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« Nutella, not just for the bedroom anymore, Part III: Nutella powder | Main | Ravioli without borders, Part II: Liquid mango ravioli with coconut foam and toasted rice »

February 14, 2007

Nachismo: el Bulli's Doritos croquant polvoron


Some members of the fooderati look down their noses at Doritos and other junk food, but let's be honest here: Doritos rule!  Salty, cheesy, and mildly spicy, they are flat out addictive. There are times (and perhaps it's best I not elaborate on what times I'm talking about), when the craving for a Dorito is so strong I swear I can hear the siren song of a large bag of Sweet Chili Heat beckoning me to crash on its crunchy shores.

So you've got to love the cojones (by the way, how do you say "balls" in Catalan?) of Ferran Adria for even thinking he can improve on the humble Dorito.  Adria's solution: polvorones.  What's a polvoron?  It's a Filipino dessert made by mixing toasted flour with melted butter, powdered milk (or baby formula, apparently), and a little lemon or vanilla extract, then molding the mixture into bite-size cakes using a polvoron stamper.  For an overview of the process, click here.  For a recipe, click here.

Adria introduces his version of polvorones in el Bulli: 2003-2004.  The technique was developed as a response to two unique problems: first, el Bulli makes a huge assortment of croquants (trust me, I know), which means they have lots of croquant leftovers; secondly, hard crack sugar confections absorb humidity greedily, and Spain is one humid place.  Under such circumstances, caramel dust clumps uncontrollably. So why not turn the problem into a recipe?  Take the already clumping caramel, shape it between two teaspoons, and serve it.  Bam!  Faster than you can say, "increased profit margin," polvorones are born.

This polvoron is simple: heat glucose and Isomalt, then mix with Doritos blitzed in the food processor.  Once molded, dress the oval with some Maldon salt, lime zest, and "lime pearls," little teardrops of lime jelly made with agar agar, and serve.

I wanted to love these.  Badly.  The problem is that they're good, but they're not better than a regular Dorito.  This may sound obvious, but the glucose and Isomalt impart a noticeable element of sweetness, though it is more muted than you might expect.  The nacho flavour is still dominant, however.  The lime pearls are the best part of this dish: acidic and tangy, they brighten this preparation considerably. So far, so good.  My issue is a matter of texture: I enjoy the crackle of a Dorito.  Doritos polvoron has a softer, almost chewy mouthfeel, a texture that usually implies staleness in any nacho.

Some of the responsibility for these issue lies with me, I think. For one, I'm not sure my polvoron was sufficiently processed.  Hard as I tried, I couldn't get as fine a powder as I was hoping for.  Also, I prepared my polvorones with fewer lime pearls than perhaps I should.  A quick scan of the el Bulli catalogue photo shows that they use a lot more pearls than I did.

For those of you looking for a great way to incorporate the humble corn chip into your culinary life, I urge you to visit Matt Bites and bask in the glory of his irresistible Fritos pie.  As for Doritos, stick to au naturel.


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It's hard to improve on something that's already so great...


But they do look so pretty...and the lime pearls look fun!


I have to agree that Sweet Chili Heat Doritos are going to the Junk Food Hall of Fame. The food scientists nailed it when they invented these puppies. Available only in Canada ? Maybe we can trade for some Oscar Mayer or BallPark Franks ? US hotdogs taste so much better than CDN sliders.

Ari (Baking and Books)

I love Doritos but my husband hates them - can't stand them! Maybe if I fancify them into something like this I can change his mind?

What a fascinating post, you are quickly becoming one of my favorite food bloggers. :)


Those pearls look pretty yummy...and balls in Catalan is "collos" with a accent on the last "o"...don't ask me how I know...


Rob - What an interesting technique! I have yet to add the 03-04 book to my collection. I wonder how it would taste with Flaming Hot Cheetohs or perhaps Ketchup Chips! The possibilities are endless!

Have you gotten a chance to read Cocinar en Casa con Caprabo?


Mmmm, looks delicious. Hope your 14th was wonderful.


Brilynn, glad to hear you're a Doritos fan.

Freya, the lime pearls really are fantastic. It makes want to play around with agar agar to see just how versatile it can be.

Tommy, is Sweet Chili Heat only available in Canada? Another great reason to live on this side of the border! I'm not sure about whether US dogs are better than our own. I do know, however, that a Toronto street dog makes an excellent meal -- especially right before a Leafs or Raptors game at the ACC.

Ari, you're way too kind, but thanks. I have to say, if your husband like Doritos neat, he's probably not going to be converted to them by this dish. How can someone not like Doritos?

Tartelette, thanks for justifying my faith in food bloggers. For some reason, I just knew someone would answer my question.

No, I haven't had a chance to read Cocinar in Casa. Why do you ask? By the way, Gerald, how do you know about ketchup chips? I thought those were a Canadian thing, unavailable in the US. It was the one junk food advantage I thought we had (sorry, fellow Canadians, but the junk food possibilities in the US are limitless).

Thanks, Allison, I hope your Valentines was wonderful, too.

Joey Mack

Looks like a decent recipe but I think I would top the polvoron with a spoonful of nacho cheese instead of lime pearls.

Mar Calpena

Actually, Ari, it's "collons" in plural (whereas it's "colló" in singuar). And that's a fairly common interjection in Catalan...
It's funny, because in Catalan we often say "I don't have the peppers (pebrots) for it" when you don't have the guts to do something, with peppers standing in for the other concept.


Hullo Rob, I'm enjoying your blog a lot, just finished reading the rabbit ears post (and the comments!! Oh my!).
I had to share your post to friends of mine since we're based in the Philippines and you prescribed polvoron as Filipino. We had assumed it started as a Spanish dessert, although the use of dried milk made it a fusion sort of dessert (since dried milk only showed up during our American colonial era). The use of blitzed Doritos is definitely an interesting change of taste. We add stuff like dried rice and dried beans to our polvorons.


I think you meant powdered baby formula and not baby powder. Big difference ;o)

groceries philippines

That kind of polvoron seems so delicious. I wonder how to do it, so that I can try it on my own. I will look for the ingredients when I go to groceries. Thanks for sharing.


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