Masterchef’s dessert whiz and co-founder of the iconic late-night Sydney dessert hub, Koi, Reynold Poenormohas branched into the world of cookbooks with his debut work, The Dessert Game. He weaves personal anecdotes of growing up as a first-generation migrant in Australia with intricate, detailed instructions for perfecting the picturesque dessert creations for which he is synonymous.
His desserts are a fusion of tradition and innovation, utilising his Indonesian heritage and Australian upbringing to create drool-worthy desserts.
“Growing up I had a really Western palette, growing up with certain brands and Australian sweets.
“As I got older, my palette matured and I found myself incorporating flavours I grew up eating at home, particularly South East Asian ingredients like palm sugar, pandan, glutinous rice, and mixing those with classic Australian desserts like cheesecakes and mousses.”
If you’re familiar with his work, I’m sure you have also had the resounding thought of, “No way. I can’t do that. Let’s leave it to professional pâtissiers” coupled with crippling insecurity about being able to even come class to his feats. But, for your sake and mine, I conveyed my fears to Reynold about how I felt daunted at the prospect of attempting restaurant quality desserts in my humble kitchen.
“Making desserts, although you need to stick to a good recipe, isn’t as inflexible and scientific when you get into it. It’s more about innovation and thinking about core qualities and flavours of ingredients and how well they could marry into each other,” he said.
“So, for instance, substituting milk when making caramel with juice since they’ve got the same viscosity transforms a rich caramel into something fruitier.”
TheDessert Game is organised into three levels of ‘difficulty’, and I was feeling a good 73 per cent courageous when I chose the recipe below. As it turns out, this much courage will suffice to create a dessert I thought was beyond my league. Challenging, yes. Rewarding and delicious, absolutely.
The King of Koi knows his desserts and his book helps you elevate your skills, too.
Images and text from The Dessert Game by Reynold Poernomo, photography by Jeremy Simons. Murdoch Books RRP $36.99
Tropical Pannacotta Jar Serves 4
▪ 200 mL strained, fresh passionfruit juice
▪ 130g unsalted butter ▪ 8 eggs ▪ 20 g white (granulated) sugar
Combine the passionfruit juice and butter in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until simmering.
Whisk the eggs and sugar in a heatproof bowl until fluffy. Whisk I n the hot passionfruit mixture. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring once every couple of minutes until the mixture has thickened.
Transfer the hot curd mixture into a jug and blend. Pass the curd through a fine sieve and place in the fridge for a few hours or preferably overnight.
▪ 5 gelatine sheets (titanium grade) ▪ 350 mL full cream milk ▪ 150 g white (granulated) sugar ▪ 1⁄2 tsp salt
▪ 250 mL single cream
▪ 400 mL coconut milk
Soak the gelatine in cold water to soften.
Combine the milk, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Gently heat until simmering, ensuring the sugar and salt are dissolved. Squeeze the excess water from the softened gelatine, add to the pan and stir until dissolved. Stir in the cream and coconut milk.
Pour the mixture into four (300 mL) jars or small bowls and refrigerate for 4 hours or until set.
▪ 200 mL mango puree ▪ 50 g white (granulated) sugar
▪ Juice of 1 lime ▪ 3.7 g agar
Combine the mango puree, sugar and lime juice in a blender. Blend in the agar. Pour the mixture into a saucepan over high heat. After mixture comes to a boil, leave it for 10 seconds then remove the pan from the heat.
Pour the mixture into a container and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes or until set.
Blend the jelly until smooth, then pass it through a fine sieve. Transfer the gel to a piping bag and place in the fridge until needed.
▪ 500 mL water ▪ 100 g sago pearls ▪ 50 mL coconut milk, plus extra if needed
▪ Palm sugar (jaggery) to taste
Boil water and add the sago pearls, cooking over medium heat for 10 minutes or until only a small white dot remains on the pearls. Strain the sago and run it under cold water.
Combine the sago and coconut milk in a container. Stir in grated palm sugar to taste. Place in the fridge until needed. If the sago soaks up too much liquid and dries up, add some coconut milk to loosen the mixture.
▪ 400 g diced pineapple ▪ 4 star-anise ▪ 2 pinches of saffron ▪ 2 pieces of cassia bark or cinnamon sticks ▪ 150 g white (granulated) sugar
▪ 200 mL water
Combine the pineapple and spices in a bowl.
Put the sugar in a saucepan and give the pan a shake to spread it in an even layer. Place the pan over medium-low heat. Once the sugar starts to caramelise around the edges, use a spatula to bring the caramel and melted sugar to the middle of the pan. Gently stir the caramel every so often to make sure the sugar lumps dissolve. Once the caramel is completely sooth and all the sugar has caramelised, cook until it turns a dark amber. Remove the pan from the heat.
Add the pineapple mixture to the caramel. Deglaze the pan with water and cook over medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes or until the pineapple is tender and translucent.
Set aside to cool and remove the whole spices.
To assemble, spoon the coconut sago into each pannacotta jar until covered. Pipe a large dollop of passionfruit curd on top of the coconut sago, then add small dollops of mango gel.
Add three small spoonfuls of caramelised pineapple to each jar and garnish with edible flowers and/or micro mint.
Note: I added pandan (dubbed Asian vanilla) extract for fragrance to my sago mix which accounts for its slightly green hue. There was some separation in my pannacotta mixture which may have been because of the difference in densities between cream and coconut milk/ overheating. Do a bit of research and let us know if you found a good tip!