Tuesday, June 29, 2010

daring bakers: chocolate pavlovas

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

I had a lot of fun with this month's challenge, once I had time to make it. (We have had in-laws visiting, friends visiting, a family reunion, and so on, some of which we had planned on and some we hadn't. Between one thing and another, I didn't get a chance to start baking until after the posting date.) All of the components except the mascarpone were easy to make. I love the mascarpone mousse and the creme anglaise.

I've had trouble with making mascarpone before, and this time was no exception. I cooked it about three times as long as I was supposed to and still couldn't get it up to the required temperature, so I cheated and started throwing portions of it in the microwave to bring up the overall temperature. Finally, I got it to 190. I think I overcooked it, though. In the past, I haven't been able to get it to set up. This time it set up, but only made 1 cup of very thick mascarpone. So I had to make a second batch. That time, I skipped the double boiler (I suspect my stove just sucks) and cooked it on low and was able to complete the recipe in 15-20 minutes. Although it wasn't quite as thick as I'd expected. I'll keep working on it.

Anyway, because the first batch of mascarpone was so thick, I only used 1 C of mascarpone in my mascarpone mousse and thinned it down with an extra 1/2 C or so of whipping cream. Everything else was simple to make and assemble. For my photo, I wanted a dessert with a bit of height, so I piped on several layers of mousse. However, I found that I preferred the flavor of the dessert with just one generous layer of mousse and tons of mascarpone cream to balance things out. I enjoyed the dessert and am filing it away for when I need a light (as in not filling, not as in low-calorie), fancy dessert with plenty of flavor. I don't know whether I'll make it again for just for myself because I like my desserts to have a little more density so that I don't feel like I can eat five of them. (Good thing the batch only made four.) I will definitely be making the mousse and the anglaise again, though. They were both spectacular. The anglaise is the best I've tested yet. Frankly, it seems like a bit of a waste to hide most of its flavor by serving it with the mousse. Thanks to Dawn for the recipes. A great choice.

chocolate pavlovas and chocolate mascarpone mousse with mascarpone cream

While the pavlovas are baking, the crème anglaise should be made which will take about 15 minutes. While it is cooling, the chocolate mascarpone mousse can be made, which will take about 15 minutes. There will be a bit of a wait time for the mascarpone cream because of the cooling time for the Crème Anglaise. If you make the Crème Anglaise the day before, the dessert should take about 2 hours, including cooking time for the pavlovas.

Equipment required:
baking sheet with parchment or silpat
several bowls
piping bag with pastry tip
hand or stand mixer

chocolate meringue (for the chocolate pavlova):
3 large egg whites
½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar
¼ cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) Dutch processed cocoa powder

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.

2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should be firm but moist.)

3. Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)

4. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon.

5. Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

chocolate mascarpone mousse (for the top of the pavlova base):
1 ½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier

1. Put ½ cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.

2. Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (Do not overbeat as the mascarpone will break.)

3. Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.

mascarpone cream (for drizzling):
1 recipe crème anglaise
½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone
2 tbsp (30 mls) Sambucca (optional)
½ cup (120 mls) heavy cream

1. Prepare the crème anglaise. Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the Sambucca and let the mixture cool. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.

crème anglaise:
1 cup (235 mls) whole milk
1 cup (235 mls) heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar

1. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow.

2. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat. .

3. Pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. Do not overcook.

4. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.

mascarpone cheese (Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese, from Baking Obsession)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

Ingredients: 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.

It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.

Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and top with fresh fruit if desired.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

deep, dark chocolate cookies

Dorie Greenspan's Baking is one of the staples in my cooking library. I love this book, so much that I will try even the recipes that don't really appeal to me. I've had the book for several years, and at no point tried the Chocolate Chunkers. Don't get me wrong--I love almost anything chocolate. But I'm not much for dried fruit in my cookies or my chocolate, my husband hates nuts in dessert, and "chunkers" is a word that turns me off. So I didn't get around to trying the recipe until I needed to make chocolate-chocolate chip cookies for a friend. I thumbed through several baking books. Some of the recipes I found sounded all right, and some sounded a little iffy. But on closer reading, Dorie's cookies, with two kinds of chocolate melted into the batter and two more mixed in in chunks, sounded pretty amazing, name notwithstanding.

The first time I made these, I omitted the dried fruit and nuts and used bittersweet and milk chocolate for my mix-ins. Although I loved the batter, I didn't like the cookies until the next day, when they were thoroughly cool and so less sweet. This time, I made them sans fruit and nuts and with only bittersweet mixed in, in hopes that avoiding milk chocolate would make them enjoyable even before they cool. Because who wants to wait to enjoy double-chocolate cookies? Not me.

The result was indeed a cookie that I didn't have to wait a day to enjoy, though I expect I will again like these cookies still more after they've cooled completely. I love the intensity of these, although I'm considering the possibility that they would be best of all as Dorie intended them, with fruit and nuts to cut the richness.

deep, dark chocolate cookies (adapted from Baking, by Dorie Greenspan)

1/3 C flour
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
.25 tsp baking powder
.5 tsp salt
6 oz bittersweet
1 oz unsweetened
3 oz butter
2 eggs
2/3 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
12 oz bittersweet, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.

Place 6 oz bittersweet, 1 oz unsweetened, and butter in microwaveable bowl and microwave in twenty-second intervals, stirring between intervals, until melted. (Be careful not to overcook.)

Place eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat on medium speed until foamy and pale. On low speed, mix in vanilla. Scrape down bowl. On low speed, mix in chocolate mixture until just combined. Still on low speed, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in 12 oz bittersweet chocolate.

Spoon large tablespoons full of batter onto baking sheets, about an inch apart. Bake one sheet at a time for 10-12 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheet and cool on cookie racks.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Martha Stewart's rhubarb meringue pie

I was thumbing through Martha Stewart Living at B's aunt's house last week and admiring the pictures, so B's aunt kindly lent me several back issues. When I flipped through the May issue, I saw all the rhubarb and knew this was where I had to start. B requested the rhubarb meringue pie. It was easy but time-consuming to make, just because the rhubarb pulp had to be cleaned out of the juicer so frequently. (Cleaning up, on the other hand, was ridiculously difficult and time-consuming. Getting all the bits of rhubarb pulp out of the tiny crannies of the juicer I'd borrowed required a bevy of toothpicks and an electric toothbrush [with a clean head, of course].)

The end result was nice but not amazing. Despite my following the directions exactly, the pie filling didn't firm up quite enough. Every time I cut a slice, the filling gooshed all over. And the meringue was not the billowy-yet-firm masterpiece I'd imagined from the photo. It didn't quite set properly, and there wasn't enough of it. And the overall flavor, though nice, was a bit one-dimensional. However, I really loved the crust, which I wasn't expecting after tasting the dough before it baked. The crust was just perfect. The pie was nice enough that I'd like to try it again with a few tweaks. When I make it again, I'll make more meringue, whipped to firm rather than medium peaks. I'll add just a bit of gelatin to the filling to firm it up. And if the extra meringue doesn't balance out the sour filling, I may resort serving it with strawberries.

rhubarb meringue pie (from Martha Stewart Living, May 2010, p 34)
1 disk pate sucree
all-purpose flour, for surface
2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and cut crosswise into 3-inch pieces
1.75 C sugar
coarse salt
3 large egg yolks plus 4 large egg whites
2 TB unsalted butter

1. Preheat aoven to 375. Roll out pate sucree to 1/8" thickness on a lightly floured surface. fit dough into a 9" pie dish; trim to 1", fold under, and crimp edges. Refrigerate for 30 min. Prick inside of pie shell all over with a fork; line with parchment. fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edges are golden and set, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove weights and parchment. Bake until bottom is dry and light gold, 5-10 min. more. Let cool.

2. Juice rhubarb. (You'll need a juicer to make this filling. Rhubarb is fibrous, so cut it into 3" pieces before juicing. This will help keep the fibers from clogging the appliance. Clean your machine if it gets too full or sounds labored.) You'll need 2.25 C juice; add water if needed. Whisk together 1 C sugar, the cornstarch, and .25 tsp salt. Whisk in juice; bring to a boil in a medium saucepan, whisking. Cook for 1 min.

3. Place yolks ina bowl; gradually hisk in half of hot juice mixture. Return to pan. cook over medium heat, whisking, until thick, about 1 min. Whisk in butter. Strain through a fine sieve into pie shell. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours or overnight.

4. Preheat abroiler with rack about 8" from heat source. Heat whites and remaining .75 C sugar in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering waater, whisking, until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot (160 F), about 2 min. Transfer to the bowl of a mixer. Whisk on high speed until medium peaks form. Dollop meringue onto pie. Broil until well browned, 30-40 seconds.

pate sucree
2 large egg yolks
.25 C aice water
2.5 C all-purpose flour
3 TB sugar
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1. Lightly beat together yolks and water until combined.

2. Pulse flour, sugar, and a pinch of salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds. Drizzle yolk mixture over dough mixture. Pulse until mixture just begins to hold together (no longer than 30 seconds).

3. Divide dough in half, and wrap in plastic wrap. Shape dough into disks. Refrigerate until firm, 30 minutes or overnight.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

le succes

This dessert is the reason I bought Rose's Heavenly Cakes. When I thumbed through a copy at the bookstore, none of the other recipes really called to me (although that has certainly changed as I've looked through the book more). But le succes looked heavenly with its thick layers of ganache. And it's absolutely as good as it looks. Layers of ganache sandwiched between almond meringue disks, it's basically a giant truffle. And the ganache is made with creme fraiche, which gives it a lovely, subtle tang. It's quick and easy to make, although you do need to wait a day to eat it. I'll definitely make it again, and I can't wait to make the ganache by itself for truffles.

le succes (from Rose's Heavenly Cakes, Rose Levy Beranbaum)
Prepare and compose a day in advance.

6.3 oz almond flour
6.3 oz superfine sugar
7.5 oz (weight) egg whites (about 7) at room temp.
1 tsp cream of tartar

Line two 17-inch baking sheets with parchment and coat lightly with cooking spray. Mark three 8-inch circles on the parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Beat egg whites on medium until foamy. With mixer off, add cream of tartar. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Gradually beat in 2.5 TB of sugar until stiff peaks form when beater is raised slowly. (If whites are not very stiff, the succes will spread slightly during baking.)

Fill a pastry bag (with 1/2-inch plain tip) with meringue and pipe the batter onto the baking sheets, forming three 8-inch circles, starting at the perimeter and spiraling inward toward the center. Because the disks will puff and expand up to 1/2 nnch in diameter when baking, do not pipe them too close to the edge of the pan. Use an offset spatula to fill in any gaps with leftover batter and smooth the surface.

Bake first the two circles then the remaining circle, baking each pan for 15-20 minutes, or until the disks just begin to brown. Rotate the pan front to back n the oven halfway through.

Place on baking sheet on wire rack to cool. Cool completely, then loosen carefully with long offset spatula, including at the centers.

tea ganache
1 lb dark chocolate, chopped
13.6 oz creme fraiche
2.7 oz heavy cream
4 tsp instant powdered lemon tea

Whisk together cream and creme fraiche and scald it. Pour it over the chocolate and mix until smooth. Mix in the tea. Let it sit for an hour, then cover with plastic and let it sit until it reaches frosting consistency.

Spread a little ganache on the serving plate to anchor the succes. Place a disk on the ganache and cover with an even layer of ganache. Place the second disk on top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour. Spread on another layer of ganache and place the third disk on top. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate another hour. Spread a thin layer of ganache around the sides, then cover the top. Bring to room temperature before serving.