VAGUE MOUSSE CAKE

Once again I decided to push a little the limits of my comfort zone. Actually, let me rephrase that. With this project I threw caution to the wind and walked through pretty treacherous baking neighborhoods. When you buy a Silikomart Vague mold because you are mesmerized by its looks but have no idea what to use it for, you are in for a wild ride. It’s not as if you could order a cookbook called  “Silikomart 101.”  In fact, it’s hard to find even blog posts to help you out. Lots of amazing concoctions pop up in Pinterest, but instead of recipes they direct you to fancy patisserie pages in Paris, Rome, Prague. No help whatsoever to make them materialize in your own kitchen. Through some google-overwork, I finally saw a little light at the end of the tunnel through an Italian blog hosted by Vanessa (Tra Zucchero e Vaniglia = Between Sugar and Vanilla). Thanks to my limited ability to read the language and the help of google translate to fill in the blanks, I managed to put my beautiful mold to use.  With this project, I also tried for the very first time an amazing technique: chocolate spraying with a paint gun. I know. I am gone. Beyond recovery. But… can we still be friends?

VAGUE MOUSSE CAKE
(inspired by Tra Zucchero e Vaniglia blog)

For the cookie base:
40 g all-purpose flour
3 tbsp (25 g) almond flour
¼ cup (25 g) hazelnut flour
1 tsp  unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
50 g unsalted butter, room temperature
50 g light brown sugar

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the all-purpose, almond, and hazelnut flours and the cocoa powder. In a separate bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar, then incorporate the flour mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Evenly spread the dough about ⅛ in thick onto the prepared baking sheet (the batter should be slightly larger than the cake ring that will be used for assembly). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool completely. Reserve.

for the creamy raspberry insert:
75 g sugar
190 g raspberry pulp (passed through a sieve to remove seeds)
100 g whole eggs (about 2, lightly beaten)
2.5 g gelatine in sheets
65 g butter

Coat a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper and place on it a 7-inch diameter flan or cake ring, preferably with a sheet of acetate lining it.  On another baking sheet, place a Silikomart globe mold (optional).

Soak gelatine in cold water. Put the beaten eggs, the granulated sugar and the fruit pulp in a glass bowl. Bring the mixture to 180 ° F in microwave at maximum power, measuring the temperature after 50 seconds. Continue to measure it every 30 seconds (it will take over 2 minutes to get there, depending on the power of your microwave).

Once the indicated temperature has been reached, add the gelatine and mix well to dissolve it completely. Cool to about 105 to 110 F and add the butter, emulsifying with an immersion blender. Pour the cream into the previously prepared steel circle until it also fills one of the globe mold cavities . Freeze for several hours or overnight.

for the white chocolate mousse
creme anglaise component (makes more than you’ll need):
175 g fresh cream
75 g fresh milk
55 g egg yolks
32 g sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the milk and cream in a small saucepan until it starts to boil. Meanwhile, with a whisk mix the egg yolks, vanilla extract and sugar, taking care to incorporate as little air as possible. Add a small amount of the hot milk mixture slowly to the egg yolks to temper it, then slowly add the rest and blend well. Cook until it reaches 170 F.  Pass the cream through a sieve and transfer it into a cold container to stop cooking. If necessary, use an immersion blender to make it fully smooth. But if you are careful heating it gently and constantly stirring it, it should not need any further blending.

You will use 150 g of the creme anglaise for the white chocolate mousse, as follows.

for the white chocolate mousse:
150 g creme anglaise (made as described above)
250 white chocolate
225 g freshly whipped cream to soft peaks
2.5 g gelatin in sheets

Soak gelatin in cold water.

Chop the chocolate coarsely and melt it in the microwave with the defrost function or maximum power 500 W.

Warm up the creme anglaise to about 100 F. When the gelatin is soft, squeeze it to remove the water and add it to the creme anglaise. Mix gently to fully dissolve it. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, wait a moment and mix well. Fold the whipped cream to the still warm mixture.  Reserve.

for the chocolate spray:
300 g white chocolate
200 g cocoa butter

Melt together and place in sprayer at 90 F.

to decorate the globe insert: melted white chocolate

Assemble the dessert. Place the Vague mold on a baking sheet that will fit inside your freezer.  Fill with the white chocolate mousse, making a thick layer at the bottom.

Remove the raspberry creamy disc from the steel ring, removing the acetate and place it in the middle of the mousse making it sink a little.

Cover with the remaining mousse and beat the pan gently on the countertop so as to bring out any air bubbles. Level the mixture with a spatula and transfer into the freezer for several hours, preferably overnight.

Once frozen, turn out the cake and spray it with the mixture of white chocolate-cocoa butter at 90 F. Make a light coating, otherwise the mixture might just slide off the surface instead of forming a nice velvet texture.

Place the mousse over the cookie base, decorate the globe insert with a drizzle of white chocolate and set it at the center of the cake.

Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I completely changed the cookie base, as Vanessa’s recipe had some unusual way to deal with it. In her method, you make a dough, cool it, grate it, and press it to make the base. I felt too insecure to give it a try, and also thought it was a bit too convoluted. Plus, I wasn’t sure it would result in the texture I wanted for the bottom layer of my cake. I opted for a chocolate sable instead. It is a nice dough to work with, and I love the texture. For this torte, you’ll need two Silikomart molds, the Vague and a small globe mode to make the center decorative piece that goes on top. You can definitely omit it and serve the mousse cake plain. But it does add a striking look to the dessert.

A few things I learned through pain and struggles. You can see in my picture above that I used a silicone cake pan to make the raspberry insert.  I had a pretty tough time un-molding it. The sides are too high, the material a bit too flimsy, I thought the whole thing was going to be ruined. Luckily, just a few boo-boos on the surface, no major harm done. Note to self: invest in a flan ring for this type of adventure. With a 7-inch metal ring, you simply freeze it and pull it up, leaving the perfect layer of mousse behind. Lesson learned. You need the right tools for the job.

The overall scheme in this type of dessert goes like this: you make a cookie base, a creamy, frozen center insert with smaller dimension than the 8-inch full cake, and enough mousse to fill the mold, surrounding the insert. Once you have these three components, all that is left is to freeze it solid, un-mold and decorate the top. Chocolate spray is one cool method, as it gives a beautiful velvet texture. Contrary to fondant, it is a pleasure to eat. But no doubt, it is a very involved process. I used a Wagner sprayer that was a surprise gift from the saint I married. He actually tricked me. Asked me to go to Menard’s with him. Once we were there, he made a bee line to the paint section, next thing I knew, the box was in the shopping cart. He had even researched the model to get, as he knew I had been dreaming about spraying my world with chocolate. You knew already he is a keeper. This just confirms it… 

The velvet texture requires two things: the surface to be sprayed must be frozen, and the chocolate suspension must be at a maximum of 90 F, even a bit colder if possible. You need it to flow well, but to freeze immediately upon contact, forming the little velvety looking texture. Since the suspension needs to be passed through a fine sieve before going into the sprayer, things can cool down pretty fast. I decided to use my bread proofing box set at 98F to store the sprayer for 30 minutes or so. Then, I got the chocolate ready at the right temperature and worked as fast as I could to get the spray going. That brings another very important point: it is a very messy process. Very messy. People use all sorts of tricks to deal with it, usually doing it outside or in a garage with cardboard boxes forming a wall all around the piece to be decorated. But I found a tip that worked better than anything else: setting up the spraying unit inside the dishwasher!  I just removed the racks, placed a baking sheet inverted on it, a plastic turntable to hold the cake, and that was absolutely perfect. All I had to do was run the dishwasher in the end.

I watched quite a few youtube videos on chocolate spraying to make sure I would have some chance of getting it right. One thing is certain: no matter how many videos you watch, how many detailed instructions you read, nothing prepares you for the real thing. It’s a wild experience. The sprayer works very efficiently but it is very hard to see what is happening because there is a haze of spray everywhere. It was also not very easy to turn the cake while spraying, the Wagner is not feather-light. Plus, my heart was beating at 120 bpm, maybe faster. To summarize, things got intense pretty quickly. Let me rephrase that also: Hell broke loose, big time. I hope the next adventure will be easier, though. At least I am confident that the set up I designed works well to keep the temperature in the correct range for a while, I won’t need to rush to get it done. Apart from a few problems here and there, I am reasonably happy with the way my first adventure with the Silikomart Vague turned out.

As far as taste is concerned, this was absolutely scrumptious! It is pretty hard to beat this trilogy: chocolate cookie, white chocolate mousse, and raspberry cream. They all go together like a dream…

Things to keep in mind for next time:

1. A little more gelatin in the mousse so that it will un-mold with a more defined surface.

2. Place the raspberry insert slightly more on the center of the dessert, so that it won’t be at all visible underneath the top mousse layer. In other words, add a bit more mousse inside the mold before setting the insert on top.

2. The cookie base could be rolled thinner, but opinions are divided on this issue. Phil thought it was perfect the way it was.

3. Be a bit more Zen with the spray paint gun. There’s really no need to scare three dogs and a husband into hiding. Even if your contact lenses fogged up with the spray, no amount of screaming will make them clear up. That is a fact you proved to yourself. Next time,  keep calm, and spray on.

Make Sally and Bogey Quit That happy, grab a pin!


ONE YEAR AGO: Cottage Loaf, my very own technical challenge

TWO YEARS AGO: Pork Ribs: Sticky, Spicy and Awesome

THREE YEARS AGO: Sobering Peach Sorbet

FOUR YEARS AGO: Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake

FIVE YEARS AGO: Silky Cauliflower Puree with Almond Milk


EIGHT YEARS AGO:
 Popeye-Pleasing Salad
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NINE YEARS AGO: Summer’s Finale

 

 

 

 

 

 

JAPANESE-STYLE CUPCAKES WITH CHERRY BLOSSOM ICING

Two first-timers happened in the Bewitching Kitchen. My adventure with Japanese cheesecake, and with the intriguing flavor of cherry blossoms. Have you heard of Japanese cheesecakes? They originated in Hakata, back in 1948. Considerably lighter than the American variety, they are also baked in a water-bath, delicate creatures that they are. I intend to make them as such in the near future, but for the time being I share a departure on the basic method, taking them into cupcake territory. The steam part is provided by a big pan with water kept in the oven. And now for the unusual flavoring: Sakura, aka cherry blossom extract. I first heard about it years ago, finally caved and ordered some from Japan. The smell is amazing, floral as expected, but not as potent as rose extract, for instance. Think of vanilla with less of a sweet component, more pungent and bright. I know, trying to describe a smell is a big waste of typed words. Oh, well…  Without further ado, here are my Japanese-style cupcakes.

JAPANESE COTTON-SOFT CUPCAKES WITH SAKURA ICING
(adapted from Mowielicious)

for the cupcakes:
250g cream cheese
50g unsalted butter
100ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla paste
60g all-purpose flour
20g cornstarch
1 tbsp lemon juice
6 egg yolks
6 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
150g sugar

for the buttercream:
150g unsalted butter
300g icing sugar
50ml heavy cream
1 tsp sakura (cherry blossom) extract
pink colour gel (I used Chefmaster)
sparkling sugar to decorate (optional)

Heat the oven to 300 F. Half-fill a baking tray with water and place on the bottom shelf. Line a cupcake tray with cupcake cups.

Place the cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla paste in a bowl over a hot water bath and stir until mixture is smooth and creamy. Remove bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

Sift the flour and cornstarch into the cheese mixture, add the lemon juice and egg yolks and stir until a smooth mixture forms.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy, then slowly add the sugar and whisk until soft peaks form. Add the egg white mixture to the cheese mixture and gently fold.

Pour into cupcake cups and place in the middle of the oven over the water bath and bake for about 1 hour or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

To make the buttercream, whisk the butter and icing sugar until crumbly, then add the double cream and flavouring and whisk until smooth. Place the buttercream in a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 1M tip and pipe swirls on the top of the cooled cakes.  Decorate with sparkling sugar, if desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The most amazing thing about these cupcakes is how light they are. I mean light in terms of weight… Feather-light. Very airy. I am definitely going to try the cheesecake soon, because I know it will be right up my alley. The Sakura flavor is delicate and complements the cupcake well. The only thing I would change for a next time is the buttercream component. The recipe uses your classic American buttercream, which not only is the sweetest type, but it also crusts after piping when in contact with air. It is often the buttercream of choice for elaborate piped effects, as they will not melt away. But in the case of this simple swirl, I think a Swiss buttercream will be perfect. Something to consider if you want to make them. By the way, if you don’t have Sakura extract, a little rose-water, or orange blossom water can be substituted.

A little sprinkle of sparkling sugar to dress them up, and we were all set!

Japanese baking is a whole new universe for me.
I’ve been exploring two excellent cookbooks on the subject.
Stay tuned for some exotic adventures in the future!

ONE YEAR AGO: Quick Weeknight Soups

TWO YEARS AGO: Sourdough Loaf with Cranberries and Walnuts

THREE YEARS AGO: Sichuan Pork Stir-Fry in Garlic Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Our Green Trip to Colorado

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ditalini Pasta Salad

SIX YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

NINE YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

 

QUEEN OF SHEBA

Sometimes a beautiful cake demands a lot from the baker. The Queen of Sheba looks like the outcome of a labor of intense, ever-lasting love, but it is deceptively simple to make. Trust me, because I never lie. If you want to impress your guests and do so without hyperventilating, succumbing to profanity, or worse yet – ending in a puddle of tears, this dessert is for you…

QUEEN OF SHEBA
(adapted from Alice Medrich’s Craftsy class)

for the cake:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons  brandy
1/8 teaspoons salt
2.5 ounces hazelnut flour
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
3/4 cup (5.25 ounces) sugar, divided
pinch of cream of tartar 

for the glaze:
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate cut into pieces
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 ounce white chocolate, finely chopped (for marbling)
1 ounce milk chocolate, finely chopped (for marbling) 

Make the cake. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line an 8-inch springform pan with a circle of parchment paper. Leave the sides of the pan ungreased. 

Melt the chocolate and butter gently over simmering water or in the microwave. Stir in the brandy and salt. Set aside. Mix the hazelnut flour and the all-purpose flour in a bowl until well combined.

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar until well blended. Stir in chocolate mixture, reserve at room temperature while you prepare the meringue.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at medium speed until soft peaks form, then sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating at high-speed  until peaks are stiff. Sprinkle the hazelnut/flour mixture over the chocolate batter and scoop about one  quarter of the egg whites on top. Fold with a large rubber spatula until partially blended. Scrape the remaining egg whites into the bowl and fold them in. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and level it gently.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted about 1. inches from the edge emerges almost clean but a toothpick inserted in the center is still moist and gooey. Set the pan on a rack to cool.  Release the sides of the pan (or push up on the removable bottom) and invert the torte so that the bottom becomes the top, then remove the pan bottom and paper liner. If the torte is still uneven or appears slightly sunken in the center, level it by pressing the top firmly with the bottom of the empty cake pan. It must be at room temperature before you apply the crumb coat.

Make the glaze. Place the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a medium heatproof bowl. Set the bowl in the skillet of water over low heat, stirring frequently until completely melted and smooth.  Stir mixture gently with a spatula or a wooden spoon until completely smooth; do not whisk or beat. Cool glaze, without stirring, until nearly set and the consistency of easily spreadable frosting.  You will use about 1/4 of the mixture to do a fine coating all over the cooled cake (the crumb coat). Place the cake for 10 minutes in the fridge, while you warm up the remaining of the glaze to about 90 F. At this point, melt both the white and milk chocolate and set them aside. 

Place the cake on a turntable. Pour all of glaze in the center of the top of the cake. Working quickly, and rotating the turntable, use just 2 or 3 spatula strokes to spread the glaze over the top of the torte so that it runs down over all sides. Use the spatula to scoop up excess glaze and touch it to any bare spots on the sides of the cake. Immediately, while the glaze is still fluid, drizzle the white and milk chocolates randomly in an overlapping “scribble” all over the top of the torte. You can use a toothpick or needle for additional effect.

Remove it to a rack to dry at room temperature. Glaze will set in 10-20 minutes. Store and serve at room temperature, this cake is best if never refrigerated.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might remember that I love Craftsy, and have taken quite a few of their online courses. Based on my personal experience, Alice Medrich’s Decadent Chocolate Cakes is by far the best. I learned so much from her class! Small details on how to deal with ingredients, the clever tricks she uses, stuff that you simply do not find in cookbooks. She has experience, she does things in ways that are often a bit unusual, but make sense. And they work. I highly recommend you to get this class if you are interested in improving your baking skills.

This was a very smooth baking project, which is a huge endorsement of Alice’s teaching skills. Not only she shows exactly what to expect, but, what’s even more important, she tells you what to do to avoid tragedy in case things start to go south. Her class is simply brilliant. I was over the moon when I finished the cake, as you can see in the photo taken by my beloved. Trust me, I rarely have a relaxed smile at the end of a baking session. Thank YOU, Ms. Medrich!

The cake is moist, chocolate-y to the extreme, and I think my decision of using hazelnut flour was a nice move, even if a departure from the classic. As Alice mentions in her class, this is a very flexible recipe. You can use different types of chocolate, different nuts, alternative glazes, or ways to decorate it. It’s like a classic black dress that moves along in many social situations, depending on what you add to it. I really like the modern-chic design she demonstrated in the online class, and that’s what I tried to replicate.

Everybody loved this cake, which brightened up a super rainy Tuesday after Labor Day weekend. You know, it’s not that easy to go back to work after a long weekend, the last summer holiday, so a nice dose of chocolate helps. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

ONE YEAR AGO: Brunch Burger

TWO YEARS AGO: Mango Salsa with Verjus

THREE YEARS AGO: Raspberry Bittersweet Chocolate Chunk Brownies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Scary Good Pork Burgers

FIVE YEARS AGO: Review of exercise program Focus25

SIX YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

NINE YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

 

 

STRAWBERRY-MANGO ENTREMET CAKE

Pushing a little bit the boundaries of my comfort zone, with this cake I practiced making a pattern on the sponge component, baking a mango-flavored meringue, and using a gelatin-based topping. The basic recipe was from the book Modern French Pastry. The cake, called Moulin Rouge, is a looker. I modified the recipe quite a bit, so I share my version with you. Make sure to read my comments, as I consider this cake still a work in preparation.

STRAWBERRY-MANGO ENTREMET CAKE
(adapted from Modern French Pastry)

for the side-decoration:
50 g butter
56 g powdered sugar
60 g egg whites (about 2 eggs)
56 g all-purpose flour
red food coloring

Mix the butter and sugar in a Kitchen Aid type mixer with the paddle attachment until creamy. Add the egg whites very slowly, a little at a time. Clean the sides of the bowl often. Add the flour and gently mix on very low-speed, then add the food dye.  Lay the stencil you intend to use on a Silpat, or if drawing a pattern free-hand, lay the design on parchment paper to make it easier to draw with the batter.  Brush the batter on the stencil, then scrape all excess off with a bench scraper. You will not use all the batter made, but it is easier to work with more than you need.  Gently pull the stencil up. See my composite photo under the recipe.

Freeze the design for an hour or so. You can do this step the day before.  Do not remove from the freezer until you are ready to bake the cake layer.

Joconde Cake Layer
65 g powdered sugar, sifted
36 g pastry flour
65 g almond flour
100 g eggs  (whole eggs, at room temperature)
120 g egg whites (from about 4 eggs)
30 g granulated sugar
75 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Heat the oven to 400 F. Add powdered sugar, flour and almond meal to the bowl of a mixer. Mix gently to incorporate them.  Add the eggs and beat on high-speed for about 5 minutes, until very fluffy. Reserve.

Make a meringue with the egg whites and sugar, bringing it to soft peaks. Start with the egg whites in the mixer on low-speed, increase to medium, once you see a trail forming as the mixer is going, start adding the sugar slowly.  Once you get to soft peaks, stop. Over-beating the meringue will make it hard to incorporate it in the cake batter.  Gently fold the meringue on the egg-flour mixture that you reserved.  Add a bit of the mixture to the bowl with melted butter, mix gently. Pour that into the cake batter and gently fold.

Remove the stencil design from the freezer, pour the batter over it, trying to level it as best as you can with an off-set spatula. You want to keep the air incorporated in the batter, so be gentle. Run the spatula just over the surface, you don’t want to risk disturbing the pattern underneath it.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. You need to start noticing a little browning on the surface, but not much. If you notice the edges getting crunchy, remove from the oven. Let it cool before proceeding.

Mango-Flavored Meringue
30 g powdered sugar, sifted
30 g pulverized freeze-dried mangos (use a food processor)
80 g egg whites
80 g granulated sugar

Heat the oven to 350 F. Trace two 8 inch circles on parchment paper, and place it over Silpat. Prepare a large piping bag fitted with either a large (1/2 inch) piping tip, or just cut the bag with that dimension.

Mix the powdered sugar with the pulverized mango and reserve.  Make a meringue with the egg whites and sugar as described for the Joconde layer. There is a lot of sugar in this version, so you don’t have to worry about over-beating.  Once you get to stiff peaks, mix the mango-sugar mixture, folding it delicately. 

Spoon the mixture in the prepared piping bag, and pipe it on the Silpat, in each of the circles, starting from the center.  Leave a little border empty, as you want the meringue to be smaller than the diameter of the cake. You can see in the central picture of the meringue composite that the pencil drawing is about 0.5 inch larger. You could conceivably draw a smaller circle, but it is easier to see where you are and stop short, then risk going too much over it. Still, do whatever feels better for you.

Bake for 20  to 22 minutes. Meringue should feel dry to the touch and just be starting to brown.

Strawberry Mousse
12 g powdered gelatin
60 g cold water to boom gelatin
350 g strawberry puree (use the food processor)
175 g powdered sugar
350 g heavy cream

Combine gelatin with cold water and allow it to bloom for a few minutes. Place the strawberry puree in a saucepan, add the powdered sugar and mix gently over low-heat until warm.

Whisk the cream in a Kitchen Aid type mixer to soft peaks. Do not over-beat.  Reserve.

Melt the gelatin in a microwave, in very short bursts, keeping a close eye, as you don’t want it to boil, just melt smoothly.  Add some of the strawberry puree to the gelatin to incorporate it in, then pour the mixture into the rest of the puree. Mix gently, but well, you want the gelatin to be fully distributed throughout the fruit.  Add 1/3 of the puree to the whipped cream, fold. Add the remaining of the puree, fold gently. The mousse is now ready to use.

Strawberry Gelatin Topping
5 g powdered gelatin
25 g cold water
75 g soaking syrup (water and sugar in equal weights, dissolved by heating)
75 g strawberry puree (passed through a sieve to remove seeds)
red food dye, just a tiny drop (optional)

Combine the gelatin with water to bloom for a few minutes. Heat the soaking syrup, add the gelatin and stir until fully melted. Slowly stir the strawberry puree, and the food coloring, if using. Refrigerate until needed. When ready to finish the cake, warm it in a microwave in very short bursts of heat, until it’s about 90 F.

ASSEMBLING THE CAKE
Dust the cold Joconde cake with granulated sugar. Place a parchment paper on top, and flip it. Remove the silicone sheet slowly, and marvel at the pattern that you see! Now you need to decide the dimension of the cake strips. In the book he recommends 1.75 inches, but I did about 2 inches. You need two strips of cake with the exact same dimension, and they will go around the perimeter of an 8-inch diameter cake ring.  With what is left of the cake, cut one circle a little smaller than 8-inches in diameter, as it will sit inside the perimeter laid by the cake strips.

Place an acetate strip inside the cake ring. Lay the cake strips with the design facing out, they should fit very snuggly, so it is best to allow them to overlap slightly, then force them into place. Now place one meringue ring at the bottom. Add one-third of the mousse over it. Top the mousse with the cake circle, the design can be facing up or down, it does not matter as you won’t see it.  Add another third of the mousse.  Place the second meringue ring on top, add the rest of the mousse, and spread as flat as you can, trying to make it almost leveled with the top of the cake strips.  Freeze overnight. If needed, you can trim the top of the cake layer with scissors before finishing the cake.

Remove from the freezer, and pour the warmed up strawberry topping. Do it quickly, as it will solidify. Remove the cake from the ring, pushing it from the bottom, gently but with authority… Place it on a serving platter, and decorate with freshly cut strawberries.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You know that thrill of opening the lid of the Dutch oven and getting the first glimpse of the sourdough loaf inside? That is quite similar to the thrill of inverting the cake after baking, and peeling that Silpat to – hopefully – reveal the design. My heart was going at 100 bpm… The stencil I have is really big. I wish they made it in half-sheet size. I’ve been flirting with the idea of cutting it, as I will never need to lay such a huge pattern during my lifetime. Since it is so huge, I had to lay it over the Silpat on my countertop, with the stencil extending way beyond it, and making quite a mess on the granite. No way to avoid it, actually. But the process went more or less smoothly. I had to do it twice because on the first time I lifted the stencil too quickly and messed up the pattern on one of the sides. Live and learn.  Once the pattern is laid and frozen, the rest should go smoothly. The cake batter is poured right over the frozen design before it goes into the oven.

The meringue component was a bit challenging for me, particularly judging when the disk was properly baked. You do not want to have it too dark, because it gets brittle and breaks when moving it around. But under-baking is not a good idea. Mine was slightly over-baked in parts, but not fully baked in the center. I need to get a better “feel” for it, and also practice the piping to get a more uniform surface. Still, since the disk is hidden in the final dessert, any catastrophic events becomes a secret between the baker and the cake. What happens in The Bewitching Kitchen, stays in The Bewitching Kitchen.

I had to modify quite a few details in the recipe, mostly because the texture of my meringue was far from perfect. I strongly advise you to get the book if you enjoy this type of baking challenge, and try their version. Their meringue is flavored with coconut and black pepper (yes, you read that correctly). And they also add another layer of complexity with some jam. I say no more. You must get the book. Which, by the way, has one amazing recipe after another.  Like the one in the cover, yin and yang of mousse and fruits. Can you imagine bringing that to the table after a dinner party?

When I make this cake again, I will substitute the meringue layer for something else. Maybe a genoise with praline on top for texture. I have to agree with my friend Jennifer, that the meringue does not freeze as well as a sponge cake. For this type of entremet that needs to spend hours in the freezer, I think sponge layers work better. I cannot believe I am considering modifying a pretty complex cake recipe but… strange things happen in the universe. We are living in a twilight zone in ways that go beyond politics (wink, wink).

The topping reminded me of a mirror glaze, because you need to exercise patience and wait for it to cool to below body temperature. I actually find it easier to make it the day before, and warm it up for a few seconds at a time in the microwave, with super gently mixing (no whisking!), to avoid bubbles. Then it will be just a matter of minutes until you are done. Well, not actually you, but the cake.

The edges of my cake did not look as perfect as the picture in the book, so I added some sparkling sugar. Nothing like a little sparkle to cover sins. The flavor was spectacularly strawberry-ish, and the mango in the meringue a subtle added tropical bonus. By the way, when I was processing the dried mango to add to the meringue something quite funny happened. As I opened the processor, a fine dust of mango powder hit my nose. I got a severe case of…. Hiccups. Pretty funny. It passed quickly, though, but just in case you process dried mangos, avoid getting a deep sniff of the powder. Or, go for a full sniff and tell me if you get the hiccups too.

I feel I’m getting a little more comfortable with entremet cakes. The layers in this cake were better defined than my previous attempts, and the cake cut very nicely. Still,  there is a lot of room for improvement. One cake at a time, I hope to get there.

ONE YEAR AGO: Hommage to the Sun

TWO YEARS AGO: Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Almond Vinaigrette

THREE YEARS AGO: Eggplant Tomato Stacks

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Couscous that Wasn’t

FIVE YEARS AGO: Apple-Cinnamon Bread

SIX YEARS AGO: Blueberry Galette

SEVEN YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, August 2011

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Journey to a New Home

NINE YEARS AGO: Friday Night Dinner

PTICHYE MOLOKO, A RUSSIAN DESSERT

Have you heard of it? In plain English it means Bird’s Milk, a very traditional Russian delicacy, also common in Ukraine and Romania. The name originates from Greek, bird’s milk implying a delicacy very hard to obtain, a rare pleasure. My encounter with this dessert deserves further explanation.

I’ve been seriously bitten by the dangerous Silikomart bug. Silikomart is an Italian company specialized in silicone molds for cakes, mousses, chocolates, anything your mind dreams, they might just make it. They can be pricey, but I found out that ebay is a delightful source to make this type of obsession even harder to control. Oh, well. The bottom line is that somehow I found myself with a couple of amazing molds and not that many recipes adapted for them. A cart-before-the-horse situation. I put google to work and next thing I knew, I stumbled upon a blog that blew my little mind away. The blog is written in Russian and… wait for it… Portuguese!  I know, it was fate. The food blogger behind it, Ekaterina, is a fantastic professional patissière who trained with top chefs in Russia.  I still have a hard time believing that I found one of the best desserts blogs out there, and she writes it in my native language. Reading her blog (Verdade de Sabor) became my routine late at night, indulging in her gorgeous dessert posts before falling asleep. That’s how I became acquainted with Bird’s Milk. A cookie base. A milk souffle-ish on top. A thin chocolate layer wrapping it all.  And a big smile when you bring it to the table!

BIRD’S MILK (PTICHYE MOLOKO)
(very slightly modified from Verdade de Sabor)

for the cookie base:
80 g of softened butter
65 g powdered sugar
5 g sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
90 g all purpose-flour
10 g almond flour
1/4 c. of baking powder

for the milk filling:
100 g of egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
180 g sugar
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
160 g water (divided in 60 and 100 g)
20 g gelatin powder
100 g of softened butter
100 g condensed milk

Chocolate cover:
400 g of chocolate 50-55%
100 g of oil (I used grapeseed)

Make the cookie base. Heat the oven to 350 F.  In a bowl beat the butter and the powdered sugar and the vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one by one, constantly beating. In another bowl sift the flour and baking powder and add to the previous mixture. Finally, add the almond flour. Stir very well. The dough does not get too thick or too liquid, the texture must be creamy.

Spread the dough as a square, about 1/8 inch thick, smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for about 15 minutes (depending on the oven) or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Then, cut circles just slightly smaller than the diameter of your silicone mold. You can also make the dessert as a single rectangle or square, using a ring to assemble it. Your choice. Allow to cool completely.

Make the milk souffle:  Hydrate the gelatin in 60 mL ice water. Then melt in a water bath (I placed it in the microwave for bursts of  seconds, watching it very carefully). Reserve. In a bowl, beat the butter well with the condensed milk until you get a fluffy cream. Reserve.

Add the sugar and vanilla in a small saucepan, pour 100 mL cold water. Put a culinary thermometer in the mixture and bring to medium heat. Meanwhile, in the mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. When the syrup boils, add the cream of tartar. When the syrup reaches 240 F (116 ° C), remove from the heat, and add the hot syrup to the egg whites gradually. Continue beating the meringue for a few more minutes or until it forms firm peaks. Then slowly add the melted gelatin, and continue to beat. Reduce the speed of the mixer to the minimum and gradually add the cream of butter and condensed milk.

Pour the souffle into the silicone molds (I made 6 individual serving ones, but had leftover filling that I added to a smaller mold and saved in the freezer for later).  Place a cookie on top, and press it slightly into the mousse, but do not sink it in. Cover with plastic film and freeze. You can do that a couple of days in advance.

Make the chocolate coating: Melt the chocolate in a water bath or in the microwave. Add oil and stir well. Allow to cool at room temperature to 86 to 93 F (30-34 ° C). That is really pretty cold, below body temperature. You can also make that the day before and warm it up gently, without stirring with a whisk, as you don’t want bubbles to form.

Unmold the domes and cover with the glazing. Decorate with tempered chocolate if you desire. I used white chocolate drizzle.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I used this mold for assembly of our dessert. It is not a Silikomart, but I like the quality and they are quite a bit cheaper.  In Ekaterina’s blog, she used a different mold, in the “buche de Noel” shape, but you can assemble this dessert in a square format too. Whatever you do, the cookie base must be cut slightly smaller because the goal is to cover the dessert with chocolate and hide the base.  Alternatively, you could cut it exactly the same size, coat the frozen milky filling with chocolate, let it set and then place it over the naked cookie. But it would have a totally different look. I like the way she did it, so that the cookie becomes a nice crunchy surprise as you cut into the dessert.

To un-mold the domes, I advise you to get a hairdryer and heat the surface of the dome just for a few seconds – that releases them very nicely, as you can see below.  In fact, it’s amazing how often a hairdryer can come in handy when making more elaborate desserts. I rarely dry my hair, so it now lives in the kitchen… Go figure!

See the difference? I am so glad I thought about the hairdryer trick after un-molding the first one. In this type of dessert, any boo-boo makes the final product suffer. The trickiest part of the dessert is in fact the last one, the coating with the chocolate. It must be cold enough that it will settle right away instead of sliding down and not coating the surface. But that means you’ll have ONE SHOT at getting it right. I advise you to look at youtube videos to see how the pros do it, then cross your fingers and try it yourself.  Keep in mind that you won’t be able to fix the surface with an offset spatula, or go at it again a second time. Both options will result in a wavy, not-attractive coating. I opted for a drizzle of white chocolate in the end not only because of the contrast of color, but to hide some of the imperfections I left as I poured the chocolate over the dome. What can I say? I am still learning and making mistakes in the process… Speaking of the drizzle (and mistakes), my virtual teacher Gary gave me a nice tip to make them better. Go passed the dome as the chocolate drizzle falls on it, so that you get a straight line all the way across. It will be more elegant that way. Lesson (hopefully) learned.

The dessert is truly delicious and worth the effort of the preparation. In fact, it’s not that hard if you make the components in advance and take your time. You can definitely make the filling a couple of days earlier, bake the cookie in the morning, and assemble it all before a dinner party. Leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours, and remove to room temperature about 15 minutes before you want to enjoy it. Then you’ll have a perfect texture in the filling.

I know that her blog being written in Russian and Portuguese makes it a bit hard to fully enjoy it, but I urge you to go there and marvel at her posts. She is also a delightful person, very responsive and helpful. She reads and writes in English, so comments in English are not a problem.

ONE YEAR AGO: Cheesy Low-Carb Zucchini Tarts

TWO YEARS AGO: Blogging Hiatus

THREE YEARS AGO: Apricots, Three Ways

FOUR YEARS AGO: Up Close and Personal with Kale

FIVE YEARS AGOBlack Berry Cherry Sorbet

SIX YEARS AGO: Asparagus Pesto

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Chocolate and Chestnut Terrine

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Under the spell of lemongrass

NINE YEARS AGO: Greens + Grapefruit + Shrimp = Great Salad!

 

 

PARISIAN FLAN AND COOKBOOK REVIEW: TASTING PARIS

After so many years of blogging, I tend to quickly group food bloggers into two categories, those who have been doing it longer than me, and those who are “younger” (for lack of a better term). Clotilde is part of the first group, in fact Chocolate and Zucchini was one of the first food blogs I started to follow years and years ago. Not only she is still actively blogging, but she has written several cookbooks (I own them all, in case you are wondering), and – wait for it –  writes the blog in two languages, English and French. I tried to do that when I started, writing each post in English and Portuguese, but after a few months, I gave up. It is a lot of extra work, so I truly admire her for doing it. This is a long overdue post. I had Clotilde’s newest book pre-ordered, the moment I got it in the mail I asked her permission to publish a recipe. She is the most gracious person ever, quickly answered with an enthusiastic “bien sûr”, but it took me a couple of months to finally share it with you. In part because I had a pretty tough time deciding which recipe to feature.  But I am very happy with my choice, it is a real classic…

PARISIAN FLAN
(published with permission from Clotilde’s Tasting Paris)

for pastry dough:
7 ounces (200 g) all-purpose flour (about 1½ cups)
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
7 tablespoons (100 g) cold unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg
Ice-cold water, if needed

for filling:
2½ cups (600 ml) whole milk
¾ cup (150 g) sugar
⅔ cup (70 g) cornstarch
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used vanilla paste)
⅔ cup (160 ml) heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for greasing tart pan

Make the crust, preferably the day before. Prepare the filling 5 to 8 hours before serving.

For the crust: In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and butter. Process for 10 seconds, until you get a bread crumb–like consistency. Add the egg and process for a few more seconds, until the dough comes together into a ball. If the dough seems a little dry, mix in a little ice-cold water, 1 or 2 teaspoons at a time, until the dough does come together.

Tip the dough onto a clean work surface and knead lightly for a few seconds. Using a rolling-pin and working on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out and transfer to a greased 10 inch round tart or quiche pan, pressing it up the sides to adhere. Prick the bottom with a fork. Freeze until needed.

Make the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and 6 tablespoons (75 g) of the sugar and bring to a simmer. In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch with the remaining 6 tablespoons (75 g) sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the cream and the simmering milk, little by little. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and return to medium heat. Bring to a simmer, whisking as the custard thickens, about 4 minutes. It is ready when the whisk leaves clear traces, and will continue to thicken as it cools.Pour the custard into a baking dish or other large vessel, cover, and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Whisk the custard to break it up, pour into the frozen tart shell, and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for 25 minutes, then increase the temperature to 450°F (230°C) and bake another 10 minutes, watching closely, until the top of the flan has dark brown spots. If you find the exposed sides of the crust are browning too quickly, drape loosely with strips of foil. Cool the flan for 1 hour, then refrigerate until cold, about 1½ hours.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I really liked the way this tart is prepared, freezing the crust and adding the custard to it still frozen. It baked very nicely, absolutely no soggy bottom, perfect texture. I did not have to protect the edge with foil, but watched it closely as a hawk in the final minutes, those brown spot start to show up pretty quickly.

The flavor and texture improve a lot once you bring the tart to room temperature, but it is mandatory to cool it in the fridge for a few hours after baking. Just plan your schedule and you won’t have problems. I made the crust on a Saturday evening, made the filling next morning, and baked it mid-afternoon.

This flan really brought me memories of Paris. I cannot say it was something I enjoyed often while living there, but because every boulangerie proudly sells them, just the image was enough to transport me back. Creamy, sweet but not cloyingly so. A perfect dose of indulgence.

Now let me take you through Clotilde’s book for a virtual tour.

What I love the most about Clotilde’s book is how it covers not just your typical French cuisine, but the many flavors that surround people living in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. During times  in which prejudice, racism, general anti-foreign feelings are getting way too common – worse than that – way too accepted as the new normal, it is nice to see a book that embraces differences, that shows that if you live in Paris, one cool thing to do is to walk all the way to Faubourg-St Denis arrondisement, and dig into a juicy Lahmajoun. I had never heard of it, even though I did enjoy many of the “exotic” delicacies found in often small, almost hidden places in the city.  Food joins cultures, and in her book Clotilde does exactly that. I cannot praise it enough.

The book is organized in a pretty cute way. Chapters are linked to times of the day: Morning, Noon, Afternoon, Early Evening, Evening, Late Night.  How cool is that? Let me offer you my favorites of each chapter.

Morning (Le Matin)

Poached Eggs with Bread Crumbs and Pickled Onions... it makes the humble poached egg perfect. Bread crumbs for texture, the sharp bite of pickled onions (probably the only way I truly enjoy them, apart from slowly caramelized).

Chocolate Bread... I don’t think I need to say anything about this one.

Fruit Compote with Yogurt... I tell you, the French know how to pull this one like nobody’s business. I definitely intend to make it for a post-exercise treat, as I don’t eat breakfast.

Moroccan Crumpets... My heart missed a beat. That’s what I’m talking about when I tell you she embraces the many cultures around town. Crumpets, so British, and all of a sudden she introduces you a version that screams Middle East. They look gorgeous, and I cannot wait to make them.

Also in this chapter you’ll have recipes for Croissants, Deviled Avocados, and many more.

Noon (Le Midi)

That’s a chapter I would love to cook everything from, but one recipe that intrigued me is the very first one… Potato Chip and Chive Omelette…  Clotilde got her inspiration from a Michelin-starred restaurant, if you can believe it, and I bet it is amazing, the texture of a potato chip adding a lot to the humble omelette. What a clever idea!

Frisée with Bacon and Egg… I’ve had this so many times in Paris, it’s filling and light at the same time. Love it.

Croque Madame, another super classic, you simply cannot go to Paris and not have one.

Turkish Lamb Flatbreads… These are the Lahmajoun I mentioned in the beginning.  A flat bread made with yogurt in the dough, a bit like a naan, and topped with well-seasoned ground lamb. Seriously good, I am sure.

Buckwheat Crepes... These have been on my list to make for a long, long time. Not surprised she included them, they are sold everywhere in Paris, not only in bistrots, but also as street food.

Carrot Chickpea Crepes… a departure on the crepe subject, another Middle Eastern twist on a classic. I almost picked this one to feature in the blog, but the Parisian Flan won me over.

Chocolate Mousse, Raspberry Mille-Feuille, and Floating Islands with Caramel and Strawberries are three desserts from this chapter that made me dream.

Afternoon (L’Après Midi)

With this chapter, Clotilde explains the famous “Le Goûter“, that time in the end of the afternoon in which your light lunch has been used up, and dinner is still a bit far away. Keep in mind that in France no one has dinner before 8 or 9pm. Le Goûter is a small offering of goodies to keep you going, or to give the kids when they arrive from school. Fifteen recipes total in this chapter, including the Parisian Flan I featured.

 

Here is my shortlist of favorites:

Earl Grey Madeleines... Nantais Cake (a very moist almond cake)… Chocolate Ice Cream with Nuts and RaisinsChestnut Cream Meringue (this looks absolutely spectacular)… Simple Chocolate Macarons (nothing like finding my obsession waiting for me)… But I guess my all time favorite would be Salted Caramel Flaky Pie. It is so tempting I must show you a picture from the book…

Don’t you feel like going to the kitchen and making it right now?

Early Evening (L’Apéro)

Another French habit is to have a drink and light food before going out for dinner, a show, or a movie. In this chapter, Clotilde offers 11 recipes, including a few drinks.  Some of my favorites:

Armenian Byoreks…   Armenian food is found mostly in the 9th arrondisement of the city, the original neighborhood that received the first immigrants back in the 1915’s. Byoreks are delicious parcels of flaky dough, usually shaped as triangles, and filled with many different types of delicacies, from meat to veggies or cheese. Her version uses spinach, cheese, and pastrami.

Butternut Kibbeh with Spinach…  I adore kibbeh, and normally have a meat-loaded version (I have one in the blog from years ago), but this one is definitely calling my name. So unusual!

Oven-Puffed Pancake... Baked Camembert with Honey and Apple Cider... Olive and Goat Cheese Quick Bread... The quick bread brought me memories of a couple of friends we visited often for dinner. She always prepared one of these quick breads as an appetizer if we were having dinner with them or perhaps going out for a meal somewhere. You know, just as a warm up to the evening.  I actually blogged about one version with zucchini in the distant past.

Evening (Le Soir)

What could be more magical than spending a romantic evening in Paris? Tough question. In this chapter, Clotilde talks about special recipes that you can cook at home but will have the aura of a fancy restaurant.  I could happily cook (and eat) every single one, but here is my selected list:

Roasted Squash Soup with Curried Cheese Quenelle…  Quenelle makes any meal feel special. Just a simple technique to shape it is all you need, and Clotilde explains how to do it.

Rice and Ginger Soup... when simplicity meets elegance, I so want to make this one when the weather cools off (well, hopefully not anytime soon!)

Cauliflower Brioche. You have no idea how cool that looks. Get the book, then we can talk more about it (wink, wink)

Tfaya Chicken Couscous… have you heard of tfaya? It is a condiment made with caramelized onions and raisins, in this case used to perfume couscous. O.M.G.

Spice-Crusted Duck Maigret… how could she not include a duck dish, right? So Parisian…

Mushroom Bourguignon… a vegetarian take on one great classic French dish. Must make it!

Every single dish in this chapter seems fit for a special dinner, either for a romantic evening with just you and your favorite human, or a couple of very dear friends. Some sweets included are the classic Pears Poached in Spiced Red Wine,  Caramelized Arlette Cookies (a version of them was a technical challenge in the Great British Bake Off years ago), and the recipe from the book’s cover: Ice Cream Puffs with Chocolate Sauce (no additional remarks needed).

Late Night (Tard dans la Nuit)

One recipe in the chapter. French Onion Soup. I don’t even know how many times I’ve enjoyed it with the most perfectly broiled Gruyere cheese on top of a perfect crusty slice of bread, cut in the exact thickness to make it stand against the hot soup without dissolving into nothingness. Au Pied du Cochon is a restaurant that still serves this soup pretty much the whole night. I’ve had the experience once. Yes,  Tasting Paris brought me a ton of fond memories indeed!

Clotilde, thank you for allowing me to share the flan recipe in my blog… 

For those interested in the book, it’s available in amazon.com. I am not affiliated, and won’t get a single penny from your purchase. I only recommend books I fall in love with, and this was definitely one…

ONE YEAR AGO: Beef Goulash, Slow-Cooker Version

TWO YEARS AGO: Post-workout Chia Yogurt Bliss

THREE YEARS AGO: Tomato Tatin

FOUR YEARS AGO: Best Thing I Ever Made: Chocolate Chip Cookies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Farofa Brasileira

SIX YEARS AGO: Thai-Inspired Pork Tenderloin

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A yummy Brazilian cake: Bolo de Fuba’

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Summer’s Tomatoes

NINE YEARS AGO: Leaving on a jet plane… 

 

 

 

WHITE CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY DOME & AFTERNOON TEA REVIEW

If you want to make a dessert to impress, search no further. This one looks impossibly cute, it mixes different textures, and it comes in single portion size, which always makes a dessert more special. Made just for you! The recipe comes from a cookbook that you absolutely must have: Eric Lanlard’s Afternoon Tea. I fell in love with it without having any idea who Mr. Lanlard was, and it turns out he is quite the celebrity chef, having done several cooking shows on TV and written a fair number of cookbooks. Born in Bretagne, he’s been living in the UK since age 22, now the owner of a wonderful place in London called Cake Boy. Maybe one day I will be able to visit and enjoy one of his beautiful concoctions. With a perfect cup of tea, of course… But without further ado, here is my version of his adorable dome-shaped dessert.

 

WHITE CHOCOLATE AND RASPBERRY DOME
(reprinted with permission from Eric Lanlard)

100g (3½oz) white chocolate, roughly chopped
10g (¼oz) golden caster sugar (or regular sugar)
1 egg yolk
10g (¼oz) cornstarch
50ml (2fl oz) milk
1 gelatine leaf (about 2.5 g)
250ml (9fl oz) whipping cream
30 raspberries
6 thin Palets Breton (recipe follows)
8 tbsp apricot jam
pink food coloring
tempered white chocolate for decoration

Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the surface of the water does not touch the bowl. Leave to cool slightly. In a separate heatproof bowl, whisk the sugar and egg yolk until pale and fluffy, then fold in the cornstarch.

Heat the milk in a saucepan, then pour over the egg mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook over a medium heat for 2–3 minutes, stirring continuously, until it has thickened. Meanwhile, soak the gelatine in cold water until softened. Stir the custard into the melted white chocolate. Squeeze out the excess water from the gelatine and add to the warm chocolate mixture, then stir together until the gelatin has melted. Leave to cool.

Whip the cream to soft peaks, then fold into the cooled custard. Divide the mousse among 6 individual dome silicone molds, filling them half full. Arrange 5 raspberries over the mousse in each mold, then spoon over the remaining mousse. Place the molds in the freezer for at least 4 hours until set solid.

Melt the apricot jam in a small saucepan, then pass through a sieve until smooth. Return the glaze to the pan and stir in the food dye. Turn each mould out on to a cooling rack. Pour the glaze over the frozen domes to cover – the glaze should set within 30 seconds. Using a palette knife carefully lift each on to a Palet Breton biscuit. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

PALETS BRETON
(slightly modified from Eric Lanlard’s recipe)

2 egg yolks
85g (3oz) golden caster sugar (or regular sugar)
85g (3oz) unsalted butter, softened
140g (5oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
2 generous pinches of Guérande salt

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and fluffy, then add the butter. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, then add to the mixture and combine together to form a smooth dough. Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and shape as a flat disk. Cover with plastic film and chill in the refrigerator for one hour.

Roll the dough about 3/8 inch thick and bake in a 350F oven for about 20 minutes. While still warm from the oven, cut disks the same size as your dome mold for the mousse.  Leave to cool completely before assembling the dessert.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I am really over the moon with this dessert. It is deceptively simple to prepare, but  having made it twice, I can tell you that small details matter. If you look at the bottom right picture in the composite above, you’ll see that the raspberries are visible underneath the glaze. That happened because the berries were a little too big (hey, Kansas is not that far from Texas) and when I placed them inside the mold and filled it with mousse, some were pushed all the way to the edge. It is evident on the upper right photo. Ideally, the fruit should be totally surrounded by the white chocolate mousse. It is a small detail, but in such a lovely dessert, it is one to pay attention to next time. See? There I am again using the “next time” line. That is also the reason why I added the drizzle of white chocolate, to make the boo-boo less evident. Plus, it gave me a good excuse to try my hands at tempering white chocolate. It was quite a thrill, but one with a happy ending.

I used the seeding method, in which I melted very slowly 3/4 of diced white chocolate (to 105 F), then brought the temperature down to 80 F adding the remaining 1/4 diced bits with constant agitation (talking not only chocolate but my inner self). After that, I increased the temperature super gently with a hairdryer just to be able to drizzle and pipe the design over silpat, not allowing it to go over 85 F.

The cookie base can be whatever cookie you like. The most important thing is that the dimension match that of the domed mousse. Since some cookies shrink or change shape during baking,  I decided to roll the dough out, bake it and then cut the cookies exactly the size I needed. Worked pretty well. Sablès are sturdy but have that melt in your mouth feel of a shortbread. I had some cookies leftover, and they received a drizzle of tempered white chocolate. They turned out very good, simple and delicious. The small amount of salt in the Palets Breton’s dough is a must. Normally these cookies are pretty thick (google and you’ll see what I’m talking about), but of course to serve as a base for the dessert, it is best to bake thinner versions, they will be more delicate.

One more thing: avoid using apricot jam like Bonne Maman. Oddly enough, that delicious version does not have as much pectin as more mundane brands do, and it’s hard to get good coverage of the mousse. On my first attempt, I ended up resorting to a chocolate glaze. It was also very good, but I think I prefer the taste and color impact of the pink-red glaze.

For those interested, this is the dome mold I used. 

And now, allow me to offer you a small overview of my favorite cookbook of the moment…
Eric Lanlard’s Afternoon Tea

The book starts with a nice introduction about paring tea with food, something most people don’t bother thinking about. But, truth is, tea covers many complex flavors and will complement, enhance, or sometimes fight with the food you serve it with. One of the interesting combinations he suggests is a Lapsang Souchong tea with anything chocolate. Lapsang Souchong is a smoked tea with quite unique flavor (and smell). I’ve seen pastry chefs making chocolate mousses infused with it, but have not tried it yet. That too, shall happen in the Bewitching Kitchen. But, back to the book. The chapters are divided into sections that cover particular types of goodies. I will list the recipes that made my heart miss a beat or three from each chapter. And by the way, let me tell you the photos are spectacular (you can tell by the cover of the book).

Macarons and Choux. How could I not fall in love with a book that opens with Macarons??? I want to make pretty much every one of the 10 recipes in the chapter, but just to share the favorites: Lemon and Pepper Macarons with Smoked Salmon, Hazelnut Macarons with Pumpkin Puree, Blue Cheese Gougères, and Mini-Salmon Mousse and Nigella Seed Paris-Brest.

Savory Tarts. Pear, Roquefort and Walnut Tartlets, Tartes Flambées, Camembert and Apple Tarts with Walnut Drizzle, Spinach and Pine Nut Wholemeal Tartlets.

Sandwiches and Scones. Very creative chapter, let me tell you… Combinations of flavors that seem quite unusual but not over the top. Vanilla-Cured Salmon on Beetroot Caraway Bread, Paprika Chicken Ciabatta, Pistachio and Rose Scones (swoon!), Raw Cacao and Raspberry Scones.

Cakes and Sweet Tarts. Pistachio and Rose Financiers (gosh, I must make these), Strawberry Ombré Cake (from the cover of the book, gorgeous cake), Chocolate and Ginger Tart (a thing of beauty), Linzer Torte.

Patisserie. My favorite chapter, that includes the some recipes I made from the book. Red Velvet Cheesecake, White Chocolate and Raspberry Domes, Lemon Posset, Saffron Crême Pâtissière, Mango, and Mint Cups, Raspberry Choux Craquelin Buns.

Biscuits. I cannot pick favorites. I want to make them all, so here they are: Viennese Butter Biscuits, Palets Breton, Cardamom BiscuitsSoft Ginger Biscuits, Honey and Lemon Biscuits, Lavender Shortbread Hearts, Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti, Peanut Butter and Banana Cookies, Coconut Macarons Rocher, Gluten-free Tahini Cookies, and Cinnamon Palmiers.  Are you in love yet?

Finally, a teaser for you… this is his Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake. I took it to our department and people went crazy for it. It is decadently delicious.

Get the book, bake from it. Have a cup of tea. Find your hygge

Mr. Lanlard, thank you for allowing me to publish your recipe, and thanks for the advice on the raspberry dome. I look forward to baking a lot more from your gorgeous cookbook.

ONE YEAR AGO: Blueberry Crumble Coffee Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Pickled Red Onions

THREE YEARS AGO: Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Mini-Chocolate Cheesecake Bites

FIVE YEARS AGO: Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Grated Tomato Sauce

SIX YEARS AGO: A Taste of Yellow to Honor Barbara

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Gratin of Beefsteak Tomatoes

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Tour de France Final Stage: PARIS

NINE YEARS AGO: Snickerdoodles with a Twist

 

 

 

 

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