STEP: a plated dessert

I have been listening to a ton of ClariS again recently. ClariS is a Japanese pop group consisting of two girls who sing extremely girly songs that make me question my own gender identity. That being said, I do appreciate how dessert-friendly their songs and aesthetic are, and it makes it a lot easier for me to make desserts inspired by their works. For this dessert, I was specifically inspired by their song, STEP, which references growth, change, and moving forward. Ever since my reality TV stint on Masterchef, admittedly, I have thought about my next steps in life a lot. While I am very happy with my current life, I know that being too complacent for too long can lead me to being stagnant, something that listening to that song made me realize. So the dessert itself came from a couple different things. Recently, EatWith, the platform that me and my plating bestie, Bri, use for our pop-ups actually reached out to us personally to host a couple of tour groups in Los Angeles. They specifically wanted a taste of L.A., so Bri and I actually curated a menu that is centered around just that.

Admittedly, this dessert only came into fruition from Bri’s vision with the flavors – specifically, she wanted the dessert to have basil and grapefruit, since grapefruit is a very prominent winter citrus in Southern California, while basil can help lighten that up. I threw in olive oil cake, just because of the prevalent Mediterranean food scene here. I wanted to go almost Montenegrin in the inspiration with sampita, which takes the best of both Middle Eastern and Mediterranean desserts, and combines them together. I arranged it slightly differently, since it is a plated dessert, and I went with a Swiss meringue-based espuma instead, flavored with the basil. For the grapefruit, I also wanted to try something different, even though it is a curd, by trying to braise then puree the peel/rind into the curd itself, just to impart as much of that citrus into the curd as possible. I can definitely say that this dessert, coupled with the circumstances behind its creation, are just the first of many great steps I will be taking into my future in food!

Recipe will make 12 servings:
For the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

Combine ingredients and transfer into a piping bag. Pipe into silicone bar molds, about 2/3 the way full, and place a silpat over the mold and weigh with a sheet tray – this will guarantee that your cakes are going to be perfectly even and rectangular. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool completely before unmolding.

For the grapefruit curd:
Peels from 1 grapefruit, as much pith removed as possible
1/4 cup grapefruit juice
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons olive oil
a pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pitaya powder

In a pot with the lid on, simmer the grapefruit peels with the juice for as long as possible, just to guarantee that they will be tender. Transfer the peels to a blender first but keep the grapefruit juice in the pot. Whisk cornstarch, egg yolk, sugar, and salt together first and temper with the grapefruit juice until thickened considerably, about 2-3 minutes of whisking on medium heat. Finish with the olive oil and vanilla. Transfer into the blender and puree with the grapefruit peels and pitaya powder until smooth. Transfer to a squeeze bottle and refrigerate until cool.

For the basil espuma:
1 egg white
3 tablespoons fresh basil
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon gelatin powder
a pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon spirulina powder
a pinch of salt

Blanch and shock the basil first. Puree in with the water to create a basil water. On a double boiler, whisk the egg white with sugar, salt, and cream of tartar until the sugar is fully dissolved. Take off heat and transfer to a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Add in your gelatin powder. Begin whisking and slowly add in your basil water, allowing it to incorporate into the foam mixture. Should the foam lose the green color of the basil, just add in the spirulina to offset this. Transfer to a piping bag.

For the macerated grapefruit segments:
5 parts sugar
1 part olive oil
a pinch of salt

Segment your grapefruit. Lightly toss your grapefruit segments in sugar, salt, and olive oil. Allow them to sit until the sugar has dissolved around your grapefruit entirely.

To plate:

Slice the cake and segments into thirds. Place on the cake first, then the curd, segments, micro basil, and right before serving, the espuma to finish.


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