I've been a total blog slacker lately. I haven't posted anything since last month's Daring Bakers' challenge. I wish I could say that I was busy with work, travel or the World Cup. Or that I haven’t had the time to bake lately. But I don't have any excuses. Work is, well, work and that's as busy as it has always been. My next big vacation isn't until the fall. And I value sleep over watching the World Cup. Besides, the constant drone of the vuvuzelas during the broadcast have been driving me, and probably every one else, batty!
I've been baking like a mad woman, but it's been mostly repeats of stuff I've already posted on alpineberry - red velvet cake, macarons, almond lemon tea cake, yogurt cake, palmiers, fruit cobbler, black bottom cupcakes, banana bread and cheesecake. I'm still on the hunt for a great chocolate brownie recipe. Last week I tried the fudgy brownie recipe in last month's Fine Cooking magazine as well as Alice Medrich's cocoa brownies. Both were decent and the co-workers enjoyed them tremendously, but neither was what I've been looking for.
I've also been playing with my newest toy, a Cuisinart ice cream maker. So far I've made Vietnamese coffee ice cream, chocolate-peanut butter ice cream, strawberry sorbet and dark chocolate ice cream. The recipes are from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop. The chocolate ice cream is made with both Dutch-processed cocoa powder as well as bittersweet (72%) chocolate. It was by far the absolutely best chocolate ice cream I have ever eaten. Thanks David!
Despite all that time spent in the kitchen, I didn't photograph any of it. I didn’t want to set up the photo lights. I didn’t want to think about what to say in a blog post. I just wanted all that food to just be food. Can you tell that I've been in a blogging rut? Sigh.
So I wasn't sure if I was going to participate in this month's Daring Bakers' challenge. I've been on the fence about continuing to participate in the DB challenges the past few months. When I first joined in February 2007 there were just 10 of us. In fact, of those original 10 ladies, Elle and I are the only ones still active. Despite the huge success of the Daring Kitchen (which includes both Daring Bakers and Cooks), I miss the intimacy of a small group.
But the daring spirit lives in me for another month. This month's challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. She asked us to make a chocolate pavlova with a chocolate mascarpone mousse based on a Francois Payard recipe. Pavlova is a crisp meringue that is typically served with whipped cream and fruit.
For the shape of my cocoa meringues, I took inspiration from the photo in Francois Payard's Chocolate Epiphany. I filled a silicone mold with the meringue to make half-spheres. The spheres were a bit rough on the outside, but I found the spheres charming nevertheless. The full sphere reminds me of the Death Star. I also piped some shells into a more traditional shape.
The verdict? The cocoa meringue was crisp on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside. It was light as a cloud and melted in my mouth. Mascarpone was a nice twist to the dark chocolate mousse filling. The cream anglaise mascarpone sauce seemed a bit superfluous, but it was a nice complement to all that chocolate.
See what the other Daring Bakers thought of the challenge.
The fine print: 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.
Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
Recipe 1: 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) 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. (Class made rounds, hearts, diamonds and an attempt at a clover was made!)
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.
Recipe 2: 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 (or orange juice)
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.
Recipe 3: 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.
Recipe 4: Crème Anglaise (a component of the Mascarpone Cream above):
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.
Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and fresh fruit if desired.