With over 7000 known varieties, nothing makes me happier than apple season. It brings me back to my childhood, lugging a bushel basket and beat up wood ladder around the apple orchards with my Dad. Red and Golden Delicious, Jonah Golds, Braeburns, even the petite Lady Apple would make their way home. Sunday apple pies, my grandfather’s apple stuffing at Thanksgiving, even my grandmother’s get-em-while-they’re-hot cider donuts showcased the harvest. Those first signs of autumn – the crisp air, the falling leaves, that first bite into a Honey Crisp bring it all back. Still, no apple makes me giddy like the Mountain Rose from Oregon. The first round of these delicate beauties made their way to my doorstep two weeks ago.
Having a tinted flesh that varies from faintly rose colored to a shocking hot pink, the Mountain Rose has a tart, crisp flavor with notes of strawberries and cotton candy. Having such beautifully rare natural qualities, I set out to treat the Mountain Rose very differently.
First, there were some flavor combinations to consider. Toast, nuts, tea, strawberry and celery came to mind. I wanted delicate profiles to compliment the apple and not drive away the candy-like aromatics. Chamomile. Almond. Leaves of celery heart. Time to go shopping.
A few weeks prior, I had experimented with creating dairy free milks using our Sonicprep ultrasonic homogenizer. Tests yielded stable, semi-milklike results at normal milk fat ratios. Unimpressive. For the apples, I wanted to infuse them under vacuum with almond oil and chamomile tea. To achieve a satisfactory homogenization, I stuck to the vinaigrette ratio. The chamomile flower steeped for four minutes and was passed and cooled. Three parts tea combined with one part roasted almond oil were homogenized until the two came together completely. The homogenization was then placed in a blender, where .5% Xanthan Gum was sheered in to create a heat stable emulsion.
The apples were then cut in sixths to reveal their hot pink flesh (my favorite part). They were then vacuum sealed with two fluid ounces of the emulsion. They sat under compression for one hour. The apples were then poached for 5 minutes at 82°C (179.6°F). This yielded a just-tender, evenly cooked apple that unloaded with the previously tame sweetness, almond fat and finished with the subtlety of chamomile a few bites in. What wasn’t expected was how much the fatty mouth feel of the emulsion permeated the porous flesh. It brought a level of umami to the apple that was completely surprising.
For a melt in your mouth confit approach, the apples can be cooked for up to thirty minutes. I kept the time down for this batch to preserve the vibrant pink color.
I created an almond soil that started out as blanched, whole almonds. They were toasted in a 210°C (410°F) oven and allowed to cool. The almonds were pulverized with a few quick pulses and scrapes in the food processor, being careful not to take it too far into the butter phase. The chopped almonds were then spread out in the dehydrator, set to 57°C (135°F) for 24 hours. Almonds, at harvest, contain roughly 61% oil and ≤7% water. The dehydrator took care of the water, enough for a few more pulses in the processor. The ground almonds were then toasted further at 175°C (350°F). A few more pulses and we started making progress. The fat content had to be absorbed and that was handled by adding tapioca maltodextrin to the mix. Some fried panko was ground down slightly and folded throughout. The end result was light and fluffy, with a bit of dry crunch. It looked, well, like sand.
The plate was garnished with the almond soil, raw apple, freeze dried strawberry powder, celery heart leaves, “almond milk” and a turbinado reduction.