Compared to other kitchen jobs – with the chopping, searing, shouting and constant motion – pastry work can seem almost ethereal, like alchemy sifted with sugar and dreams. It follows that pastry makers might think a bit differently. So it went with this year’s Grace Bay Club entry in the 2016 Chocolate Lovers Showcase Sweet Award. This year’s winner was created by Executive Pastry Chef Vadivel Raji and his crew.
Chef Vadivel, a native of India, leads a five-person team dedicated to creating handcrafted items. Celebrating a birthday? They’ll make a special-order cake. Coming on vacation and looking to indulge a diet-deprived sweet tooth? It’s their job to deliver a melt-in-your-mouth memory. Of course, the team bakes all the classics – dinner rolls, croissants and breakfast pastries among them – but it also churns up the ice cream and sorbets from scratch, too. He enjoys it all, but admits his favorite is chocolate – chocolate cake, specifically, maybe blended with orange and spices, so that “when you feel the spice, it’s not heavy.”
Now in his 10th year in Turks and Caicos, Vadivel could have gone that route for this year’s showcase, serving up one of the kitchen’s beloved chocolate cakes. But something else was turning in his mind, and the idea wouldn’t let go. An idea called Fried Milk Chocolate Crème Brûlée.
We’re still talking crème brûlée, here, right? Vanilla-flavored custard? Hardened caramel surface, often heated with a clever little blowtorch right before serving? There’s nothing remotely chocolate – much less fried – about anything remotely related to the classic concept.
But here’s how Vadivel describes his inspiration: “Normally we have the crème brûlée,” he said. “So I thought, ‘Why not try to fry it?’”
In fairness, other culinary dreamers from Martha Stewart to Paula Deen had already solved the whole replace-the-vanilla-with-chocolate thing. But the tricky part is how to tackle the “How do you fry it?” problem. Suffice it to say, Vadivel’s solution wasn’t simply the Providenciales equivalent of dumping a Hostess Twinkie in a vat of hot grease at the Iowa State Fair.
Having posed the question, Vadivel and his team began pondering the challenge. The answer would require deconstructing the classic crème brûlée concept to its basic components, then re-inventing each step. Instead of a cream-based custard formed in a ramekin, Vadivel would attempt to recreate the famous dessert’s flavors and textures in what would be, essentially, a chocolate truffle.
And then they would fry it.
His method began with making the crème brûlée base harder, forming it into balls, rolling them in a crème brûlée coating, rolling that in panko bread crumbs, and then a dip in the deep fryer. Once retrieved, he’d cover the fried truffle with a sauce featuring Indonesian Gula java and coconut milk, then serve the concoction warm with vanilla and roasted cocoa beans.
Yes, it sounds improbable. But the result? Miraculous. The dessert stayed true to the flavors of a chocolate crème brûlée, even keeping the the crack on the outside, but in a completely modern way.
Wolfgang von Wieser, Grace Bay Club’s group director of food and beverage said the team has participated in the event for the past six years, and he really enjoyed watching the group take it to the next level.
“I am proud of Vadivel and the whole team for their work,” von Wieser said. “They came up with the idea and it really worked.”
Fried Milk Chocolate Crème Brûlée is now on the menu at Grace Bay Club’s signature restaurant, Infiniti.