Sous Vide Caramelised White Chocolate
Caramelised White Chocolate and Saffron Ice-Cream - Sous Vide
NOTE THE FULL RECIPE FOR THIS DISH APPEARS IN MY NEW BOOK ‘VIBRANT VEGETARIAN’
Caramelised white chocolate is a delicious product, with flavours of caramel, dulce de leche, white chocolate and nutty/coffee roasted notes. Strictly speaking it turns out we shouldn't really call it 'caramelsied', as i'll explain in a moment, but for convenience and because it sounds best i'm happy to continue to call it 'caramelised white chocolate’.
It’s usually made in the oven but I have been working on a method to make it sous vide which makes the process much more consistent, accurate and convenient. Basically the white chocolate is vacuum packed then cooked in a water bath whilst it slowly browns, no fuss, no mess, and a consistency fantastic finished product with amazing flavour.
I give you both the recipe for Sous Vide ‘Caramelised’ White Chocolate and for a Sous Vide Ice-Cream made with the caramelised chocolate bellow but first how this process works is worth a brief discussion.
At first I thought in this technique that the sugar in the chocolate was caramelising and causing the browning at the comparatively low temperature of 90C over a long cooking time in a similar way to what Harold McGee’s discusses in his excellent article about caramelisation here.
However having done some more tests I've found that actually rather than the caramelisation of sugar what we are really seeing here is a Maillard reaction.
Vacuum Packed White Chocolate
The amino acids from the protein rich milk within the white chocolate react with sugars - this causes the browning and slowly creates delicious caramelised flavours. (To confirm this I ran various tests of caster sugar cooked SV at 90C for eight hours and whilst sugar alone won't caramelise or brown in these conditions sugar with the addition of a little milk will brown and develop caramelised flavours - this points to the Maillard reaction as the process at work. The Maillard reaction requires the presence of amino acids (in this case from the milk protein) and sugars, thus when I tried to brown the sugar on its own at 90C there was no reaction but with the addition of a splash of milk to provide the protein the browning reactions and flavours occur).
Basically caramelisation and the Maillard reaction are separate and distinct processes that can some times look very similar and are frequently confused. At times they can even produce similar flavours, as in this case. But Maillard reactions can occur at lower temperatures than caramelisation, which is why due to its protein component we can achieve the flavourful browning of white chocolate at 90C over 8 hours but not brown caster sugar at this temperature, at least not over a similar timescale.
Maillard reactions produces a wealth of flavour compounds which in this case give us the caramel flavours and roasted notes which make the 'caramelised' white chocolate so delicious.
So now following these experiments I’m really pleased to have a fantastic sous vide method for making this awesome product at a comparatively low temperature with much more consistency than I could achieve before in the oven. And understanding it as the Maillard reaction opens up possibilities of some more things I'd like to try in the near future.
The important thing to focus on though is not the science but that this is an amazingly delicious product.
The primary reasons here for cooking the chocolate, and also the ice-cream base, sous vide are - consistency, acuracy & convenience - already since mentioning this technique on twitter a lot of fellow chefs have commented on how useful it will be to have a method for ‘caramelising’ white chocolate which is this consistent without risking burning the chocolate.
Both the ‘caramelised’ white chocolate and the ice-cream base can be made using other techniques, but not with the precision and repeatability that sous vide offers or how simple it makes both these techniques.
Sous Vide Caramelised White Chocolate after 6 hours at 90C
Sous Vide Caramelised White Chocolate
300g White Chocolate
Vacuum pack the chocolate and cook for 6 hours in a water bath at 90C.
The chocolate will turn a light gown within the first hour or two of cooking then gradually continue to darken.
I found that 6 hours gave me a great caramelised flavour and the intensity I want for the ice-cream but you could probably even push the cooking time on for another hour or two if desired for a darker caramel.
I’ve posted a version of caramelised white chocolate ice-cream before using ‘traditional’ methods for both the chocolate and the ice-cream, but I’ve chosen to revisit the ice-cream here as well as it also benefits from being cooked sous vide, so it seems like it fits neatly into this blog.
Caramelised White Chocolate Ice-Cream - Sous Vide
I then use this caramelised white chocolate in an ice-cream which is also cooked sous vide before freezing. In the case of the ice-cream base once again the sous vide method aids consistency, accuracy and makes the process easier and neater.
The method is incredibly simple, basically all the ice-cream ingredients are blended together, then vacuum sealed and cooked at 82C for 20 minutes which gives you a perfectly cooked ice-cream base which will keep in its vacuum bag in the fridge for up to a week before being frozen. So the ice-cream can actually be made well ahead of time but frozen as close to serving as possible to prevent the formation of large ice crystals and so keep a beautiful smooth texture.
Caramelised White Chocolate Ice-Cream ready to be cooked Sous Vide
250g Caramelised White Chocolate (from above)
250g Double Cream
500g Whole Milk
100g Caster Sugar
6 Medium Free-range Egg Yolks
1/2 Teaspoon Saffron Threads
Combine all the ingredients except the saffron in a blender and blitz to a smooth consistency, then pass through a sieve.
Vacuum bag the blended ice-cream base with the saffron.
Cook the ice-cream base at 82C (from when the water bath returns to 82C after the initial temperature drop as the ice-cream is added to the bath), for 20 minutes.
Then remove the bag from the water bath and chill in an ice bath while squeezing the bag to ensure the contents are moved around well.
Now store the ice-cream base in its vacuum bag in the fridge for up to a week before freezing, or freeze immediately by your preferred method.
Churning the Ice-Cream
Enjoy and please keep checkin in on the blog over the next couple of weeks as there should be some cool stuff finally ready share here soon :)