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!
OMG! LOOKS DAMN COOL! AND DAMN GOOD! But whoah, the effort, I salute you and Lisa!
o GAWD. 7hours to make??? INSANITY to the max!!! Bows to your supreme patience + persistence!
Wow! Congrats on completing such an epic cooking task (x 2). Everything looks great and sorry to hear about the kitchen aid attachment, how bizarre!
Amazing pics! I have a new Heston cookbook but haven’t cooked anything from it yet. Looks like I’m going to need to set aside quite a bit of shopping and cooking time 🙂
penny aka jeroxie
Looks pretty damn good! Well done… now you can kick back and relax till the weekend again… kekeke
WOW! I bow and salute to you. After seeing all that effort, I dont think I will be attempting to make it! I considered making one but 7 hours? GREAT WORK and I admire your efforts 🙂
well done! WOW! Wouldn’t mind a burger right now!
Hi, just letting you know about the ice cream bowl attachments. Australian Kitchen aids are designed with different attachments and machines in general. The Motors are designed to suit Australian powers sources, as it’s not just the plug itself that’s different it’s the actual amount of power that comes out into the machine. Australia has one of the largest levels of power in their sockets in the world. So if you purchase an American machine the motor would die very quickly. Also the attachments are VERY different due to the high safety standards we have in Australia. If you see the key difference is the thick piece of metal/guard that is just under where it attaches, American machines don’t have that. This is why buying “cheaper” options online is never a good idea, as you are not “guaranteed” anything: that you’re not getting a fake (there are many out there), that you are not receiving broken of faulty goods, that you’re supporting Australian stores, that you’re supporting Australian workers, that you can go back and ask for help if you need it. There’s a simple answer to your predicament there. Buy Australian!!
Lisa @ Mmmm, sugar
Thanks for the info. I only wish I knew all of that before I went and bought the attachments. Strangely the mincer works fine and I bought that from the same place. Maybe that’s why we had so many problems with the mincing?
I am always happy to support buying Australian made, but sometimes when you can get 3 of one thing shipped from the US for the same price as one here in Aus, the lure is too great. That said, i’m now going to have to spend $80-90 on parts so my bowl is compatible here in Aus. Oh, the irony.
It is a pickle financially I agree, but I would really doubt the quality if they were that cheap! Unfortunately it’s a hard lesson learned. These machines are supposed to last so long that you’d give them to your grandchildren, it’s a risk to attach things to them that you’re not sure of! My dream is to one day save enough money to buy one for myself, walk into that shop, point out the one I want and take it home in my hot little hands, then slowly add all the wonderful extras I can get as I can afford them! Because I want them ALL!!! 🙂
*applauds for rather a long time* Those Bombe Alaska photos are breath-taking! The only time I tried a Bombe Alaska, I had to go the quick-burst-in-a-super-hot-oven. But yours, engulfed in flames? Magnificent!
Freakkkkkk, so jealous that you can taste that burger and baked alaska. I want to attempt it just to have a small taste. But then again, it’s so hard that I might just imagine the flavour.
Such nice pictures! And I can’t believe you’ve made alaska bombe!
I would love to spend an afternoon doing this – just not sure I have a suitable partner in crime! I would love one of these burgers – I would have been tempted by Heston’s thrice cooked chips too.
So annoying about the kitchenaid, I’ve wondered why they do this too, especially as some of the attachments do work….
WOW!!! That is one EPIC weekend of cooking!!!! You have had such an awesome result too.
All the pics are fantastic and I really feel that I will have to try a version of what you have created. I had an idea for a pretty terrific burger on my list of thing s to make after the HB challenge so you have inspired me to give it a go. Guaranteed though I will not be mincing my own meat.
Super terrific girls!!!
That is just epic! And it all looks amazing!
Woooah intense! I just started reading his ‘In Search of Perfection’ book, might’ve already skipped to the back and have plans to try the baked alaska too!
But 7 hours?! Holy crap! That’s intense! Looks like you had fun all the same! 🙂
Sneh | Cook Republic
Hats off to your dedication guys! That burger looks insane .. wow! You guys inspire me to embark on a culinary insanity trip too. I bet that delicious food was totally worth it!
Serious props for your epic cooking efforts! I’m comforted to hear that that many hours of work did result in perfect-tasting results. I especially love the look of the baked Alaska because it looks like a giant marshmallow being set of fire!
omgssss freaking awesome man! also loved the pics of the fireee
OH MY GOD!!!!
This looks AMAZING!!!
I think after watching that episode we went and bought Danny’s Burgers… pale, pale, pale in comparison but still delicious.
I can totally understand that is was worth the effort.
Now I want a burger….. :/
Wow what an achievement! It’s really good to hear that the food after all that was actually worth it. Awesome!
On the meat mincing note – It’s hard to believe it was so hard – the blades must be terribly ineffectual…Having made sausages with my folks many times in the past, it was never that difficult to do the mincing. They had some pretty old school equipment – One of those clamp to the tabletop bizzos made of metal. I wonder if they’re really hard to get hold of? Would a food pro have done a better job do you think?
I am both highly tempted and completely terrified of that burger recipe. I think it will be attempted at some point, but I can see that I really will need to set aside a whole weekend!
April @ My Food Trail
Wow, what an EPIC weekend! You gals are amazing!! I’m glad to hear it was worth the effort because goodness, can you imagine all that work and all you end up with is “MEH.” LOL
I think you girls must have done something wrong with the mincing. Mincing with the KitchenAid should not be hard at all since it is electric. I have the mincer attachment and mince meat (pork) at home all the time. The mincer is supposed to do all the work for you, you just need to push the meat down.
You should make sure the meat you are mincing is semi frozen, both because it’s easier to mince and because you don’t want your meat to get warm. It needs to be cut into 1 to 1.5 inch cubes and the mixer should be set at Speed 4. I can normally go through about 2 to 2.5kgs of partially fatty pork before I need to clean out the fat that wraps around the blades. Also you have to make sure you use the largest holes. Maybe you were using the smaller hole attachment.
The problem I get is with the blades rubbing with the plates and producing this black stuff out the middle of the grinder. I just have to watch for it and remove it.
Great effort again girls!
Lisa @ Mmmm, sugar
Neither of us had minced food before so we gave it a test run as we had extra meat and we realised we were going to have a problem. We actually substituted out 300g of the short rib and added an extra 300g of brisket which has no fat to try and combat the problem. The meat was cold from the fridge, but non semi-frozen.
When we minced it, the brisket and rib went together so I was trying to alternate between the 2 meats so the brisket would push the rib through but it didn’t matter, it kept getting stuck. We had to put those 2 meats through on the small grind (twice), and then add the chuck and put it through on the big grind. We also tried different speeds, but I think for the most part we were on lower than 4 which might have been the problem. We also got the black stuff and had to keep stopping for that.
Martyna (Wholesome Cook)
Epic! I thought I was challenging myself with making homemade Peking duck! It was nothing compared to the burger effort of yours. Well done!
PS maybe you should get your blades sharpened or look for substitutes at catering stores for a professional set that will fit?
Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
I saw these on Heidi’s blog and asked Mr NQN if he wanted to make them. He said but hesitatingly (I’m betting not) 😛 Great job Shellie!
Great job, Shellie and Lisa! Both look fantastic. I bet they tasted fantastic too
Heidi - Apples Under My Bed
This looks phenomenal!!!!! Bravo…bravo. I am speechless! I am without speech…..ok I lie, I can say WOW WOW WOW!
Holy mother of unicorns!! Well done.. I was so excited for you guys when I saw the pic on instagram.. YAYY!!!!! Now go get some well deserved nap time on your weekends 🙂
So much effort! Brilliant! =p
Keely aka The Richest Girl in Bondi
What a huge weekend! Super impressed with your efforts Shellie and Lisa! And such a great result. It’s admirable to give one of Heston’s ‘perfect’ recipes a try — and even more so that you pulled them off! Which one will be next? …
Adrian (Food Rehab)
My lorday! You crazy girl…but hats off nonetheless. 🙂
It must’ve been so liberating taking that first bite!
Well done you two – amazing, amazing effort!
I am absolutely amazed at such integrity, perseverance and skill in recreating these masterpieces. Where would i find the recipe for the bombe alaska as i would like to have a try at making it?
Thanks so much,
Iron Chef Shellie
I’m not sure where you can get the recipe. You might want to try googling it, else, it is in Heston’s book 🙂