Healthier and faster, steaming sublimates vegetables but also desserts, from tender apple to soft marbled. Pastry chef and naturopath Jennifer Hart Smith pulled out a recipe book, My healthy steamed desserts, and today reveals its manufacturing secrets.
In the spirit of a kitchen healthy, pastry chefs are reviewing their copy to offer gourmets desserts low in sugars, fat and other undesirable ingredients. A trend endorsed by Jennifer Hart Smith, founder of Tookies, a Parisian “conscious pastry”. Through a catering service and culinary workshops, this trained naturopath demonstrates that one can reconcile health and gluttony. His latest discovery? Steam cooking, a “technique still unexplored in pastry making”, according to her, which allows fruits and cakes to be quickly cooked at a gentle temperature, at less than 100 ° C. The pastry chef has just published the results of her experiments in a book My healthy steamed desserts (Editions Marabout). A little glimpse of its manufacturing secrets.
Madame Figaro: Where does this steaming technique come from?
Jennifer Hart Smith. – Steaming is an ancestral 5,000-year-old technique that came from Japan and then exported to China. It is traditionally used to cook salty but also sweet in bamboo baskets, like the manju, a Japanese cupcake filled with chestnut cream. In France, this technique has only been established for about twenty years. It has developed in particular thanks to the Maghreb culture which popularized the use of couscoussiers in the 1980s. For this book, I was inspired by these different knowledge in order to conceive recipes of Asian inspiration but also to apply them to French specialties such as the floating island or the marbré.
What material is required to cook these desserts?
As a professional pastry chef, I have a steam oven but I also work with a vitalizer (a stainless steel cooking appliance, also called a steamer, composed of a dome, a sieve and a soup tureen, Editor's note). I chose the one developed by bio-nutritionist Marion Kaplan. It is practical, ergonomic, but on the other hand very expensive (more than 250 €). To save money, you can buy a bamboo basket which costs on average 10 euros. Another alternative, the couscoussier, easy to use. And to prepare compotes or jams, I use sterilization jars in which I place raw fruit, water and sugar, before plunging them into the steamer tank. I let it cook for ten minutes and voila! In the end, this material is easy to use but you have to be careful of bad reflexes. When you lift the lid of the steamer, do not put your face directly above it. Even if the cooking is gentle, the steam remains hot and can burn you.
Does cooking at low temperature change the flavor of the ingredients?
No, on the contrary, it preserves them. When you buy good products, I find baking kills taste. The steam will raise them. When I prepare my homemade jam, this gentle cooking wonderfully diffuses the aromas. I would even say that she improves the recipe. An egg custard, for example, is much better with steam. It is more nutritious and its texture is silky. In the steamer, I place a ramekin or a bowl containing a mixture of eggs, water, salt and oil. I add a lemon zest and sugar to spice it up. It's ready in six minutes. Fast and delicious! The same goes for the cakes, which are more honeycombed and tender when they come out of the steamer.
What are the nutritional benefits of a steamed dessert?
In pastry making, French chefs praise the famous "Maillard reaction", a transformation linked to the high temperature of the oven which allows the caramelization of proteins and therefore the browning of food. In other words, it is used for the formation of crusts of bread and cake. In naturopathy, we "hate" this kind of process because it creates an acrylamide, a molecule recognized by the WHO as being carcinogenic. This is why we naturopaths prefer gentler cooking, at less than 100 degrees such as steaming, which will retain trace elements, vitamins and nutrients and prevent the cake from burning.
What are the easiest and most effective recipes to start with?
When you start, it is better to start by cooking fruit. Their preparation and cooking time is both quick and easy. Take a steamed apple for example. I cook it without peeling it for six to eight minutes. After cooking, I cut it into pieces and cover it with chocolate sauce. It’s a great snack for the kids. When you're more comfortable steaming, you can take the black sesame egg cream to the next level. This recipe is handy because there are not many ingredients: an egg, a teaspoon of black sesame, a teaspoon of honey and 100 g of vegetable drink. And then with experience, it will be time to tackle the cakes. The preparation of the dough remains the same as that of a classic recipe, only the cooking differs. My followers love the chocolate marbled recipe. Its soft texture makes all the difference.
Does a steamed dessert keep better?
No. A steamed cake comes out more humid than one heated in the oven. And when the water evaporates in the open, it dries out the outside of the cake. This is why it should be consumed quickly because it becomes bland within almost two days. The jams also last less than those bought in the store, on average one to two weeks, because they do not contain any preservative.