Posted in baking, candy, custard, emulsion, foam

Daring Baker Challenge: Mousse in an edible container

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com

So yeah, it was supposed to be maple mousse.  But I got inspired to have a Red and Black party, so I made chocolate mousse in red tuiles.  I shaped the tuiles by putting some in mini muffin tins and draping others over the tops of wine bottles, so that they made bowls to hold the mousse.  They came out looking like rose petals.

I made my chocolate mousse from David Lebovitz’s adaptation of Julia Child’s recipe.  I tripled the recipe and, of course, made some minor changes, so mine came out like this – but be warned, this is for WAY more mousse than you really want to make.

  1. Mousse in the making
    Mixing the chocolate emulsion with the custard.

    Melt butter and chocolate with coffee.

    • 4 sticks butter
    • 510g dark chocolate (fair trade!)
    • 3/4 cup coffee
  2. Make zabaglione.  (A sweet custard with an alcoholic liquid.  Traditionally marsala wine; Julia’s recipe used rum; I used cognac and it was delicious.)  This is done by heating the ingredients in a double boiler until thick enough to coat a spoon, and then beating (an electric mixer is a good idea) off the heat (with the bowl in cool water, even) until lighter in color and thick enough that when you drip some, a trail remains.
    • 12 egg yolks (I bought jumbo by accident so I used 10)
    • 510g sugar
    • 6 Tbsp cognac
    • 3 Tbsp water
  3. Make meringue.  Beat egg whites; when it’s all opaque, add the sugar.  Keep beating until peaks form but aren’t too stiff.
    • 12 egg whites
    • 3 Tbsp sugar
    • a few pinches of salt
    • 1 tsp cream of tartar
    • 2 tsp vanilla
finished mousse
Blurry picture of finished mousse.

Gently mix the first two together and then fold the meringue into that.  This means you’ll be eating uncooked egg whites.  If you’re not ok with that, make a Swiss meringue instead, which is where you heat the egg whites and sugar to 160F before beating them.

This mousse was amazing, y’all.  Totally worth all the different ingredients and components.  The zabaglione alone was amazing, I’ll definitely make that again.

I did run into a hitch – my chocolate emulsion broke.  I googled around about this and came to the conclusion that humans do not fully understand chocolate, because what I found didn’t make a lot of sense.  But basically, I think it broke because I heated it too much, and what ended up working was cooling it in the fridge, and then heating it again, very slowly.  I tried this trick where I took just a little of it and mixed it with some heated corn syrup.  That bit re-emulsified, but as I added more of the broken mixture to the fixed mixture, it got fixed and then I added too much and it all broke again.  So I guess that last addition of broken mixture lowered the temperature too much.  So, chop your chocolate and butter before starting, so everything can melt fast and evenly, and if you run into this problem, cool and reheat slowly.

tuiles
Rose petal tuiles.

Now the tuiles.  I used this recipe without the almonds, and multiplied by 4.  These were really simple, and I had been so worried!  I used LOTS of red food coloring, and flavored them with cinnamon, but then added a little cocoa powder too because I wanted the red velvet color to come out right.  I didn’t add any liquid to the recipe to make up for this; maybe if I had they would’ve come out a little crispier, like I expected, but the texture they had was good for shaping them.  I’d skip the cinnamon next time; I wanted a red flavor to go with the red color, but I wasn’t crazy about the result.

Finally, I made some cayenne syrup to go on top.

  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Boil until the thread stage, 130F.  Unfortunately, even though I stopped at the thread stage, mine eventually crystallized.  But it was a nice mixture of hot and sweet, and I love spice with my chocolate.

The official drink for the party was something that’s apparently called Devil’s Blood – it’s a vodka cranberry with black vodka.  I layered it by pouring the vodka from a measuring cup over the back of a spoon onto the cranberry juice, which worked well.

devil's blood
Layered cocktail.
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Posted in custard

Flourless chocolate cognac cake/tarte

chocolate cognac tarte
Read on for my theory on why this cake looks like it got in a bar fight.

Two of the students (one former) in our department recently got married, and tonight we toasted to them.  I asked the bride what she’d like, and she said she likes anything chocolate.  When people tell me that, I think chocolate cake just won’t cut it – not chocolatey enough.  So I decided to make a flourless chocolate cake.  Before googling or foodgawking (foodgawkering? I can’t decide) for a recipe, I checked my bookmarks, because I keep a store of recipes I’ve seen and want to try.  Sure enough, I had a chocolate tarte recipe saved in my bookmarks that looked delicious.  The recipe is from Côté Maison and is in French, so I’ve translated it.

pâte sablée (already made – I didn’t use one)
156.3 B%       250 g crème fraîche liquide (I used heavy cream)
18.8 B%        30 g butter
78.1 B%        125 g chocolate
15.6 B%        25 g sugar (I added two tablespoons to this)
62.5 B%        2 eggs
37.5 B%        3 yolks
a little unsweetened cocoa powder (I used powdered sugar instead, but it melted into the cake by the time I served it)
32.5 B%        5 cl cognac

I added a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of vanilla.

I did it without a crust and doubled the recipe, which made a thin cake in a 13×9 in pan.  It served 12 people with a little left over.  Sadly, I don’t think the flavor of the cognac came through in the final product.  It tasted great in the batter, but I guess the cognac couldn’t take the heat.  If I make it again, I’d use a lighter cream, because I think too much fat can cover the flavor of the chocolate.   Here’s how I made it – mostly following the instructions, but you know me, I always have to change something:

  1. Heat cream, butter, sugar, salt, and chocolate in a saucepan until everything is melted and dissolved.  Remove from heat.
  2. Lightly beat eggs and yolks.
  3. When cream mixture is cool, mix eggs, cognac, and vanilla together.  Pour into pan.
  4. Bake at 350F (180C) for 20 minutes.
  5. Cool, then sieve powdered sugar on top.

It came out moist, but cuttable (rather than needing to be spooned).  I should have checked it earlier, but thought it would need longer than 20 minutes (at slightly less than 350F) since I made twice as much, but then, I made it in a larger pan.  Twenty minutes was just right or possibly a minute or two too long.  It didn’t weep, so the eggs hadn’t coagulated, but I suspect it would have been a little smoother a couple of minutes earlier.

When I took it out of the oven, it had huge bubbles that sank into valleys upon cooling.  One of the sunken spots even caused a crack (the other, smaller crack is where I checked for doneness).  I think it went like this: the beaten eggs had lots of bubbles in them, and during cooking, they coalesced into big bubbles, which grew due to the heat into monster bubbles, which pushed a little of the batter out from under them, so that when the high spots sank, they sank even lower than the areas around them.  It did not make for a pretty cake.  (But everyone ate it anyway, bless their hearts!)  So take it from me: don’t overbeat your eggs – we’re not going for fluffy here – and let the batter sit for a while, maybe hit the pan on the counter a few times, to get rid of bubbles.

Overall, it’s hard to go wrong with a rich chocolate dessert, but I think this recipe could be improved upon.

Posted in baking, foam, freezing, infusion, thickening

Daring Baker Challenge: Swiss Roll Ice Cream Cake

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

A slice
My guests thought it was just chocolate and vanilla, but you know me better than that.

The recipe is available here.
I’ll be honest, I thought this dessert was going to be too much.  I had to pick flavors for four components, plus have a fudge sauce.  But I tried to pick things that wouldn’t clash, and I think it turned out really well.  The subtleties probably didn’t come through, because you tend to eat it all together, but it tasted good together, and that’s what matters, right?

So, this dessert had five parts.

1. Sponge cake – I tried making it first by whipping the egg yolks and egg whites separately, folding the flour and water into the yolks, folding part of the whites into the yolks, and then adding all of the yolk mixture to the whites.  This worked well and it worked FAST, especially because my eggs were pretty old.  Then I tried it with brand new eggs, whipping whole eggs.  I can’t say whether it was the fact that they were whole or the fact that they were new or both, but they definitely took a lot longer to whip.  Eventually, though, they did, and although I had the impression they didn’t end up as airy as the first batch, the cakes were basically identical in the end.  It is important to grease your parchment paper – something I’ve never had to do before – because this cake will stick to everything, and it’s too thin (thin enough to bake in a jellyroll pan, that’s the kind with short sides) to afford losing a layer to the parchment. Because it’s so thin, it cooks fast.  In my overzealous oven, I consistently cooked them for 8 minutes each.

I flavored my cake by using brown sugar instead of white (actually I kept a little white sugar in there, but I doubt it matters).  When it came out of the oven, it smelled like French toast.  Yummmm.  I substituted cake flour for the cocoa powder in the recipe – all the flour I used was cake flour.

By the way, does anyone know why the recipe says to have the water boiling?  I don’t see why that matters, but I did it just to be safe.

2. Filling – I made whipped cream with brown sugar instead of white, and added some ground cassia/Saigon cinnamon.  I once impatiently put the filling on the cake before letting the cake cool, and the cake soaked it all up.  You really do have to let the cake cool first.  I don’t know how important it is to roll the cake while it’s warm to make it roll without breaking later, but I always did.  I didn’t use a towel, since my kitchen towels are of questionable cleanliness. I never had any trouble with the cake breaking from rolling or unrolling it, but I did have trouble getting the cake to roll tightly enough to be pretty but not so tightly as to squeeze out the filling.  I ended up rolling as best I could, slicing, and then unrolling and rerolling each slice.  Messy, annoying, but got the job done.  I think the trick, if there is one, has to do with getting an even layer of the filling on the cake.  Mine seemed to have more towards the middle, which made my outer slices badly shaped.

The slices of the resulting Swiss roll were pressed into a bowl (which was covered in plastic wrap) to line the sides, and this was put in the freezer.

Cake and Ice Cream #1
About halfway there.

3. Ice Cream #1 – I made Mexican Hot Chocolate ice cream, loosely based on David Lebovitz’s Aztec Hot Chocolate recipe from The Perfect Scoop.  I believe in making dairy-based ice creams with light cream, around 18% fat (I calculated that this makes an ice cream with the same fat, solid, and water content as a formula I found for premium ice cream), so I did that, and the recipe went like this:

Mexican Hot Chocolate Ice Cream

3 cups light cream

5 Tbsp cocoa powder

3/4 cup sugar

2 oz chile flavored chocolate, chocolate

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 pinch salt

1 Tbsp cognac

1 small dried red chile pepper, chopped and with seeds removed (I got this from my farmshare and don’t know what it should be called, but it is HOT)

Heat cream, sugar, pepper, and cocoa powder until boiling.  Remove from heat and add everything else.  Strain.  Chill.  Churn.  Freeze.

I didn’t know if it would be too hot or not hot enough, but I think it turned out just right if you like it mild.  You could tell something interesting was going on, but it wasn’t at all bothersome.  People who like spicy food would want more heat, though.  I think having it cold and with all that dairy definitely tones it down – I got more spice out of it when I tasted it pre-churning.I thought it was delicious.  In any case, I think it’s one of my new favorite flavors.

Out of the bowl
If I were more into crafty baking, I would totally make one of these to look like a turtle.

4. Ice Cream #2 – I chose hazelnut for this one.  I bought some hazelnuts, skinned them – I found out through on OChef that boiling them in a quart of water with 4 Tbsp of baking powder for about 3 minutes makes this really easy, I was so thankful – baked them at about 200F for about 10 minutes or 15 minutes, and then tried to grind them into butter.  That failed, so I infused my light cream (actually, this time I used half heavy cream and half whole milk, which is approximately the same) with the ground hazelnuts (and sugar) and then strained it.  This time, since I wasn’t adding alcohol, which makes ice cream softer, I added gelatin, which also keeps ice cream from freezing too solid, though in its own, gelatiny way.  In the past I’ve used a whole packet of gelatin for this much ice cream, and half a packet for 2/3 this much ice cream, and both times thought it was a little much.  So I tried half a packet, but I forgot to bloom it in some of the liquid kept cold, so I just stirred it into the hot liquid, and I don’t know if that keeps it from working, but it didn’t seem to have any effect.  The texture of the ice cream was great, but gelatin keeps ice cream from melting into a puddle and this ice cream melted like crazy, so I’m skeptical that it was really doing its job. I also used a little more sugar because my lower-gelatin batch before seemed not quite soft enough and perhaps not quite sweet enough.  I looked at Lebovitz’s Gianduja Gelato recipe to see about infusing the cream with the nuts, but other than that this is my own recipe.  If I can figure out how to make hazelnut butter I’ll have an even more original one for you – I’ve done the math to match that premium ice cream formula again, but alas, my grinders just aren’t cooperating.

Hazelnut Ice Cream

3 cups light cream

7/8 cup sugar (that’s 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp)

150 g ground hazelnuts

1 pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 envelope of gelatin (about 4g)

Bloom gelatin in some of the cream.  Heat the rest of the cream, sugar, salt, and hazelnuts.  Remove from heat and add gelatin and vanilla, whisking well.  Strain.  Chill.  Churn.  Freeze.

These ice creams were poured into the bowl on top of the frozen Swiss rolls.  I let the first freeze before churning and adding the second.

Complete
At first I was just drizzling the sauce on top, but then I said what the hell.

5. Fudge Sauce – I cheated.  I’m sorry.  Please let me stay in the club.  I was supposed to put the fudge sauce in between the layers of ice cream, but I’m sorry, that is not the purpose of fudge sauce.  Fudge sauce it to be added hot on top of cold ice cream.  So that’s what I did.  I poured it on top of the whole ice cream cake.

I also wasn’t very excited about a fudge sauce based on water thickened with cornstarch.  I found a recipe on Allrecipes that was simply sweetened condensed milk and unsweetened chocolate, with a little salt and vanilla.  (It also had water, but I omitted that – I wanted it nice and thick.)  That sounded more like it me, so that’s what I made.  It was thoroughly enjoyed.