A few weeks back, I updated my page in which I list my favourite tools. The list pretty much covers my camera gear (plus the Olympus OM-D I don’t own yet but dream of daily), my favourite knives and knifemakers, and the equipment I use for sous vide cooking. While I previously championed the SousVide Supreme, these days, my wife S and I are lucky enough to be using the coolest, smallest (and comparatively affordable) chamber vacuum packer on the market, the Vacmaster VP112EU, and the Addelice swid, a beautifully designed (and also comparatively affordable) immersion circulator. A chamber vacuum allows you to vacuum pack foods in and with liquid, which domestic vacuum packers are not able to do. Having this has allowed me to whip up some cool foods that previously would have been impossible given the equipment I had at home. One such item are the best tasting poached/candied apples I have ever had, which I’ve paired cold in the above picture with a beautiful apple cake.
Of course, making poached apples the old fashioned way is not that difficult. But serving apple slices that you’ve poached and then cooled down without them loosing their shape and colour is very difficult. Using the sous vide technique, on the hand, allows for a few things: Firstly, you can pre-portion the apple slices, which is great if you are not going to be eating all of it in one sitting or you plan to make this in very large quantities; secondly, the color of the cooked apples is really vivid and beautiful, and since one eats first with her eyes, it’s always nice to have as much of your dish looking its very best; and thirdly, because you can cool the apple slices down (in the cooking liquid) within the bags you’ve packed it into, the fruit maintains its shape perfectly. The texture of the resulting apples is very nice, with a bite that you also wouldn’t get from traditionally poached fruit. Served cold, they burst with flavour.
Doing this sous vide is also extremely easy. I’ve used a recipe adapted from one in Thomas Keller’s seminal sous vide cookbook Under Pressure. All you need to do is make your poaching liquid ahead of time, and chill it. Then when you want to prepare the apples, slice them, vacuum pack them in the liquid and cook them in a water bath for 3 hours at 75 degrees Celsius (167 degrees Fahrenheit). The great thing with cooking with a good immersion circulator is that you can go off and do other things while your food is being prepared. There’s absolutely no need for you to hang out in the kitchen. When the apples are done, quickly move the bags of fruit to an ice bath to cool them off as fast as possible and then place the chilled bags of fruit to your fridge, to be opened whenever you need them.
At home, we served our candied apples with a beautiful apple cake — the recipe comes from Tish Boyle’s The Cake Book (If you don’t have this book, you MUST buy it! One of the best cake cookbooks on the market and the one that S and I use the most. In fact, we are not sharing the recipe for this cake here in hopes you’ll go out and buy this book.) — and topped with some whipped cream that’s been sweetened with some ginger jam. It was a dessert that worked really well with my parents and S’s parents, all of whom prefer desserts that are not so sweet.
Of course, purchasing sous vide equipment for one’s home is a pretty hefty investment. The Vacmaster and Addelice swid that I have are probably the most affordable, best performing devices that fit in a domestic setting. But they’re still not cheap. For people who really want to experiment with restaurant-grade recipes, however, the investment will pay off in the long run.
500 ml dry white wine
500 ml water
500 g granulated sugar
Combine the wine, water, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let cool, and store in the fridge.
10 Golden Delicious Apples
About 2 kg of poaching liquid
Peel the apples, core them, and slice into nice wedges. Alternatively, if you want to get really fancy, use a parisienne scooper and scoop out balls.
Place apple slices or balls into vacuum packing bags. How much you put in each bag will depend on the size of the bags you are using and the portion size you want from each bag. Add poaching liquid into each bag, enough to cover the apples. Vacuum-pack on medium.
Cook the apples in a water bath at 75 degrees Celsius for about 3 hours. Cool in an ice bath and refigerate until serving.
When ready to serve, cut a bag open carefully, drain away the poaching liquid and carefully extract the apple slices.
I actually keep and bottle the poaching liquid. It will now have a lovely apple aroma and slight apple taste. I use this as an apple syrup for cocktails.