28 June 2010

Not every ballerina gets a dessert named after her....

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 - a book already in my collection.

Ahhhhh, Pavlova. There's a dessert I haven't had in years! This was one of the dessert's in my mom's arsenal when I was a kid. She often made this when we were going over to a friends' for dinner, or had company to our house in the summer - the perfect light and elegant dessert. Even better, it was quick and easy to prepare and didn't require standing around a hot stove for hours on those +34c days of summer. A gorgeous puff of meringue, baked in a low, slow oven until it was nice and crisp with just a bit of colour, covered in a blanket of whipped cream and served with sweet, juicy strawberries. Mm mmm mmmmm... It was a huge favourite of my sister's, not only because it's sweet and about 50% cream, but this dessert was named for the once famous ballerina, Anna Pavlova (I say "once famous" because he time was back in the 1920's and I'm willing to bet more people today know the dessert than the dancer). Well, sis dreamed of being a ballerina, and she worked hard at it for years, but the women in my family were not blessed with height, so it was not to be.

Whoa, this ain't my momma's Pavlova. Chocolate, mascarpone cheese, creme anglaise... nope, this is a different dish altogether, and I could not wait to give it a try. This is why I decided to stick to the recipe as it was posted. Ooooh - and I can work on my piping skills! Thank you Dawn! 

The meringues whipped beautifully into glossy gorgeous peaks in no time - they were absolutely pearlescent before I added in the cocoa and icing sugar. Because meringues were one of the hardest things for me to master when I first began learning to bake, I find a perfect meringue to be a thing of beauty. I filled my piping bag with the glossy foam and began piping out swirly nests that would hold the rich chocolate mousse. Taking a page from my macaron experience, I decided to let these air dry for about an hour before I put them in a low temperature oven for another hour. Just before bed, I turned off the oven and left the meringues there get nice and crisp overnight. By morning they were irresistible, yet I would have to resist, at least until I got home from work and made the mascarpone mousse and crème anglaise. 

I had made crème anglaise once before but found it to be nothing but tooth-achingly sweet. This recipe, however, from François Payard, with mascarpone cheese whipped into it was thick and creamy and delicately flavoured. Not having any Sambuca in my liquor cabinet, I chose to omit it, instead doubling the amount of vanilla. While the crème chilled in the fridge, it was time to make the chocolate mascarpone mousse, which was fairly straightforward as mousses go. With the addition of the cheese, it was beyond rich - almost overpoweringly so, but it was thick and creamy and held it's shape beautifully. Since the crème anglaise was not yet chilled, the mousse also went into the fridge for the night. Which turned out to be a happy coincidence actually...

The next night, hubby finally arrived home from his 2 week business trip (yay!), so I didn't do much baking - between flight delays and waiting for luggage, we didn't get home until 10pm. The next night however, we had some surprise dinner guests in friends visiting from Vancouver. Dinner was a simple homemade pasta with grilled shrimp, and dessert was as simple as assembling the chilled components sitting in the fridge. Violà! Garnished with a few fresh cherries, and we enjoyed a fabulous elegant dessert in less that 5 minutes!

No, this certainly is not the pavlova of my childhood, it is an incredibly rich, chocolatey version of it. Next time, I would probably make opt to just make the meringues and the mascarpone crème anglaise, serving an elegant version of Ile Flottant. I think it would be significantly lighter yet still just as elegant as this challenge turned out.  But don't just take my word for it - give it a try yourself and let me know what you think!

Happy Baking!


Chocolate Meringue:
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
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.
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.)
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.
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: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 (490 mls) mascarpone
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice)
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.
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.
Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.

Mascarpone Cream:
1 recipe crème anglaise
½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone
2 tbsp (30 mls) Sambucca (optional)
½ cup (120 mls) heavy cream
Prepare the crème anglaise (below). Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the optional Sambucca and let the mixture cool. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.

Crème Anglaise:
1 cup (235 mls) whole milk
1 cup (235 mls) heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar
Directions:In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow.
Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat.
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. Be careful not to 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.

Final Assembly of the Chocolate Pavlova with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse:
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.


FireintheBreeze said...

looks so beautiful!

Audax said...

Your piping skills are astounding and the meringues are perfect - yes this recipe ain't the pavlova of my childhood. Bravo bravo bravo on this challenge. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

Jamie said...

Oh Julia, your pavlovas are stunning, the prettiest I have seen yet! And your photo at the top is fabulous! You are amazing and talented! Just gorgeous! And I wouldn't mind tasting them either. Glad hubby is home and hope you guys are calm and together for a bit now before one of you takes off again. I miss you!

poonam,,, said...

Hi :) ur pav looks lovely! love the first pic :)

chef_d said...

Excellent looking pavlova! I love the way you piped them, so exquisite! Great job!

tease-spoon of sugar said...

Wow! Your pavlovas look incredible! Great pix! I love the way you piped your meringue. Next time I make these I am going to copy you! : )

pastry said...

Beautiful pictures and perfectly stiff meringue. Well done!

Cecilia said...

Julia, these are beautiful and your piping is perfect! Really like the light reflecting off the cherry & creme anglaise in your first pic, talk about food porn!

Hazel said...

Absolutely gorgeous! I almost want to steal your first photo, frame it and put it on my wall! :)

Anne's Kitchen said...

Oh wow that looks absolutely delicious!!! I LOVE Pavlovas! Even though I'm more of a vanilla girl, I think a chocolate version sounds amazing! Ah and I see the fork's making an appearance :) Watch out for my next cake post - I've used it too! Hope all is good my dear!!!

MeetaK said...

julia this looks really fantastic! love the mini bites you created! a perfectly executed challenge!

Seattle Pastry Girl said...

Just beautiful...fabulous job on the challenge ! And the cherry on top is really perfection !

Sirius73 said...

Wow! That pavlova looks perfect!

GourmAndrea said...

Amazing photography, that fork in the first shot is so feminine I love it.

Valentina said...

I found this mousse fabulous.I have a bit of a fascination for mascarpone.I just ate pavlovas for the first time as a grown up.they are not - better say they were not, popular in Brazil.incidentally it was a chocolate pavlova.nigellas recipe.

sadaf said...

Hi Julia,
First time i am here must say it's a deliciously sweet blog. Your Pavs looks fantastic perfect serving size. i love the look with cheery on top.