Kymberli DeLost uses doenjang at home in ramen, sauces, and marinades, she says, but she’s never experimented with the Korean fermented bean paste at the Gage, Acanto, or the Dawson, the three Billy Lawless restaurants where she runs the pastry programs. At least, she hadn’t until David Park (Hanbun) challenged her to create a dish with doenjang. The bean paste is similar to miso (both are made from soybeans), DeLost says, but with more fermented flavor and less sweetness.
DeLost says the biggest challenge to working with doenjang was bringing out its flavor, especially the caramel and umami notes, without allowing its saltiness to overpower the dish. “We did an ice cream that kind of tasted like a salt lick with butter,” she says. “It was pretty intense.” Still, the pastry chef was determined to create a dessert. Inspired by doenjang’s caramel flavors, DeLost settled on budino—an Italian custard often flavored with butterscotch or caramel. She started by adding a full two cups of bean paste to the whipped cream, eggs, sugar syrup, and white chocolate that made up the budino mousse. That, DeLost says, was “just to see how far not to take it.” She ended up using a quarter cup of doenjang in a recipe that yields a full three quarts of mousse. Though the recipe doesn’t include caramel or butterscotch, the white chocolate is made with muscovado sugar, which adds “molasses notes and deeper undertones that go really well with the salt,” she says.
To go with the budino mousse, DeLost created a gelato flavored with green tea, Korean-style popcorn, and makgeolli (a Korean alcoholic beverage made from rice). For crunch, she coated caramelized puffed rice with more melted white chocolate, then tossed it with pistachio flour, matcha powder, dark chocolate shavings, and orange zest. For a fresh, sweet, and slightly bitter flavor she sprinkled orange segments with sugar and torched the until the sugar blackened slightly.
Tasting the dish, DeLost said, “I really love this, because the flavors of the bean paste really come out despite everything else that’s going on.” She liked the combination of Italian and Korean influences so much that she ended up running it as a special at Acanto. “This is an approachable way for people to get comfortable with Korean flavors,” she says.
DeLost has challenged pastry chef Kevin McCormick of Beacon Tavern to create a dish with eggplant. “I’ve had it in dessert and it’s one of my favorite things, but you never see it, so I want to see how creative he can get,” she says.