Kitty’s experiments: Chronicle of a culinary tragedy

In Australia I was introduced to Adriano Zumbo’s patisserie, famous among other things for his “zumbarons”: a wide selection of macarons in original flavours. As I’d always only tasted the more classic versions offered by Laduree, I couldn’t wait to go adventurous. I picked salty butter caramel, passion fruit, and the one that would have proved my favourite: coconut, green chilli and lavender. I could taste the aromatic bitterness of the lavender, the exotic sweetness of the coconut and the spiciness of the chilli starting from different areas of my mouth and combining together into a whole new, exciting flavour. It was such a clear sensation that I could literally picture in in my head. That was the end: I wanted to recreate the recipe. Not as a macaron, as a cheesecake. Why? Go figure. Maybe because most designers like to take inspiration but not to copy. Nonetheless, it’s been two weeks of researching and planning — and let me tell you, when the jetlag keeps you wide awake at 4 a.m., you have all the time in the world to think about cheesecakes.

Once back to England, I picked a recipe for a peach cheesecake that I got from Leiths’ retro baking workshop and started amending it. What follows is the chronicle of my experiment.

7 am.
Did you know that the essence obtained by infusing lavender buds is brown? I should have, but I didn’t. And I am worried about what the filling will look like.
On the plus side, my hands smell amazing.

11.15
The lavender essence is camera shy. I tried to photograph it for about 15 minutes, moved it closer to the window, brought it outside, poured it into a transparent jar. I even used two different lenses. Nothing. At some point the focus hooked onto the reflection of a branch in the brown liquid. Below is all I could get. Crazy.

11.30
Time to test the ingredients before going into the oven. Singularly, they taste exactly as they should — I can’t stop smuggling spoonfuls of lavender cream into my mouth. But combined together, they seem to neutralise each other with an effectiveness I wouldn’t even have believed possible.

12.07
20 minutes into the baking progress, the cheese cream is raising.. is it supposed to? The only time I baked a cheesecake it was at Leiths and they have beautiful professional ovens without windows. I had no idea about what happened there. I’m none the wiser now; the only thing I know is that if it keeps raising it will spill out of the tin. Oh please deflate!

12.13
Tragedy strikes: the cheese turned gold on the top.

12.30
The final outcome: a bland cheesecake with a coconut crumble that crumbles, and a filling that should taste like lavender but it’s as plain as cream cheese.

The only positive: I have been planning the prop so far in advance [..didn’t I also say that about the cheesecake?] that at least the photo looks nice.

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