custom cakes/cookies

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chocolate Pavlovas with Chicory Chocolate Mousse (and Juneberries!)

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've never made a pavlova, so this was an exciting endeavor for me. Also, it's always nice (as a frequent ice cream maker) to include additional uses for leftover egg whites in your repertoire. What challenged me though was deciding what story to tell in this blog post...

I could have written about Anna Pavlova, whose airy tutu inspired the dessert, and the rivalry between New Zealand and Australia in claiming its invention. But I think most people have heard this before...

Or I could have gone on about the creole-inspired chocolate bar (New Orleans style chicory coffee + cocoa nibs + 70% cacao Sao Thome bittersweet chocolate) I used to make the chicory chocolate mousse (isn't that fun to say!), and the southern origins of the consumption of chicory root as an obstinate substitute for coffee during the Civil War. But others far more knowledgeable than me can give you that history lesson...

Instead, I rather introduce you to juneberries, aka serviceberries or saskatoons or sugarplums or shadberries or chuckley pear. That's a lot of pseudonyms for a wild fruit that is quite often overlooked and quite frankly under appreciated. These purplish red berries grow on amelanchier trees, small trees planted for their ornamental value in urban landscapes throughout North America. The berries taste similar to a blueberry but have an edible seed with flavors akin to an almond.

Sadly, most people look at you strange if you forage "suspect"-looking berries from a tree growing on a busy main street downtown. But for the adventurous, juneberries are a special treat. When ripe, they taste perfect out of hand or can be used in pies and jams or on top of ice cream or to garnish pavlovas, as they pair well with chocolate.

Unfortunately, with competition from the birds and a short fruiting season, they won't be available too much longer. I preserved the remaining berries from my foraging haul by incorporating them into a batch of strawberry jam. That makes for a little bit of June whenever I fancy, no matter the calendar month.

Chocolate Pavlova
makes about 2 dozen 3-inch rounds

6 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 TBS (220 grams) white granulated sugar
½ cup (60 grams) confectioner’s sugar
⅔ cup (60 grams) cocoa powder

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

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

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.)

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. The meringues will expand slightly during baking, so keep this in mind when determining final shape.

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
makes about 4 cups

1½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream
9 ounces (255 grams) dark chocolate, finely chopped
1⅔ cups (390 mls) mascarpone*
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Cognac (I recommend Kelt. It has an interesting maturation process that involves a 3 month ocean voyage.)

*Here is a link to a recipe, if you are interested in making your own mascarpone from scratch. I recommend doubling this recipe to have enough mascarpone for use in both the mousse and the cream drizzle sauce below.

Put ½ cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream in a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and let sit at room temperature until cool.

Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl of a standing mixer. Using a whisk attachment, whip on low speed for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the cognac and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)

Mix about a fourth of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse to pipe atop the pavlova.

Crème Anglaise
makes 3 cups

1 cup (235 mls) whole milk
1 cup (235 mls) heavy cream
1 tsp pure vanilla bean paste
6 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar

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

In a saucepan, combine the milk, cream and vanilla and bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Take off the heat.

Pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from overcoagulating (or curdling) the 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 the spoon. DO NOT OVERCOOK.

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 Cream (for drizzling)
makes about 1 quart

1 recipe crème anglaise (see above)
½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone
½ cup (120 mls) heavy cream

Prepare the crème anglaise. Slowly whisk in the mascarpone into the chilled crème anglaise. Put the cream in a bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture.

**The quantity this recipe makes is more than sufficient for garnishing the pavlova. Freeze the remainder in the canister of your ice cream maker for a light and creamy, custard-style ice cream.**

Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top. Garnish with fresh fruit if desired.

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