Author: Swati Raman
Blog: The Food Saga
Celebrity Chef Shannon Bennett’s dessert from his renowned Bistro Vue and his take on the Snickers Bar, a sophisticated chocolate peanut bar instantly inspires and then takes it up a notch with every single bite. The peanut caramel, the honey nougat, the light chocolate parfait or the out-of-the-world peanut ice cream with the brown sugar crumble. Add in some theatrics of a sinful honey caramel melting a thin layer of tempered chocolate over tiny domes of honey nougat, enveloping them in a shy layer of chocolate and shine from the sauce, your day is made! And when it happens on the third day of your favorite show on television that you have been waiting to start for a year, well, your year is made.
Such was the start to Masterchef Australia 2016 for me. For a dessert fanatic like me, the year looked promising, a brilliant dessert as a pressure test right in the first week, I was so tempted that I decided to attempt making the dessert myself.
I know it was ridiculous, TV shows are meant to be enjoyed by watching them, not jumping on to attempting it yourself. That too a 60+ steps recipe, with 10 core elements, and some elements that were a first for me! But when you have an adrenaline rush, nothing really makes sense, does it? It was a 3-hour marathon, with of course, a little prep like roasting and peeling the peanuts beforehand, and I was ready with all the elements, and they all looked perfect, and tasted yum!
Yeah yeah, yum is passé, but when something’s yum, you ought to call it that. I was nervous plating it up, especially about getting the theatrics right. I requested my sister-in-law to come over, and we had a ball, deciding the plating, the styling, and then the final action – theatrics of the Snickers Bar! We shot it, we ate it, and it was all such a sublime experience. The peanut ice-cream and the chocolate parfait are out-of-this-world, and you have to try it out for yourself! Find the recipes here.
In excitement, I shared it on 2 of my favorite social spots, Bangalore Foodies Club, and my Instagram feed, and it started buzzing. A whopping 350+ likes, a list of Masterchef contestants (Mimi, Elena, Nicollete, Adam were the first to take notice) going crazy over it, and also some chitchat behind the screens. It was so exciting and full of learning, I remember charting out one of my desserts with Convailis, and how excited we both were about the flavors. Me and Nidhi got chatting a lot after that, and still share ‘Hellos’ once in a while, wishing her the best for her blog “Nidz Kitchen AU”, and I will be posting one of her interviews with my blog, The Food Saga, soon.
The fever didn’t stop there. 2 weeks later, one of the hot favorites from the previous season, Reynold Poernomo, who has a lush dessert bar in the heart of Sydney, challenged the contestants with one of his signature desserts ‘Moss’. A dessert that screams Reynold, a pistachio mousse with a caramel centre, coated with matcha and white chocolate mousse and some apple blossom pearls, apple sorbet, dulce de leche cremeux, matcha moss, nitro lime yogurt foam and a pistachio microwave sponge to complement it. A different league altogether with killer techniques, no wonder Reynold is known for his magnificent and captivating treats.
I knew I had to replicate this. Nobody was really after me, but I was just so kicked with the elements. If Snickers is my favorite chocolate, pistachios are my favorite ingredient to work with! The attempt was far from the original, but how happy was I! I surpassed my fears, timed myself, and finished the dessert in 3 hours. What a feat!
The season started becoming a fete of one parfait after the other, one panna cotta wobble after the other, that is when it got too monotonous for me. No new techniques, or use of ingredients that were not available here in India. But the excitement didn’t leave me. I had a flood of ideas for desserts I wanted to make.
One of the panna cotta days, I got reminded of one of Reynolds favorite combinations – coconut and mango. I started building on that idea, had some fun discussions with Masterchef contestant Con Vailis. He had this wacky idea of a yuzu gel among others. I told him, “Boss, I am in India, let’s keep it simple!”, and that is how I came up with this brilliant dessert!
This is my coconut milk panna cotta, toasted coconut dacquoise, mango jelly, coconut sago rocks and toasted coconuts. The flavours beautifully complemented each other, and it was an instant hit! I made it for a friend’s wife’s birthday, who was not a dessert fan, but it made their birthday memorable, and etched a mark on my own Masterchef 2016 dessert journey.
Post that, I enjoyed replicating a few desserts like Nigella’s coffee panna cotta and Heston’s chocolate mousse, but with the season getting too parfait-y, the adrenaline rush faded away. But I still dream of the finals dessert, the 91 step Heston Egg Nest. Someday!