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.

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