What makes one recipe more difficult than another? A long list of ingredients and a multitude of cooking methods are two reasons; many steps and a lot of prep work are two more.
Although these three recipes seem elegantly simple in their presentation, each requires a certain knowledge of basic techniques in either the pastry or savory kitchens. Here's a sampling of some of the most difficult recipes a home cook can perfect:
A homemade broth is simple enough to make, but a double consommé is a rich stock that has been clarified, according to Ruhlman, meaning its impurities have been removed. This can be done through the addition of a "raft." Make a stock as you usually would, and allow it to cool; add egg whites, chopped vegetables and chopped chicken or beef, and bring the stock to a simmer. The solid ingredients will eventually float to the top, the egg whites having accumulated any other sediment in the stock, leaving a perfectly clear broth below that you can ladle out carefully once finished.
The final color of the clarified consommé depends on the type of meat with which you choose to make it: Chicken consommé is a light yellow, for example, whereas beef consommé is an amber. Regardless of the color, the hallmark of all consommé is its clear appearance. A perfectly clarified consommé is typically served with simple garnishes like brunoise of vegetables.
This traditional Mexican dish makes the list of difficult recipes for how many ingredients it needs. Typical Mole Poblano recipes can call for 20 ingredients or more; Saveur's version lists a whopping 28. Nonetheless, the mixture of dried chilies, dried herbs, seeds, nuts, spices, bread and stock together create a rich, deep-colored sauce that's worth all the effort. Chocolate is often added to balance out the spiciness and provide another layer of complexity. Because of all the advance preparation before cooking your sauce, this recipe takes a couple of days to complete, so plan ahead.
The basic procedure has several steps. Dried chilies are steeped to reconstitute and soften them, then pureed with stock. Nuts and seeds (such as peanuts, almonds and sesame seeds) are toasted and ground up with dried fruits, tomatillos and toasted whole spices. Then, the whole sauce is simmered with chocolate and additional stock until it thickens, at least an hour.
Gâteau Saint Honoré
This traditional French dessert celebrates Saint Honoré, patron saint of bakers and pastry makers, according to NPR. It is both decorative and unique, boasting a special pastry tube dedicated solely to its presentation. The Gâteau Saint Honoré is made from four different pastry elements: puff pastry, pâte à choux (dough for cream puffs), caramelized sugar and Creme Chiboust, a filling made from pastry cream and Italian meringue.
Pipe the pâte à choux into concentric circles on a large disk of fresh puff pastry, as well as separately into several small cream puffs, then bake. Reserve enough of the pastry cream you used to prepare the Creme Chiboust to sufficiently fill the cream puffs. You can then dip these filled cream puffs in caramelized sugar and place them upside down on a silicone mat to harden and flatten their tops. Once set, dip the cream puffs in additional sugar to adhere them to the base. Fill the base with the Chiboust, using a piped chevron pattern for the top.
Knowing the culinary basics can help you tackle many difficult recipes. Familiarize yourself with the herb drawer and spice cabinet; brush up on your meat cuts; practice your knife skills and hone your cooking methods. Once the basics are mastered, even these three recipes will be with some practice.
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