2015 was a great year for crabapples, they just seemed to be everywhere I turned, and I ended up bringing in about a 100 lbs in all when the season was done. Picking them was the easy part, processing them and finding a place to store them was another story.
Since my freezer at the restaurant was starting to get full, we cooked the apples, strained out the puree in a food mill, then slowly baked it overnight in a rondeaux to get out as much water as possible to save freezer space. The resulting apple butter I froze with the intention of making sorbet as I needed it.
But my sorbet was not to be. I cooked down a hundred pounds of whole crab apples, then strained them in a food mill to remove the seeds. Afterwords I baked the puree slowly in the oven until it thickens, browns and becomes apple butter.
Apple butter softened the sourness of the crab apples and enhanced their sweetness, but it enhanced something else: pectin. Pectin is great if you want to make jam, but had a strange effect of sorbet-it didn't like to freeze.
I tried to think of different ways to use the crabapple butter, where the concentration of pectin could be a positive instead of a flaw. Eventually semifreddo popped into my head, and viola.
If you're not familiar, semifreddo translates in Italian to "half-frozen"- exactly the type of thing the crabapple butter would like to be, think of it like a cousin of ice cream.
The result is a creamy, bright and acidic frozen mousse. It needs to temp out for a moment before eating though, which means that as it sits on a plate waiting for a server or food runner to grab it, there needs to be some sort of structural component underneath to prevent it from melting on the plate (god forbid it's a Saturday night and all your dishes are still hot from the dish-pit because you ran out). Streusel mixed with toasted black walnuts turned out to be my favorite pairing.
A candied apple chip was a nice addition from my pastry chef at the time that adds volume and interest to the dish, as well as visually reinforcing the apple concept so diners remember what they're eating, you'd be amazed how often people order food and completely forget what's on the plate. Occasionally we would put a candied leaf of angelica on the plate too, as shown in the picture.
Diners that had it loved it, but I had to work with training the front of the house staff so they knew how to explain it. Just like in the back of house, talented servers and bartenders are at a premium, and often we have to train intensively so something like this doesn't get described to tables as a "um, frozen apple thing?".
Eventually I started going out to tables myself, telling the story of the crab apple conundrum to diners here and there which helped to drive up the sales.
Frozen Crab Apple Mousse with Black Walnuts and Angelica
- 2.5 ounces egg yolks roughly 4 large egg yolks
- ⅓ cup granulated white sugar
- 2 cups 16 ounces heavy cream
- ½ cup crab apple butter
- Candied angelica for serving
Black Walnut Struesel: yields roughly 2 cups
- ¾ cup all purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter diced ½ inch
- ½ cup chopped black walnuts
- ½ cup oats
- Pinch of salt
Black Walnut Struesel
Lightly toast the flour, nuts and oats in a pan, then
cool. Combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, oats and salt. Using a pastry
blender, cut in the butter, then bake for 20 minutes at 325 or until lightly browned and toasted. Cool the struesel and reserve. From here the streusel can be made ahead and frozen
in a labeled container for future use.
- Over a double boiler, whip the egg yolks and sugar until they are light, fluffy, and doubled in size.
- Transfer the whipped yolks to a non-reactive bowl and mix in the apple butter and the cream.
- Transfer the mixture to 4 ounce ramekins that are lightly oiled or lined with plastic wrap, then freeze overnight until set.
- To serve, un-mold the mousses by sliding a paring knife in the ramekin around the mousse to release it, then slide it onto a small bed of struesel on each dinner plate, then garnish with candied apple chips, angelica leaves or stems, or whatever you like.