Pickled Rose
Food and art, mutually inspired.


The Armada of Golden Dreams

My two creative worlds are colliding rapidly! So fast, in fact, that I'm spinning a little out of control and I've nearly just started.  I suppose I should fill you in a little.  I am going to be involved in a project for Invisible City Audio Tours called The Armada of Golden Dreams, which is an audio tour throughout the Financial District in San Francisco all about the buried ships under the city.  Here is an excerpt about the show.

Don’t miss the boat:The Armada of Golden Dreams sets sail May 7, 2011

This coming spring, twelve Bay Area authors, composer Jesse Solomon Clark, and visual artists George Pfau, Joshua Churchill, and Rebecca Ebeling will raise the hulks of the Gold Rush fleet of 1849 from beneath the streets of downtown San Francisco.

To celebrate the launch of our second tour, we’re inviting all our fans and supporters to come take the tour in tandem on May 7, then join us for drinks, food, and perhaps a few sea shanties at the after-party hosted by The Old Ship Saloon (a pub built on the remains of the Arkansas, a Gold Rush vessel featured on our tour).

I'm super excited to be a part of this amazing project with such amazing writers and artists!  This is where the collision happens.  I'm going to be making an edible sculpture/installation which will be displayed at the after-party at The Old Ship Saloon.  My visions of grandeur include stacks of chocolate bars of gold, piles of shimmery gold nuggets made of Rice Krispie treats, and sunken ships emerging from a sea of gold- plus some other stuff, but I don't want to give away all my secrets.

I started my first test run yesterday, trying to work out the kinks in preparing the components of the piece.  First on my list was Rice Krispie gold nuggets.    I made the Rice Krispie treats according to the directions on the package and then made a quick ganache from some chocolate bars I had on hand and some half and half.  I formed the treats into small rock shapes and then gave them a luxurious bath in the ganache and let the chocolate set up in the refrigerator for about an hour.  My confidence level at this point was through the roof.  I've totally got this, I could make hundreds of these, no problem.

It was time to dazzle up my rocks with some edible gold powder.   I've seen this stuff used on all those fancy cake shop reality t.v. shows and it looked really easy to use, and I'm a painter, so how different could it be from the watercolor paints I use?  Let me just say that it's unbelievably different and it wasn't cooperating.  But after a few adjustments I had some gold nuggets that looked, well, like gold nuggets.  Definitely not what I had visioned in my head, but for my  first stab at this I was pretty proud.

My next test did not turn out so great.  Actually, it was a complete and utter failure.  But it tasted good, so that counts for something, right?  I found some really great candy molds at Sur la Table that were in the shapes of different gems and jewels.  They were absolutely perfect.  The moment I saw them my brain started racing with images of piles of chocolatey bedazzled goodness.  How hard could it be?  You just pour some melted chocolate into the mold, let it firm up, and voila! chocolate jewels for all to enjoy.  Yeah, not so much.  The ganache was thick so I had to spoon it into the mold and scrape away the excess off with a knife.  It was definitely not a pretty sight, a chocolate massacre if you will.  So once the chocolate had firmed up it wouldn't budge out of the mold and I had to pry it out with a knife, crumbling it to bits.  Needless to say there are some kinks to work out.  A LOT of them.

So all of this Rice Krispie madness had given me an idea for a dessert that was a little more adult than the usual crispy, marshmallow square.   Rice Krispie treat panna cotta- a custard-like treat made from milk, cream, and gelatin flavored with actual Rice Krispie treats.  The panna cotta is rich and creamy and it tastes, well, like Rice Krispie treats. It's actually kind of uncanny.  Toasting the Rice Krispies before making them into the treats enhances the cereal flavor, which would probably be overwhelmed by the sugar otherwise.  It's sort of like how I described avocado ice cream to someone once: it tastes just like you're probably imagining, but better.

Rice Krispie Treat Panna Cotta


6 cups Rice Krispies

1 10 oz. bag of large marshmallows

3 tablespoons of butter

3 cups milk

2 cups half and half or heavy whipping cream

sugar to taste

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

unflavored gelatin

preheat oven to 300 degrees

Spread cereal onto large cookie sheet and toast in oven until lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes.  Make sure to keep a close eye on these and stir them occasionally to prevent burning.  In a large pot on low heat, melt the butter and marshmallows together stirring continuously.  Add the Rice Krisipies to the pot and mix everything together. Once cool enough to handle, break the Rice Krispie treats into manageable pieces.

Next combine milk, half and half, and vanilla together into a large bowl.  Add the Rice Krispie treats and steep in the milk mixture for 45 minutes.  Add sugar to taste if the milk isn't sweet enough.  Then strain the milk through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl, pressing down with a spoon to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.  There will be less liquid than when you started, as the cereal will have absorbed some. Using a measuring cup, transfer the liquid into a saucepan one cup at a time, making a note of how much liquid remains.

Heat the milk on low heat, stirring continuously, until steaming and hot to the touch.  Measure out 1/4 tablespoon of gelatin for every 1 1/4 cups of liquid into a small bowl.  Add 1/4 cup of the hot liquid to the gelatin, and whisk to combine.  Let stand for 5 minutes allowing the gelatin to bloom, and pour the mixture back into the pot with the remaining milk.  Stir to combine.

Portion the liquid into containers of your choice (ramekins, small bowls, a mold, whatever). Cover the container(s) with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap down so that it is touching the liquid, being careful to squeeze out as much air as possible.  This will prevent a skin from forming on the top as it sets up.

Chill for 2-3 hours, until firm.