttermilk doughnut holes
1 C heavy cream
1 C milk (as needed)

Add the doughnut holes to a blender.  Add the cream.  Blend the mixture and add the milk as necessary to thin the mixture so that it will blend.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a squirt bottle.  "Cook" the pancakes on an anti-griddle or another very cold surface.  Pancakes may be made ahead and kept frozen.

For serving, place a 1 tsp of maple syrup on a spoon and 1 tsp of bacon bourbon.  Add the pancke and top with a small piece of blueberry jelly.

Blueberry Jelly
250 grams of bluberries, fresh or thawed
1.5 grams of agar agar
1 tbsp sugar
Puree the fresh or thawed blueberries.  Pass the liquid through a fine mesh strainer.  You should have 140 grams of liquid.  Bring this to a boil then add the sugar and agar agar.  Stir to combine thoroughly. Pour into moulds and place in refrigerator to set.

Smoked maple espuma
The last component is a smoked maple espuma.  I wanted to steal, err borrow, a smoking gun from Alvin, but that was a long trip for a small gun.  I improvised and incorporate smoke by extracting it from  from triple smoked applewood bacon.  I used the bacon and fat and used the iSi gun to pressure extract the flavor.  It worked!  The result was sweet and smokey foam.  It paired perfectly with the doughnut and snow cone.
2 dL smoked maple syrup
2 sheets gelatin
3 dL heavy cream
Bloom the gelatin in cold water.  Heat the syrup until boiling over medium heat.  Add the gelatin to dissolve.  Remove from heat and add the heavy cream.  Add it to an iSi whipped cream gun and charge it with 1 cartridge.  Give it a shake and place in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours until well chilled.


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