I did not set out to make a walnut dessert. Really, who sets out to make a dessert about a nut, particularly a walnut? It turns out I did. Parts and pieces of this dessert have been tweaked, removed, refined and eliminated as it has come from concept to plate.
I started with the streusel. I think streusel coffee cakes were invented just for me. As it is now autumn, maple came to mind and I began work on a maple streusel. The next component for the dish is our white chocolate and yogurt ice cream. While the ice cream was churning I began work on some apples. I poached these apples in Madeira flavored with candied ginger. The parts for the dessert were coming together, revolving around the feeling of fall.
I wanted a nut component for the dessert and walnuts, while not Aki's favorite, came to mind. And in this case were a perfect fit. At first I had plans of making a walnut and yogurt puree to balance the dish. That idea was fleeting and was replaced by a walnut terrine. I started with street vendor style sandy walnuts perfumed with ginger, cinnamon and cardamom. When the nuts were toasty and the kitchen smelled a childhood walk down a Manhattan street on the days before Thanksgiving I pulled them off the heat and let them cool.
I reserved some of the toasted nuts and ground them to a medium crumb. Now I really had sandy nuts. The rest of the toasted nuts were pressure cooked with half and half. The resulting tender nuts were pureed with some skim milk to make a toasted walnut cream. We then thickened the cream with carrageegnan and set it as a terrine. The texture and taste is of silken walnuts married to pumpkin pie filling. I was really amazed at how good this filling was and how it made me want more.
While I was working on the walnut base I had some golden raisins being glazed in hard cider and glucose. Once again, I reserved some sticky raisins and then pureed the rest. My original plan was to make a raisin crisp though its part in this dish seemed inappropriate. Instead, I tamed the sweet richness of the raisin puree with yogurt, borrowing the tang from the ice cream in a fluid preparation. The final element to the dish was simple, a reduction of the apple poaching liquid, a concentrated application of Madeira, apple and ginger.
This dessert took much longer to come together than I initially had planned. As I noted, I did not know it was going to be about the walnut, yet that walnut terrine steals the show with all the other components piquing and complementing its flavors and texture.