Cedric Grolet is one of the pastry chefs that broke the rules of pastry as we knew it and started creating desserts that defy the classic. He’s the creator of the well known Rubik, but also of the famous lemon shaped dessert, a pastry that looks just like its natural counterpart and it actually tastes like it, but it’s not the actual fruit. He didn’t stop with lemons though as his collection of desserts evolved to other fruits, including apricots, strawberries, lychee, peaches, hazelnuts, chestnuts and the list can go on with avocado or mandarins. The design is what attracts people the most – they look so natural, so luscious and the idea of eating something that looks like a fruit, but it’s actually a dessert is very appealing to the human brain. But their flavors are worth anyway as they tend to be strong, bold and focused on the fruit itself, not on sweetness.
The Lemon consists on just a few elements, but they all need to be done perfectly in order to achieve the best result and to get to the point where you see a real lemon and cut into a perfectly executed dessert. The elements of this dessert are:
- Poached lemon peel – a technique that I have been using in other desserts as well since it’s so tasty!
- Lemon gel – gels are most of the time made with agar agar as it allows the mix to become creamy and smooth just like a gel. Then lemon peel and lemon segments are added to this gel, together with chopped mint, thus creating the sphere insert. It has such a strong taste and flavor though that I fell in love with it.
- Yuzu whipped ganache – yuzu is one of the most amazing fruits I know with such a floral aroma, but it can be difficult to find. I suggest using lemon juice instead, but infuse lemon peel in the heavy cream before hand to get more aroma and less sourness.
- Velvet spray – or velvet coating – is a mix of equal quantities of white chocolate and cocoa butter, melted together to a certain temperature, depending on the use. When dipping the lemons, not more than 30C and when spraying around 40-45C.
- Neutral nappage – can be store bought or homemade – its purpose is to create a natural shine to the lemons, but I believe this step can be skipped if you’re not that bothered by it.
- Golden coating – a mix of gold powder and vodka is used for this step, just to give the lemons more shine.
They are not complex as you can see and the sugar quantity is not that high actually, but they do require a lot of attention to each step. I would say they are more technical than any other desserts, especially since they are formed by hand starting from a very simple sphere. And because of that I believe they become one of the best challenges for a pastry chef who still learns.
How to make The Lemon Shaped Dessert – adapted after a recipe by Cedric Grolet:
The Lemon by Cedric Grolet
- 800 g lemons
- 400 g sugar A
- 800 g water
- 400 g sugar B
- 180 g lemon juice
- 120 g water
- 75 g white sugar
- 5 g agar agar
- Lemon gel - recipe above
- 65 g lemon segments (cut into small pieces)
- 170 g poached lemons (cut into small pieces)
- 15 g mint (finely chopped)
Whipped yuzu ganache:
- 3 g gelati + 18g water
- 550 g heavy cream
- 140 g white chocolate
- 90 g yuzu juice
- 200 g white chocolate
- 200 g cocoa butter
- White food coloring
- Yellow food coloring
- Start by cutting the ends of the lemon, then cut each lemon in 8 equal slices. Remove the flesh of each slice, keeping the peel for poaching. Don't throw away the flesh either as you will use it later for segments.
- Blanch the lemon peel 3 times in hot water to remove the bitterness.
- Combine the water and sugar A and bring to a boil in a pot. Cool down to 70C then add the blanched lemon peel.
- Cook on very low heat for 2 hours.
- Add the sugar B and continue cooking for 2 more hours.
- Allow to cool down in the syrup before using.
- Combine the water and lemon juice in a pot.
- Mix the sugar and agar agar then add it to the liquid.
- Bring to a boil and cook for 30 seconds.
- Cool down completely in the fridge.
- Mix with a whisk until it becomes creamy again.
- Combine the lemon gel and the poached lemons, lemon segments and mint. Mix well.
- Spoon the insert mix into a half-sphere silicone mould - 4cm diameter - and freeze. Once frozen, spoon the remaining insert mix into another half-sphere mould then attach to it the frozen half-sphere already made, thus creating a full sphere. Freeze completely.
Yuzu whipped ganache:
- Heat up the heavy cream and bloomed gelatin.
- Pour over the white chocolate and blend well.
- Add the yuzu juice and blend.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
To mould the lemons:
- Whip 3/4 of the ganache until stiff. Keep the remaining ganache as you will use it later for shaping the lemons.
- Transfer the whipped ganache in a pastry bag then pipe it into the sphere mould. Add the lemon insert in the center and finish off the sphere with more ganache, making sure there are no air pockets.
- Freeze the spheres completely.
- Demould them, then clean the edges if any and fix the air pockets with more ganache.
To shape and finish the lemons:
- Pipe a bit of ganache on top of each sphere then shape both ends to look a bit like a lemon. Freeze again, then, using the heat of your hands, shape each sphere to make it look like a lemon. It's hard work, but now you can see it taking shape into an actual lemon.
- Keep the lemons frozen until glazing.
- Melt both components and mix together.
- Add a touch of white food coloring, then yellow until you are satisfied with the color.
- Bring this mix to 25-30C, then dip each lemon into this mix.
- Arrange all the dipped lemons on a tray.
- Bring the velvet mix to 45-50C then spray it over the lemons to create the velvet look.
- As the final touches, spray the lemons with melted neutral napage, followed by a thin layer of gold powder to create a natural shine.