Circa 1978, Marcella Hazan, a WYSKy, gastronomic guru who is considered to be the patron saint of Italian cooking in America, pioneered a crazy culinary technique in her classic recipe for roast duck. To achieve THE PERFECT skin that’s “succulent” and “deliciously crisp”, but not oily, she used… a HAIR DRYER!
Inspired by this idea, the folks over at NPR recently attempted to use Hazan’s method to give a gourmet blowout to a classic, ooey, gooey, melty treat that has just three ingredients: chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers. To make their hair dryer s’mores, which they did in their office, they used dark, 70 percent chocolate and were “blown away” by the results.
Here’s why it worked, “Most hair dryers produce air that’s about 200 degrees Fahrenheit when the nozzle is about 2 inches from a surface. That’s the perfect temperature for melting chocolate (or butter) without burning it.”
The hair dryer s’mores makers explain, “Seconds after the hot air hits the candy’s surface, the dark chocolate starts to get glossy. Then it quickly turns into a chocolate fountain flowing across the graham cracker. (Note: You do have to hold the chocolate down with a fork or chopstick to keep it from blowing off the plate).”
Photo credit: Morgan Walker/NPR
But hair dryer cookery proved not to be a perfect science in the NPR endeavor. “The dryer will also melt the marshmallow. But the air from the appliance is too cool to toast the marshmallow and give it a brown color. Caramelization of sugar and other browning reactions occur only at temperatures above 350 degrees Fahrenheit.” Still a pretty cool way to make s’mores when you don’t have a campfire handy.
According to the food scientists at America’s Test Kitchen, there are three other reasons to keep a hair dryer in the pantry:
softening up a bar of chocolate to make it easier to shave off slivers
restarting a charcoal grill fire… safely and tamely
putting a silky-smooth, lustrous sheen on cake frosting
Circling back to the Woman You Should Know who started this kind of culinary styling, if you want to learn how to get the perfect “Marcella Hazan” skin on your holiday duck or chicken using a hair dryer, NPR gives you the blow by blow. Check it out here.