I have witnessed first hand, on many an occasion now, what it takes to quenelle ice cream. And when you watch someone do it confidently and deftly, with two spoons, floating, crossing and spinning in this kind of fluid motion, to create this perfectly smooth egg; well, it's quite hypnotic. More to the point, when you watch someone who knows what they are doing, it also looks quite easy.
The last time I saw someone quenelle under my nose was when I attended a masterclass in pastry at The Cookery School in Great Portland Street, as organised by Great British Chefs and led by Graham Hornigold, who is Executive Pastry Chef for the Hakkasan Group. We covered various desserts and techniques, including a fantastic twist on apple tarte Tatin with vanilla ice cream and leading the way on the quenelling front wasn't Graham himself but his right-hand man Daniel Pearse. And he was doing it with one spoon.
Holding a tub of speckled, yellow frozen cream, a quick skim across the surface was all it took, before quickly drawing it back over again, to add an extra layer. Daniel then ran the spoon, oh so quickly across the base of his palm, along his life line and then placed it on the plate. On and on he went, continuing in this way, zipping down perfect ovals on to china. Down on twenty plates all told and all within the blink of an eye. I don't think I can reiterate how quick he was. Apart from saying, he was very, very, very quick and it was a marvel to behold.
It was also mildly annoying because I can't quenelle for toffee. I have been trying for years now and I still haven't quite got the hang of it. Despite lolloping tongue and squinting eye, my efforts always resemble a whizz-bang delivery from a hen that has been egg-bound for five days.
I really don't know what to do about it. Although I suspect the key factor is to let your ice cream come up to the perfect temperature before attempting any artful ellipsoidalising (sic). I know Häagen-Dazs recommend that you leave their ice cream out of the freezer for a required 12 minutes before any attempt is made to scoop. And this does seem to be the right amount of time. But the window of opportunity to work in after that always seems to be so narrow. So, so narrow.
At least, this is what I found when I came up with this recipe to showcase the release of a new ice cream from Häagen-Dazs, a luxuriant coffee flavour that has been on the market around the globe for a while but never in this country. Interestingly, when I tweeted that I had got my hands on a tub of the stuff, a gleeful and slightly jealous thrust of hands went up, rejoicing that at last it was on these shores. Personally, I had some doubts at first, having blasted my tastebuds on some harsh bitter incarnations in the past. However, in their indomitable way, those Scandinavians from 'New Yoike' have nailed it again, with a creamy, frothy mouthful of java that really is quite delightful.
To match the rich coffee notes of the ice cream, I decided to pair up two tried-and-tested partners in the shape and form of chocolate, cardamom and orange. Wait, that's three, but all three flavours do work very well with coffee. I would say that this combination of smooth coffee; astringent, dark cocoa; spicy, warm, almost gingery tang; and a sharp, sweet citrus kick is one of my most accomplished desserts to date. But then I would be bragging and no one likes a bragger. Especially one who can't really quenelle.
With that in mind, when plating this up, you might want to go for good old fashioned dollops of ice cream, rather than the egg-shaped ones. Unless of course, you are as fast and accomplished as that Daniel Pearce. I haven't seen anyone as quick as him yet though.