In Search Of Perfection – Heston’s Perfect Burgers & Baked Alaska
Well, what a weekend. Lisa asked me if I wanted to team up and recreate Heston’s perfect baked Alaska. I’m not sure what sparked it, but I think it was the baked Alaska on Masterchef and many tweets, that prompted it. And if that wasn’t enough, we decided we would also attempt Heston’s perfect burger after also seeing that on Masterchef too.
I really thought I wouldn’t want to cook for at least a week after a weekend of pretty much constant cooking, but to be honest, I would have done it all again the day after! I must be insane.
If you haven’t seen Heston Blumenthal’s series In Search of Perfection, you probably wouldn’t understand how much of a challenge we had set ourselves with making two ‘perfect’ recipes in one weekend. And if you don’t know who Heston Blumenthal is, I’m afraid we can no longer be friends….. nah just kidding; he is quite possibly the maddest, most creative chef I’m aware of. To read more, check out this link: www.lifestylefood.com.au/shows/in-search-of-perfection
It began with Lisa making an epic shopping list, which included things that had to be specially ordered, that also looked like they should have belonged in a science experiment list. As she had the book, she planned what we would do and when over a two day weekend. You can follow the tweets we made throughout the process by searching for the hashtag: #hbBurgerAlaska
Throughout the two days, we hit a couple of snags:
The ice-cream bowl and paddle attachment that Lisa had bought for her Kitchen Aid online from America doesn’t fit Australian models. We found this out the hard way after about 2 hours of trying. We thought it was because she had the Artisan model and it needed the Deluxe model. But after a phone call and a trip to LuxBite to see if it would fit their KitchenAid, and a few google and youtube searches later; it was confirmed, the American attachment cannot be used on the Australian model. None of us can understand why, but that’s just the way it is. This left Lisa to hand churn the small amount of raspberry sorbet throughout the night.
The butcher not completing the order correctly, and providing us with the wrong cut of meat, which proved to be a bitch to get through the Kitchen Aid mincing attachment. As they stuffed up the order, we decided to use less of the fatty meat, and more of the leaner meat to make our lives easier. By easier… I’m not too much sure how easier as mincing meat is hard work. No, REALLY hard work. It took a small eternity to get the meat through that mincer just ONCE! I have sore arms today from it all!
We prepared the pre-ferment dough for the burger buns, as it needed 24 hours to prove.
We managed to get 90% of the Baked Alaska complete, with Lisa working into the night stirring the sorbet and filling the white chocolate tube with sorbet. She then had to put the sorbet filled tube in the middle of our parfait.
The issue that really set us back was trying to work out the ice-cream attachment. If we didn’t have this problem, we could have possibly started on burger related prep, but alas, we were also in search of perfection.
Lisa woke up at 7am on a Sunday to salt the meat for the burgers, then went back to bed.
I arrived at 12pm and we were on burger making stations until just before 7pm when we ate. 7 hours of solid cooking; just burgers. We probably had a 10-15 minute break for lunch, sandwiches from Pearl Café…. Thanks official taste tester Daniel for running to get them!
The thing that really set us back the most was the mincer. You know when you watch the Masterchef contestants on tv and they are really struggling with the mincer, and you think “come on, surely it can’t be that hard!”. I can assure you; IT IS THAT HARD!!! Possibly a lot easier with an industrial mincer. We found that the fat would just block the holes within about 30-60 seconds and only slowly come out on the outside holes. This meant; take it off, clear it, start again. Every time we did that it took about 5 minutes… but seemed like half an hour. We got very good at this, but very frustrated at the same time. After 3 rounds of mincing, I am certain I don’t want mince anything for the next few weeks. My arms are a little sore from all that hard work; but I can assure you, it was worth it.
Our buns weren’t proving as well as we thought, so Lisa put a bowl of hot water under the tray they were on, in her warm bathroom, and that managed to do the trick.
To make the ‘perfect ketchup’ I cut 1.5kg of very ripe tomatoes in half, scooped out all the seeds, central membrane and juice; strain them, and then simmered that concentrate on the stove until it resembled ketchup. We then added salt till it tasted right. Lisa is now left with a bowl full of empty tomato shells. We used some in the burgers, but not that much.
To make the ‘perfect cheese’ we basically had to make a cheese fondue. Lisa and I are both half Swiss so it should been second nature 😛 We were both enjoying the wafts of cheesey-fonduey-goodness as it cooked away. Eating the cheese slices was like a slice of fondue. I’ll be having some leftover cheese melted on bread this week = express fondue.
The burger that took 7 hours to make, was devoured in probably less than 8 minutes.
Yes, it was worth every single painstaking bit of effort we put into it. We all agreed the burger patty was just fantastic. “Official taste tester” Daniel raved about the patty quite a few times. It was totally worth all that effort of mincing, and flipping the patties everything 30 seconds whilst cooking. The cheese, an absolute ripper, and the ketchup, much better than squeezing it out of a bottle. Lisa even blanched the onions for 20 seconds to help take away that strong onion burn, which also resulted in no onion breath! I really can’t explain how good it was…. But we were pretty damn close to perfection. If only our buns were perhaps a little softer, it would have been perfection. But hey, after 7 hours, no one was complaining, just lots of “omg that’s good!”.
With just a short break, we then moved on to dessert. We agreed we couldn’t be bothered with making a Swiss meringue (whisking egg whites over a pot of simmering water until they reach 55C, then beating off the heat whilst adding sugar). So we made just a standard merginue. I supervised the overworked KitchenAid whisking eggs and Lisa pan fried our cake in butter… I know… low fat right! The cake was then brushed with marmalade, the parfait placed on top, and covered in our make do meringue. I then blow torched it, and put my knowledge of flambé (set that cake on fire and impress everyone) trick I’ve learnt from my Mother and Grandma. We had quite a bit of burning rum, so we could flambé it for a while and take lots of pictures. This really was the best way to end such a cooking extravaganza.
Oh yeah, it was fan-freaking-tastic. If I make it again, I will forget the white chocolate tube with the raspberry sorbet and just serve with raspberry coulis. But the cake itself was so light, almost chiffon cake like. The parfait; a gorgeous banana cream, with crunchy hazelnut praline, and a fluffy merginue coating…. It was a big sigh of relief, kicking back, tweeting away, and knowing it was all over. We had actually pulled it off. Two ‘perfect’ recipes done… almost perfectly.
I’d like to thank Lisa for letting me join in on this epic culinary weekend experience. It would not have been possible without her and all her kitchen gadgets, awesome kitchen and knowledge of where to get bizarre ingredients.
I will be trying another Heston recipe…. but not for a while!