ASPIC : GUIDELINES AND TECHNIQUES These are procedures that can assist you, but you should find your preferred method of either coating or dipping. Different types of gelatine have different properties so you would need to adjust the recipes accordingly. Aspic Recipe A Aspic Recipe B Aspic Recipe C (Advanced) Dilution rates are as follows: 1st coating – 90gm : 1 litre 2nd coating – 100gm : 1 litre 3rd coating – 90gm : 1 litre Dipped garnishes – 2 coatings of 90gm : 1 litre The dilution ratios are: First Coating 90g / litre First Flooding/Dipping 100g / litre Final Flooding/Dipping 110g / litre See Annexure A Properties of gelatine Gelatine is a naturally derived protein made from calf skin and connective tissue. It is available in granular or leaf form. There is also a variety of colours and flavours available. Quality is important when choosing gelatine for use in cold exhibition work. Quality is measured by the colour, clarity and “bloom”. “Bloom” refers to the ability of the crystals when hydrated to gel or set and a minimum bloom of 210 is acceptable. The lightest possible colour must be used and an unflavoured product is preferred. Aspic is a term that is used incorrectly as it classically refers to a clarified stock or consommé that is strengthened with either plain or flavoured gelatine. The presence of fats, oils and/or acids will inhibit the gelling and binding properties of gelatine. High temperatures will de-nature the protein and destroy the binding of the gelatine. Fats and oils present on the skin must also be avoided by wearing nonpowdered surgical gloves at all times during the application and presentation or lay-up procedure. Steeping and melting guidelines Steeping is the process of absorption that allows the gelatine crystals to rehydrate by taking on water and finally gel during cooling. This has to be carried out as slowly as possible to prevent dry crystals in the mixture that will result in cloudiness and poor adhesion to the food items. The water must be measured into a clean heatproof container that is free from acid, oil and bubbles. The weighed aspic powder must be sprinkled evenly on the surface of the water and with NO stirring or whisking. This creates bubbles that cannot be removed. The mixture must be allowed to soften at room temperature for a minimum of 2 hours. The resultant mass will have swelled and be free of any “white” spots. The steeped aspic must then be melted in a bain-marie until it is completely transparent. Again, there must be no stirring or whisking during this process. A scum will form on the surface of the liquid and this must be removed using kitchen paper, as you would for degreasing consommé. When the correct temperature has been reached the aspic must be strained through a fine chinois. Make sure to keep the chinois in contact with the surface of the clean container and pour slowly so as to prevent bubbles forming. The strained aspic must then be allowed to set completely and then re-melted in the bainmarie. This strengthens the product and provides a smoother application. Constant temperature checks must be made during use to ensure correct application temperatures. Critical temperatures Cold tap water is acceptable for the steeping process, but must be free of excessive lime and bubbles. Allow the water to settle and clear before adding the aspic powder. Steeping must take place at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Melting must be carried out in a bain marie to a maximum of 700 C until the mixture is completely transparent and melted. Temperature checks must be made at different depths to ensure even heating. Reheating, after initial setting, should not exceed 400 C. For application, the food items should be chilled in the freezer until ice crystals begin to form on the outer surface. The aspic should be at 350 C for the first 2 applications and 400 C for the final application. All food items must be re-chilled in the cold room prior to the next application. Blooming Care must be taken to ensure clarity of the water, absolute cleanliness of utensils and containers and cool ambient temperatures. The product is stable using any tap water. It is not necessary and too expensive to use mineral water. Absolutely no additives are necessary ! _ Blooming is required for 2 hours only. _ The product must then be liquefied over the bain marie, not exceeding 45c, until completely free from any visible grain. _ Care must be taken when stirring that no air is introduced. It is important that the surface bubbles are removed with greaseproof paper dragging. The product must be allowed to set completely. After reheating over the bain marie, the product must be strained. It is advisable to work with 1,5 litres per chef per item to prevent crossover of seasonings and or colours. The product must not be applied to food items until it has reached 40c. When the product temperature reaches 35c it must be replaced. It is imperative that all food products be at 3c when aspic is applied. No more than 10 items per tray will ensure minimum exposure to ambient temperatures. Application of aspic – dipping and flooding There are two methods of application used – dipping and flooding. Dipping is used for such items as garnishes, showpieces and vegetables. Flooding is generally used on sliced food items. Dipping requires large quantities of aspic in deep containers, specialised tools and heated towels. Smaller items are spiked on toothpicks and then placed on polystyrene squares. Flooding requires cling wrapped melamine or perspex trays and catch trays to collect excess aspic. Ladles and paintbrushes are used for the application. The challenge of sauces – shine and viscosity Sauces present unique challenges on cold presentation working that they contain ingredients that work against the natural properties of the aspic. All sauces have to be fat free and without acid to present an excellent shine. The use of concentrated sugar syrup and honey aids in achieving this. Chlorophyll extracts from herbs provide natural colours. Food colours should only be used to improve natural colours that are present in the sauces. No cream should be used, but soya milk can be substituted to give an opaque appearance. Acid, fat and oil are banned substances in the quest for perfect sauces. An important fact to remember is that the addition of gelatine to a sauce will dilute its colour and depth, so allowance must be made for this. Adaptation of cooking methods Normal cooking techniques cannot be applied to foodstuff that requires the application of aspic. The challenge is to adapt these methods to present a finished product that mimics the traditional item, but can be coated with aspic. To achieve this we need to utilise Teflon pans and fat free cooking methods. Baking, dry roasting and steaming are more suitable cooking methods as they do not use fat. If there is no option but to use fat, then the item must be stripped of all visible fat and rinsed in hot water immediately after cooking. Adequate chilling will also aid in the application to fatty items, although the life of the finished product will be greatly reduced. To aspic or not to aspic Items that are made of pastry, biscuit, dough, batter, sugar or chocolate do not require an aspic coating. These items must be stabilised by the receipts and with the application of cocoa butter and food sprays. In the case of “en croute” items, the exposed protein element must be painted with aspic, but not the surround crust. Fresh herbs and herb flowers used as décor do not require aspic either and care must be taken to use the best quality product. Placement must be at the very last minute to ensure an appealing presentation. Stabilising décor items Tuile biscuits are painted with a coating of cocoa butter to add shine and prevent collapse. Chocolate for décor items must be tempered correctly and the use of plastic film in their construction is advised to maximise shine. Excessive use of chocolate lacquer will result in an artificial finish and the deduction of points. Savoury crisps or crackers must be stored in sealed containers with silica crystals to dehydrate completely and then placed at the last possible moment. Preparation of pieces for lay-up and “burning” Prior to “burning”, the items must be cut out of the excess flooding and removed from the toothpicks. A large pot of boiling water, with cleaned outer surfaces must be made available for the “burning” procedure. Care must be taken not to remove too much of the edge coating. The perfect result is an even coating of gelatine that is free of bubbles, drips and “feet”. It is ideal to work in a temperature controlled environment of 110 C. Surgical gloves must be worn at all times during the entire process. When coating slices, the presentation side must be coated with a brush to form the magnifying meniscus. Care must be taken not to allow the aspic to run over the edges. This coat must be completely set before inverting and flooding of the reverse side. Once this reverse side is completely set, it must be cut out of the excess and "burnt" back to size. This trimmed item must then be inverted, re-cooled and only then flooded for the final time. Once completely cooled and set it is ready for cutting and final "burning". After each coating the items must be transferred to clean trays. No clingfilm is used on the trays as this results in crease marks on the aspic. The dipping procedure is only allowed for irregular shaped items and toothpicked items. Dipping slices results in an uneven coating with extreme run-off and poor temperature control. In point form: _ Clean equipment _ Cool, clear water _ No additives _ Correct dilution _ Correct bloom times _ Correct liquefying procedure _ Skimming of surface bubbles _ Complete setting prior to use _ Straining and reduced quantities _ Correct aspic & food item temperatures _ No more than 10 items per tray _ Correct coating procedures _ Transfer to clean trays _ No plastic wrap _ Surgical gloves free of powder _ More speed and less haste. It is important that the application of aspic be executed in _ A "production line" style so that all food items are coated _ At the same time and with the same care. _ No aspic work can commence until all food items are ready. _ One person must be responsible for ensuring a steady flow of clean cool aspic, clean trays and clean hot water pots to the "line"