Fluid gels as turnover filling
For dessert, I made individual tartes Tatin with cinnamon ice cream, apple pâte de fruit and cinnamon fluid gel. Fluid gels are one of my favourite components to plate; I don’t like sauces that run, and fluid gels are very good at staying put. There are a few ways to make them, but this time, I decided to try using the technique outlined in the Fat Duck cookbook, which, broadly speaking, involves blending a liquid with about 1% (by weight) low-acyl gellan gum, and whisking as it sets in an ice bath. (The liquid I used for this cinnamon fluid gel was the “cinnamon tea” from the Alinea cookbook. Kind of a fun avant-garde mash-up!)
Having never worked with gellan gum before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and I wasn’t thrilled with the results. Instead of the smooth texture I’m used to getting with agar-based fluid gels (what they evocatively call “puddings” at Alinea), I ended up with a slightly chunky texture, even after passing it through a fine-mesh strainer. On the other hand, the flavour release was substantially better than with an agar-based fluid gel, which always tastes a little bit like seaweed. Moreover, low-acyl gellan gels won’t melt once they’re set, so they can be served at any temperature. Agar-based gels, by contrast, will melt at around 85°C, so if you heat an agar fluid gel past that point, it will melt, then reset as a solid gel once it cools.
One of the drawbacks of making such a complex meal for only four people is that you end up with a lot of leftover mise en place; some recipes simply won’t work if they’re reduced to small quantities. So I had quite a bit of leftover cinnamon fluid gel. As I was looking at it, I realized what the texture reminded me of more than anything: applesauce. I also had some leftover tart dough and it suddenly hit me: with a heat-resistant, applesauce-textured cinnamon fluid gel, I could make pure cinnamon turnovers! Now it’s got me wondering what other liquids I could make into a turnover filling…