Saturday, January 22, 2011

January Daring Baker's Challenge - Biscuit joconde and entremets

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

A joconde imprime (French Baking term) is a decorative design baked into a light sponge cake which lends an elegant finish to desserts formed in molds. A joconde batter is used because it bakes into a moist, flexible cake. The cake batter may be tinted or marbleized for a further decorative effect. You can even use color!

The joconde batter is spread very thinly and then baked on high heat for a short time. It must be watched carefully so that it stays flexible enough to fit into the molds. If under baked, it will be sticky. If over baked, it will dry out and crack. Once cooled, the sponge may be cut into strips to line any shape ring mold.

Entremet is a French term used to describe an ornate dessert with many different layers in a mold, usually served cold. Usually the layers are mousses or bavarians, but other components (such as meringue for crunch or gelee to add texture) can be added. A glaze often tops it off.

What a challenge it was! I have to say that this is the most "daring" thing I've baked since going to pastry school... I'll make sure to tell you about all of my screw-ups, as well as lessons learned (at the end), so you can hopefully learn from my mistakes.

The first part challenge was figuring out what flavors to use. Since the joconde itself is made from almond flour/meal, I decided to choose flavors that would compliment almond. Not too hard, since nearly everything tastes great with almond. Eventually, I decided on a base of dacquoise (a crunchy baked almond meringue), alternating layers of chocolate and almond mousse, along with a raspberry gelee layer in the very center. I used a raspberry glaze for the top.

Since the dacquoise takes the longest to prepare (it has to bake for 2 hours), I decided to make that first.

1 T unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup powdered sugar
4 large egg whites

Heat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush with 1 tablespoon butter; coat with flour. Set aside. Whisk together the almond meal, 1/4 cup sugar, and the powdered sugar; set aside. Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. One tablespoon at a time, slowly add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue to beat to stiff peaks. Fold in the nut mixture. Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet until it is 1/4 inch thick. Bake the dacquoise 2 hours then turn off the oven, and leave inside until completely cooled, about 30 minutes.

Once this was done, I decided to make my gelee, since it too takes some time to set. A gelee, especially one spread this thinly, is a fancy word for what is basically a grown-up fruit roll-up.

Raspberry Gelee
1 1/2 tsp gelatin powder
1 T cold water
1 cup frozen raspberry
3/4 oz superfine sugar

Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water to bloom. Cook raspberries and sugar on the stove to dissolve the sugar, then blend in a blender. (You can strain to remove the seeds, but I like 'em in there.) Heat the gelatin until liquid (careful, this happens fast!), then mix into the raspberries. Pour the mixture into your cake pan set over a piece of plastic wrap, then allow to set for at least 2 hours.

Once this was in the fridge setting, I decided to mix up my joconde batter and decor paste.


3oz almond flour/meal
2⅔ oz confectioners' sugar
1 oz cake flour
3 large eggs
3 large egg whites
⅓ oz sugar
1 oz unsalted butter, melted

In a clean mixing bowl, whip the egg whites and sugar to firm, glossy peeks. In a separate bowl, sift almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, cake flour. On medium speed, add the eggs a little at a time. Mix well after each addition. Mix until smooth and light. Fold in one third reserved whipped egg whites to almond mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites. Do not over mix. Fold in melted butter.

Cocoa Joconde-Décor Paste

7 oz unsalted butter, softened
7 oz confectioner's sugar
7 large egg whites
6 oz cake flour
2 oz cocoa powder

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg whites, beating continuously. Sift together flour and cocoa powder, then fold the mixture into the butter/sugar/egg mixture.

For those of you who don't already know this about me, I never waste an egg white or a yolk. All those egg whites we just whipped up produced a bunch of egg yolks that can be used for something. And....guess what? Each batch of mousse filling requires 6 yolks. And, even if we weren't making mousse, we COULD make mousse or we could make ice cream. Or creme brulee. This list goes on. You probably have NO idea how easy any of these three things are to make.

To make the joconde imprime (the "patterned joconde"), create a pattern out of decor paste, on a flat baking sheet with silicone mat. You can spread a thin layer of the decor paste and then use a spatula, decorating comb or even your finger to make a pattern. Or you can use a piping bag full of the decor paste to pipe your own design on the mat. Keep in mind the height of your mold and how wide your patterned strips are going to need to be. I decided to use the piping bag and piped designs similar to those that are usually done in melted chocolate. Once your design is finished, put the whole baking sheet in the freezer for about 15-30 minutes to harden up.

At this point, I decided to revisit my dacquoise and cut it to fit my entremet. What I didn't realize is that a rectangular meringue (this one anyway) is way too crisp to be cut into any kind of even-close-to-circular shape. So, when I tried, it basically just shattered into various sides shards of sugary, eggy, nutty goodness. I ate a few of the scraps, then tossed the rest in the trash and tried to decide what to do next. Hmmmm...I think I will make ANOTHER dacquoise, this time in the springform pan, so that when I remove it, it will be the perfect size/shape for the bottom of the cake. So, I set my joconde batter aside, left my patterned decor paste in the freezer, hardening, and whipped up another batch of that dacquoise. While it was in the oven for 2 MORE HOURS, I decided to take a break and go for a long run. So that I didn't have to wait for it to finish cooking, I asked Todd (my husband) to turn the oven off when the timer went off. One of the nice things about this dacquoise is that there really isn't any need to adjust baking time. After 2 hours, it's done, and it just cools in the hot oven. So, when I came back from my run, the pretty circular dacquoise was finished and cool in the oven. I decided to leave it there (***) and go take a shower. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, all clean. Well, at this point, the joconde batter I'd made HOURS ago was deflating (remember all those whipped egg whites that were folded in, as well as the melted butter? There is only so long that can sit, even in the fridge), so I decided to make another batch. When it was done, I cranked up the oven to 475 to preheat for my joconde, pulled the patterns out of the freezer and then...


IT'S COMING FROM THE OVEN, inside which the pretty, circular dacquoise is still sitting. Burned to a *&$&*(# crisp at this point!!! I had completely forgotten to take it out before preheating my oven!!! Now, a second 2+ hour dacquoise ruined. I decided the entremet was going to have to go without.

Once I'd aired out the kitchen, I pulled the baking sheet with my patterned decor paste out of the freezer (it was nice and hard by now!) and spread a layer of the joconde batter on top . (Since the pattern is frozen hard, it shouldn't move at all.) Try to keep the joconde batter at a consistent height across the baking sheet, 1/4" is good. Bake in that hot, hot, 475 degree oven for 7-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your batter. (Mine was fairly thin, so it baked on the lower end of that range.) Remove, cool slightly on the pan, and then quickly flip onto a kitchen towel or parchment paper sprinkled generously with powdered sugar. (This keeps the back of the cake from sticking.)

Once it's cooled a little more, trim the edges with a sharp knife (and a straight edge/ruler) to fit the inside of your mold. Remember, I used the springform pan (the kind you normally use to bake cheesecake in), so once it was cleaned of the blackened dacquoise, I went to prepare the pan. Place a piece of parchment paper on a solid surface (cookie sheet, cutting board, cookbook, whatever) and top with a piece of plastic wrap. Put your ring mold or springform pan on the plastic wrap and then snugly bring the plastic up the sides so that the bottom of the pan is taut. I also used a rubber band around the bottom edge to keep the plastic in place. Cut a piece of either parchment paper or acetate strip to line the inside of your pan. You probably should measure and cut it to be a little higher than the top of the pan, but then trim to the edge of the pan once it's lining the inside. This will help you smooth the top of your entremet.

Now, press your cut cake strips into the inside of the mold, decorative side facing out. Push and press the ends together so that the cake lining the mold is seamless. You don't want any of that yummy mousse and stuff sneaking out! If you want to cut a circle of joconde to press inside the middle to be the "bottom" of your entremet, you can do that now. I did decide to to do that since I didn't have any other plans for the bottom once dacquoise #2 got trashed.

Now, time to fill that thing! Remember above, I said I was filling with alternating layers of chocolate and almond mousse, as well as that grown-up fruit roll-up ("raspberry gelee") in the center. I whipped those mousses up in a snap and got to work filling that pan.

Chocolate Mousse

Place 12 oz chopped semisweet chocolate in a double-boiler (or a metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water). Add 4 oz butter. Careful not to scorch, melt the mixture until smooth. In another metal bowl, whip 6 egg yolks, add 3 oz sugar, an ounce or two of liquor if you want, and whisk over that pan of simmering water until it's almost too hot for you to stand it when you put your finger in. Move the metal bowl to a mixer and whisk on high until cool. (Since this takes a while, you might want to do that in your mixer bowl so you can just set it and forget it. For a few minutes.) When it's cool, it should be nice and thick. In a separate bowl, whip 1 pint (= 2 cups) of heavy cream to soft peaks. Fold the chocolate/butter mixture into the egg mixture, then gently fold in cream until no streaks remain. DO NOT OVERMIX or you will deflate. Refrigerate to set.

Almond Mousse

Now, I had never made almond mousse before, nor did I have a recipe. But, I did buy a really nice, gourmet, imported almond paste from Southern Season just for this occasion, so I had to ad lib. NOTE: It did not go as planned...Prepare the egg, sugar and liquor (if you want) mixture as above. For those of you taking notes, this is called a "sabayon" in French pastry terms. I tried softening the almond paste some by heating it in the microwave and then used a fork to try to soften it some more. When folding ingredients into each other for a mousse such as this, you really want the two components to be of similar consistency. This allows them to blend nicely. These two things did not blend nicely. The almond paste never got "smooth" and there were little chunks throughout the mixture. Plus, it was so much stiffer than the sabayon that I deflated a lot of it when mixing them. Once mixed, I folded in a pint of whipped cream (soft peaks) and refrigerated. Even though it had little almond paste chunks in it, it still tasted good!

To assemble, I spread a thin layer of chocolate mousse (about 1/2"), then almond mousse, then flipped the set gelee on top, then another layer each of chocolate then almond mousse.

You want the fillings to be higher than the top of the joconde. That way, when it's unmolded, your audience gets to see some of the mousse over the top. The whole thing goes in the fridge now for a few hours to set the mousse and chill.... When you are ready to glaze the top, heat some raspberry jam on the stove with a little apricot jelly, strain, cool slightly, then pour on top of the cold mousse and refrigerate to set.

You can decorate the top with fruit, chocolate shavings, nuts, or some kind of design or combination of these things.

I promised I'd share my lessons learned...

1.When cooling something in the oven, always remove from the oven once cool!
2.Dacquoise/meringue do not cut into circles!
3.Almond mousse is not easily made with almond paste. There's gotta be a better way, perhaps using almond extract to flavor. If you find one, let me know.
4.Plan ahead when layering your mousse. Make sure you know how much you have so that you have enough to make the layers you plan to make and have them all be the same thickness. If in doubt, make a double batch.

All in all, this was indeed a daring challenge. I brought the entremet to work and everyone loved it! (They didn't even have to know about the screw-ups.)

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