Daniel, New York City, Dominique Ansel /
One evening during a trip to Japan, Dominique Ansel, executive pastry chef at Daniel in New York City, and a travel journalist friend found themselves wandering the lantern-lit pebbled garden paths of the geisha district in Kyoto. When they saw two geishas disappear through a nondescript doorway, they decided to follow. They found themselves in a small restaurant, no more than a tiny bar, barely eight feet long and staffed with only a chef and his assistant. Through his limited Japanese, Ansel was able to make it known that he too was a chef, which led to an instant camaraderie and the preparation of a multicourse kaiseki dinner, one dish continuously followed by a another, each fresh, bursting with color and vibrantly flavorful, yet subtle in its gentle simplicity. And, of course, there was the unending flow of sake, with countless toasts and cries of “Kanpai!”
“I had used Japanese ingredients in my recipes before, particularly yuzu, sesame, and shiso,” Ansel acknowledges, “but after my trip, I wanted to create a dessert that would pay homage to the Japanese way of focusing on flavor, clean taste, and purity.” Here, he bridges sake and almonds with pluots, the plum and apricot hybrid that was developed in the late 20th century.
Sake-Glazed Pluots with Almond Biscuit & Pluot Sorbet
Place egg yolks with half the sugar in the bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment; beat at low speed until combined.
Place egg whites in clean bowl of electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment; whisk at medium speed into soft peaks; add remaining sugar; whisk into stiff peaks.
Fold egg whites into egg yolk mixture; add almond flour; mix at low speed to combine; fold in almonds.
Scrape batter into parchment lined half sheet pan fitted with 15 1/2" by 10 1/2" (39 cm by 27 cm) frame; spread until smooth (A); bake until golden brown (10 to 12 minutes); remove from oven; cool to room temperature; cut into 1 1/2" (4 cm) squares (B); reserve.
Spread almonds onto half sheet pan; toast until lightly golden (approximately 4 minutes); remove from oven; immediately pour corn syrup over almonds; toss to coat; sprinkle sugar over almonds; toss to coat; separate into small clumps; place on Silpat nonstick pad; return to oven until almonds caramelize (about 5 minutes).
Bring the pluot puree and juice to a simmer in a saucepan set over medium-high heat, whisking gently until it boils; whisk in the sugar mixture; continue to boil for 4 minutes; remove from heat; cool to room temperature; transfer to plastic bottle; reserve.
• 6 Tbsps. plus 1/3 tsp. (90 g) water
• 2 1/2 Tbsps. (36 g) sugar
• 1/3 cup (70 g) pluots
• 1 vanilla bean
• 1 tsp. (5 g) gelatin
Bring water, sugar, pluots, and vanilla to a boil in a saucepan; simmer until pluots are tender (about 10 minutes); remove from heat; strain through fine chinois; whisk in gelatin; whisk until smooth; pour gelée into 7 1/4" by 11 1/4" (19 cm by 29 cm) frame set inside sheet pan (C); cool to room temperature; reserve in refrigerator until set.
• 3 Tbsps. plus 1 tsp. (45 g) granulated sugar
• 1/3 cup (70 g) dry glucose
• 1/2 tsp. (2 g) stabilizer
• 1/2 cup (110 ml) water
• 1 cup (200 g) pluot puree
• 1/3 cup (80 ml) Junmai sake
Combine sugar, glucose and stabilizer.
Bring water to 95˚F to 104˚F (35˚C to 40°C) in a saucepan set over medium-high heat; whisk in sugar mixture; remove from heat; transfer to bowl; let cool to room temperature; add puree; whisk until combined; add sake; whisk until combined.
Sake poached & glazed pluots:
• 6 pluots, sliced into wedges
• granulated sugar
• Junmai sake
Arrange pluots on bottom of a skillet set over medium-low heat; sprinkle sugar over pluots; drizzle with sake (D); cook slowly until pluots are just tender (about 5 minutes); transfer to work surface; let cool; peel skin from pluots (E); reserve.
To serve, place biscuit near center of plate; slice gelée into 1 1/2" (4 cm) squares; place gelée on top of biscuit; slice additional small cubes of gelée to scatter around biscuit; arrange
7 to 8 peeled pluot slices on top of gelée; carefully decorate pluot slices with overlapping paper-thin slices of pluots (F); scatter 3 or 4 clumps of caramelized almonds around; top 1 clump with quenelle of sorbet; dot sauce around plate.
What to drink: Hakutsuru Superior Junmai Ginjo Sake