Sweet For The Sweets

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IC - Dennis

Strawberry coulis is a simple garnish that enhances many different desserts. It can be used as a topping for ice cream, as a layer between chiffon cakes or as a sauce for chocolate brownies.

Coulis employs agar-agar as a thickening agent. A polysaccharide derived from red algae, agar-agar flakes can be found in the health food section of your favorite grocery store. It acts just like gelatin, but at a much smaller volume. Agar-agar is also vegan, which makes it more versatile when cooking for large groups.

For this recipe, you’ll need a blender, a fine mesh strainer and a squeeze bottle with a fine tip. You’ll also need digital scales to measure the agar-agar. Because it is such a delicate hydrocolloid, agar-agar must be measured in grams.

Use very ripe strawberries for coulis. If you have a few strawberries that may be going bad, throw them in a plastic zip-close bag and put them in the freezer. Continue doing this through the summer months until you have enough strawberries to make a batch of this sauce. The finished sauce freezes very well, too, for up to six months.

Strawberry Coulis
1 pound fresh strawberries, destemmed and cored
¼ cup sugar
½ cup water
1 tablespoon brandy
(6 grams) agar-agar flakes

In a medium saucepan on medium-high heat, cook the sugar and water until you have a simple syrup. You will notice the sugar has dissipated completely and the hue of the liquid will be slightly tan. Wash and quarter the berries. Increase the heat for the simple syrup to high until it begins to boil. Add the agar-agar and whisk over the heat until dissolved. Turn off the heat and add the strawberries. Allow the berries to sit in the pan as the simple syrup cools for no more than 5 minutes. If you overcook the berries, your sauce will lose the bright red color.

Immediately transfer the slightly cooled sauce to a blender and puree. After blending, strain the seeds from the sauce by pushing the sauce through a fine mesh strainer onto a clean, flat sheet pan. At this point, you should be looking at a flat pan of seedless, red sauce and as it sits, it will solidify like Jell-O. This is called gelification.

Clean the blender and dry it completely. Once the sauce is set (about 1 hour at room temperature), break up the gel and transfer it back to the blender. Add brandy and begin to puree the gel. This will take a bit of time, since the blade of the blender will spin and push the gel back up toward the top. Be patient with it and take your time. Continue pushing the gel down in the blender and mixing until all of the gel particles are broken down and you are left with a smooth sauce. The finished sauce should have a loose consistency similar to toothpaste.

Transfer the sauce into a squeeze bottle and use to garnish desserts. Shake well before use.

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