It is 2am, and I just woke up in a cold sweat thinking of crepes. It has been 2 months since I prepared these crepe-tastic visions at the World Food Championships, but they linger on my mind like a bittersweet relationship. No other dessert has ever gotten under my skin (literally and figuratively), haunting me and yet filling my heart, mind, and waistline.
You see, I worked tirelessly for 2 months testing and re-testing every aspect of these crepes. Making and eating a batch of crepes for lunch regularly, until I could barely stand it. Our assignment, if you will, was to make Orange Dessert Crepes in the first round of competition. I knew that my crepes would be up against 40-50 other teams, and I had to do something creative and beautiful and delicious to stand out. It had to be weatherproof (as we worked outdoors) and had no idea what the weather would bring. I considered temperature, wait time before serving, size of one perfect bite, ease of eating, highlighting orange as the main ingredient…scrutinizing every possible aspect of this one dessert until it was failsafe. Since the competition was at the beach, I even added a nod to the ocean with Hokusai’s “The Wave” chopsticks. It is my manifesto in Crepe form.
Kim (my sous chef) practiced timing, mastering Triple Sec Caviar using molecular gastronomy, squeezing droplets of thickened booze with a syringe, like a magical surgeon bartender. We only had an hour, and Grace (my other sous chef and niece) was simultaneously making the dessert for our second round. We were in a small area, but we had practiced, fine-tuned our movements. We were a well oiled machine. It was beautiful. I am so proud of what we made, like really, really proud. Of course, we ran into a couple of small glitches, as one does in competition, but we mostly overcame and served what I still consider a stunning representation of my vision.
Maybe I was too egotistical going in. Maybe I overthought this one, as I have a tendency to do. It has always paid off for me in the past. This may sound incredibly silly to those of you that have been to the WFC before, but I went into the awards ceremony fully expecting to be in the top ten that night after competition. They called name after name, and when some of my incredibly talented friends were called in number 9, 7, then 2nd place….I held my breath. They called number 1, and it wasn’t me. I went through the stages of denial, disbelief, anger, shock…all in a mater of seconds. I know this isn’t life and death…I do have some sense of perspective, but this was my art. I created a conceptual dish that I believed in, and I thought it tasted great as well. Maybe Alabama wasn’t ready for Matcha, or dessert Caviar….but this is what I am still wrestling with. I put my best out there, and it was crushed by other crepes that frankly were not as creative or interesting to eat as mine. Maybe they kicked my butt on flavor. I can accept that. All I can do is dust myself off and try again next year.
Thank you to Rodelle Vanilla for believing in me and my vision. I am still proud of this recipe, and I will always think of it as the one that got away. It is complicated and involves some unusual ingredients, so I don’t expect anyone to actually make it, but I am just going to leave it here as my sonnet ode to orange crepes.
Orange Matcha Poppyseed Crepe Sushi with Triple Sec Caviar
For the crepes:
1 cup whole milk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Rodelle vanilla extract
1-1/2 tablespoons Rishi Sweet Matcha powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tablespoon orange zest, finely grated
3 tablespoons unsalted Challenge butter, melted
1 scant tablespoon poppyseed
For the macerated strawberries and kiwi filling:
16 ounces strawberries, cut into planks
1/4 cup fresh orange juice or blood orange juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon Rodelle vanilla
1/3 cup Triple sec
3 kiwis, cut into planks
For the sweet ginger:
I large knot of ginger, sliced paper thin (fast on mandolin)
1/4 cup blood orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Triple sec
For the mascarpone cream:
8 ounces mascarpone
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon Rodelle vanilla extract
1 packet whipped cream stabilizer
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon Matcha powder (for the Matcha cream)
For the Triple sec Caviar:
1/2 cup Triple sec
1/4 teaspoon sodium alginate
1 teaspoon calcium chloride
Orange food coloring, 2 drops
For the orange butter sauce:
1/2 cup tangerine and blood orange juice
2 tablespoons sugar
Remaining thickened Triple sec from above
3 tablespoons unsalted Challenge butter
1/2 teaspoon Rodelle vanilla
Zest and juice all oranges- 1-1 1/2 cups total. Place zest in small bowl, and juice in measuring cup. Slice ginger paper thin on small mandolin. Cut strawberries and kiwi into rectangular planks.
Combine all crepe ingredients except for Poppyseed in blender. Blend for 20-30 seconds until smooth. Transfer to separate bowl. Stir in poppyseeds. Heat crepe pan and non-stick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan lightly with non-stock spray. Ladle approximately 1/3-1/2 cup batter into pan, swirling and tilting until coated evenly. Let cook until edges just begin to brown. Flip and cook on other side for 20-30 seconds. Repeat for at least 6 crepes. Set aside crepes to cool.
To macerate strawberries, place all maceration ingredients in bowl (except for kiwi) and stir to combine, set aside.
To make the sweet ginger, place all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook on medium low for 10-15 minutes. Remove ginger from pan, dry on paper towels. Reserve a small amount of the liquid to place in sauce later while reducing (approximately 2-3 tablespoons).
To make the Caviar, combine triple sec and food coloring with sodium alginate with an immersion blender for 20-30 seconds until well combined. Set aside. Prepare water bath with calcium chloride, and separate bath with bottled water. Place a small strainer in the sodium bath. Using a syringe loaded with Triple sec mixture, make droplets in the calcium bath. Let sit for 15-30 seconds, remove to water bath. Save 1/2 Triple sec mixture for the sauce. Repeat making Caviar in batches. After draining strawberries from maceration liquid, place water washed Caviar in maceration liquid to take on a bit of the strawberry flavor.
To make sauce, in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, reduce orange juices, reserved ginger liquid, and sugar until thickened. Add thickened Cointreau left over from the Caviar. Add butter, Cointreau, and vanilla, whisking constantly until thickened. Remove to bowl to chill. Place chilled mixture in squeeze bottle.
In a mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer, beat mascarpone until creamy and smooth. Add all other mascarpone cream ingredients, except for Matcha. Beat until smooth and thick. Place remaining cream in refrigerator until ready to assemble.
Remove 1/4 cup of cream mixture and mix with Matcha powder. Place Matcha cream in ziplock bag and set aside. Snip corner.
To plate, spread each crepe with thin layer of mascarpone cream, top with macerated (drained) strawberries and kiwi in a line down one side of the crepe. Roll up as tightly as possible. Cut off ends of crepe, discard, then cut remaining crepe roll into 4 slices of sushi. Squeeze sauce on the bottom of each plate in a zigzag. Place sushi rolls on top of sauce, garnish with Caviar on top of each piece, and ginger and Matcha cream on side. Serve with chopsticks.