Take Me Away

pineapple sorbet & rum-coconut friands

I’m not at all well-traveled. Sometimes I foolishly think that I am; my love of food and my cookbooks have been my passports, my tour guides. Although the physical journeys have been few, through self-teaching and reading, I’ve traveled the globe. I’m a curious cook and an adventurous eater (within reason). It may take years to learn Arabic or months to fully understand, to easily breath in and exhale, the cultural mores of a foreign region, but one bite of something new can bring you cheek to cheek with a nameless stranger on another continent. In that bite, you can learn practical things — what crops are fertile, what flavors most popular — but you can also dig a bit deeper, feeling the pulse of the region and what moves its people. Take North African couscous. Not just the mini pearls of semolina, but the dish itself. Large trays of sandy stewed and jewel-like ingredients. It’s a symbol of family, community, patience, care.

The farthest I’ve traveled physically was to France on a ten-day trip with my French class way back in high school. I appreciated it, but I know I didn’t take from it what I would if I were to go today. I was just too young. I can’t help but think it was a wasted opportunity. I couldn’t possibly see the world at that age in focus when I wasn’t even grounded in my own.

My “Top 10” list, if you will, includes places like Istanbul and Naples and, of course, Tehran and Tabriz, where my father’s roots lie. Heck, I’d even really like to go to major US cities I’ve never seen like Chicago and New Orleans. Yes, definitely New Orleans. I would eat, I would learn.

But, I also have a somewhat superficial desire: I want to see, touch, feel aquamarine waters. Those bright Caribbean blues. I’m, admittedly, a beach bum. Although I typically feel uncomfortable when I’m not busy (or baking), at the beach, I somehow can just be and let be. I love New England beaches. They’re what I know. But I crave something different. A place where life is on pause, where you don’t sit in your car for 2 hours if you arrive past 9 a.m. just to get a tiny sliver of beach next to some Jersey Shore transplant.

pfeiffer beach

I once went to Big Sur’s Pfeiffer Beach. It changed my life. Crashing waves, fierce winds, jagged caves, and mountainous rock. I loved feeling so small. I loved that it was so loud I couldn’t even hear the person next to me but that I still felt as if all was so quiet, so still. But the water was cold and quite dark. It glimmered, but not any more than the clean waters of the Maine coast.

It doesn’t really matter which island paradise I visit, as long as the waters match the color of the sky – a world so monotone it erases, yet so vibrant it inspires.

For now, this will do. A deconstructed piña colada en dessert. I actually do not like piña coladas; they’re too sweet and often taste artificial. But, while the flavors of coconut, rum, and pineapple may not be as profound as that dish of couscous, they certainly help me feel a warm breeze on my cheeks, even indoors. Here, they’re brought together in a way I can actually enjoy them. A classic friand — the coconut cousin to a financier — gets a splash of booze. The crisp-edged petit cakes are the perfect pairing for a sunny, pineapple sorbet. They’re dense and buttery, while the sorbet is smooth and mysteriously creamy, like restaurant sorbet. It tastes like you’re sucking the surrounding flesh left on a pineapple core (What? You don’t do that?). The two desserts are lovely alone, but together, they take me away.

Pineapple Sorbet

I use this as a base. With the friands, I wanted pure, unadulterated pineapple flavor, but it’s also great with mint simple syrup or lime and a little bit of chili.

About 3/4 of a pineapple (415 grams), cut in cubes
1/3 cup (80 grams) water
1/2 cup (100 grams) of sugar, or more to taste
1 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice, more or less to taste
1 tbsp vodka
pinch of salt

Taste your pineapple. If it is isn’t at that perfect stage of sweet-tart, you may want to start with 1/2 tsp of lemon juice. (Note: Do not be tempted to use less than 1/2 cup of sugar, even if the pineapple is overly sweet — the sorbet will freeze too hard). In a blender, purée pineapple with water, sugar, lemon juice, vodka, and salt until very well blended and smooth. Taste it. If it’s not sweet enough, add up to 2 tablespoons more of sugar. If it’s too sweet, add some more lemon juice. Whir together well. At this point, you can strain away any “pulp,” but I prefer to leave it. If well blended, it should be very smooth. Transfer to a bowl or container and store in refrigerator for 8 hours. When ready, churn in ice cream machine according to the manual and store in freezer. You probably will not even need to remove the sorbet from the freezer prior to serving; it has a dreamy consistency.

Don’t have an ice cream machine? Add more water (maybe around 3/4-1 cup), axe the vodka, and make granita!

Rum-Coconut Friands
Adapted from Around my French Table, by Dorie Greenspan.

I adjusted the recipe to accommodate the rum. If you would prefer a rum-free friand (say that 10x fast), refer to the book!

Yield: 20-22 Friands

1 1/2 cups (135 grams) unsweetened, desiccated coconut
1/2 cup flour (70 grams)
4 large egg whites (120 grams), at room temperature
2/3 cup + 1 tbsp sugar (146 grams)
1 stick of butter, melted
2 tablespoons rum (28 grams)
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a mini muffin pan (or financier molds if you have them).

In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites until smooth and slightly foamy. Add coconut and whisk gently to combine. Add sugar and salt and repeat. Add flour and quickly and gently fold in with a rubber spatula until combined. Add rum and butter and gently stir until mixture is homogeneous, smooth, and glossy.

Spoon batter into the molds, to the top. Place pan on a baking sheet. Bake for 17-22 minutes. Halfway through baking, rotate the pan from front to back. The friands are done when you press on the tops and they spring back and a toothpick comes out clean.

Remove and cool completely on a wire rack. Store in airtight container. The friands stay fresh for 3 days or more (!), BUT they are tastiest before being enclosed when the outside is impossibly crisp, the center moist and dense — the trademark of a classic friand. Afterwards, I find them more cake-like and less special.

8 responses

  1. I don’t really like pina coladas either but can imagine this is delicious – it’s not so much the flavour I’m not keen on as the method of delivery. Similarly I would never drink whisky, but love adding a drop to whipped cream or a chocolate ganache. Those little friands are gorgeous, and the perfect accompaniment to your sorbet – love it all :-)

  2. Might have to convince my friend with an ice cream maker to make this for us… I don’t like the artificial taste of coconut or the sugary taste of pina coladas, but when the actual flavors that comprise a pina colada are able to stand out, I’m sure it will be delicious.

  3. Pingback: Rhubarb to the Rescue « Eating In or Out

  4. Pingback: Après Disco « Eating In or Out

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: