Meringue Meets Mousse

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.

When I was in school, we made a Concorde cake: layers of chocolate meringue and chocolate mousse, encased by and topped with chocolate meringue “logs.” My classmates and I agreed it was delicious, but we were hard-pressed to understand how the 8-inch cake could be gracefully cut into individual servings. The idea of single-serving-sized desserts came up.

This month’s Daring Bakers challenge — individual chocolate Pavlovas (meringue shells) topped with chocolate mascarpone mousse and drizzled with mascarpone cream — seemed like a good candiate for a Concorde-style interpretation.

All of the challenge components — meringue, mousse, cream — are here, with just a couple of tweaks to the original recipes. In the mousse, I replaced the Grand Marnier with 4 tablespoons of Chambord. And to give the mascarpone cream more body, so it could be used as a top layer rather than a drizzling sauce, I cut back the crème anglaise in the recipe to one cup, and whipped the finished cream to soft peaks.

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Things Fall Apart

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a pièce montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

We know I often find the Daring Bakers challenges true to their name. I think this is the first time, however, that I actually cried.

It started well enough. The mixing and piping of the pâte à choux was not hard, after all the practice I got in school. The little puffs did their thing and puffed. I filled them with a raspberry diplomat cream I was pretty happy with (diplomat cream is a blend of pastry cream and whipped cream; the recipe follows).

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Steamed Ginger-Persimmon Pudding — Not for the Birds

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

I remember suet as the thing my grandmother would press with birdseed and hang outside her window to attract cardinals and goldfinches. In my recollection it was not, even though my family is from good English stock, something that was for people. If my grandmother cooked with it, she kept it to herself, which was a good idea, since I would have run screaming from anyone suggesting I eat the fat that blankets cows’ kidneys.

To be honest, the thought of it doesn’t do much for me now, either. But that’s the point of Daring Bakerhood, isn’t it — jumping out of one’s comfort zone and into the rendering pan? And I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised with how this pudding turned out, fat and all. It was like a very moist cake or bread pudding (actually, it is a bread pudding), without the meaty flavor I was expecting.

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Orange Tian

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

As far as I can tell, a tian is any layered dish. I’m not sure if there are other criteria, but the layers are key. They might be vegetables, or meat, or sweet things like pate sablee crust, orange marmalade, whipped cream, orange segments, and orange caramel sauce.

Personally, I like the sweet layers. And I’m always a sucker for a fruit dessert.

As is my wont, I stuck pretty close to the straight and narrow this month, following the challenge recipes mostly exactly. I did make a few modifications, so please give me a small pat on the head for being just a little bit Daring:

  • I made pistachio pate sablee by replacing 20 grams of the flour in the recipe with 20 grams of pistachios ground finely with 8 grams of the sugar. I had extra dough, so I made it into little sablee cookies, which my daughter was happy to take care of with dispatch. I should have kept the crust circles in the rings while baking to prevent spread, but cutting them down was pretty easy while they were still warm.
  • I infused the cold cream with 10 crushed cardamom pods for several hours before whipping.
  • I folded three tablespoons of (homemade!) orange marmalade into the whipped cream, which was three times the amount called for in the recipe. Definitely a case of more is more.

More Daring Bakers tians here!

Raspberry Tiramisu

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

Although admitting it may well get me thrown out of baking school, out of Daring Bakers, and quite possibly out of the entire human race, I’ve never been a big fan of tiramisu. It’s really the only dessert I ever flat-out said I didn’t like. I know, I know. I love coffee. I’m not averse to spirits. But lady fingers sodden with same and buried in acres of creamy creaminess… it’s just never tweaked my biscuit.

Well, consider my biscuit tweaked. I changed things up just a bit by adding fresh raspberries between the layers, skipping the espresso, and instead soaking the lady fingers with cake syrup flavored with just a hint of citrus liqueur. Now there’s a dessert I can love to eat. And eat… and eat.

The cream in this — a mixture of whipped cream, mascarpone, pastry cream, and zabaglione (all made from scratch) — can be summed up in three words: A. May. Zing. I didn’t have marsala for the zabaglione, but white port made a fine stand-in. Since I didn’t know how much I would end up needing for my 7-inch round tiramisu, I made a double batch of the cream — which was pretty much exactly double what I needed, but I can testify that it’s delicious over fresh fruit. (It might even be wonderful as spoonfuls stolen right from the mixing bowl, but I plead the Fifth on that one.)

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In Which I Lose My Gluten-Free Virginity

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

There isn’t much gluten-free baking around here — in fact, I’m usually all about the gluten. I have to admit there was a little scene playing out in my mind as I prepared these gluten-free graham wafers, my first foray into a world where wheat flour is taboo and things like sweet rice flour, sorghum flour, and tapioca flour rule the oven.

If anyone asked for a taste, I would, with shuffling feet and downcast eyes, stammer out an apologetic explanation for why these tasted more like graham cracker box than graham crackers.

Well. As Gomer Pyle would say, “Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!” The wafers tasted fantastic — just like “real” graham crackers, only better. Even though I was in a rush and messed them up — well of course I did, this is a DB challenge, isn’t it? — by not letting them chill thoroughly, so it was impossible to cut them into squares and they (it) ended up looking like a giant ginger snap — even then I found myself wishing I’d made a full batch instead of just the half I’d need most of for the Nanaimo bars. I actually wanted to eat these.

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