Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May Daring Bakers Challenge - Chocolate Marquis

After taking a month off to NOT create my own edible container with maple mousse, I'm back in the saddle again with the Daring Bakers. The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

This dessert REALLY appeals to me. It's creative, it's challenging, it's beautiful and it looks delish! Plus, because the meringue gets torched, it means I get to play with fire. Because the recipe makes SO MUCH, I was tempted to have people (might have to invite everyone I know) over to present it. But, because of the uncertainty of plating and finishing the dessert, as well as a newly discovered revelation regarding stress, I decided to halve the recipe instead and try it with a small (*intimate*) group. Since the marquis itself freezes well (it's in there now!), I can always decide to serve more once I've tried the presentation a time or two.

The dessert consists of several components. First, the marquis itself, which is a frozen custard that is thawed for serving. The marquis cube is coated in cocoa and placed upon a torched meringue and served with spiced nuts and a caramel. There are lots of different flavors and textures to enjoy!

Most components can be made ahead of time and stored (marquis and meringue in the freezer, caramel in the fridge), but I prefer to make the meringue at the time of serving. Since there are so many pieces to this, it's especially important to prepare your mis en place (get everything in place).

My first step was to make the chocolate base: Pour 6 oz hot (but not boiling) heavy cream over 6 oz bittersweet chocolate in a bowl. Whisk smooth after a minute or two. Add to that:
1/4 t salt
1/8 t cayenne
1/8 c tequila
1/8 c light corn syrup
1/2 t vanilla
1/8 c cocoa powder
1/16 t freshly ground black pepper
1 T unsalted butter, softened

Whisk smooth and set aside to cool somewhat.

Once the base is finished, begin whipping the eggs (6 large yolks + 2 large eggs) in a stand mixer for about 15 minutes until they lighten and become very fluffy.



In the last few minutes of egg whipping, begin making a simple syrup by heating 1/3 c sugar with 40 ml water in a saucepan. Cook to softball stage (235 degrees) and then pour over whipping eggs, trying to place it in the crevice between the whisk and the edge of the bowl. Allow the meringue to continue whipping at high speed until cool (10 min or so). In a separate bowl, whip 1 c heavy cream to soft peaks.

When the meringue is cool, add in the chocolate base (give it a good whisk beforehand just to make sure it's smooth), being careful not to overly deflate the meringue. Fold in the whipped cream, then pour into a parchment-lined 8"x8" square pan. Wrap in plastic wrap (hit the surface of the custard) and put in the freezer to set for at least 4 hours.

Next, you can make your nuts and caramel. (Are you nuts?!?) To make the nuts, mix together 4 oz sugar, 1 t cinnamon, 1/4 t cayenne and 1/2 t salt. Whisk 1 large egg white in a separate bowl until frothy and thick. Add the spices to the egg white and whisk to combine completely. Add 1 cup blanched whole nuts (I used hazelnuts) to the mixture and toss with a spoon. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 350 for 30 minutes, until they turn golden brown. Set aside for serving.

To make the caramel, combine 4 oz sugar with 2 oz water in a heavy saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until a darkened caramel is formed. Temporarily remove the pot from the heat and carefully add in 4 oz heavy cream. (Be careful because this mixture will vigorously pop and bubble.) Once the cream's been added and the mixture settles down, return it to the heat (low is fine) and use a spoon to break up any hard pieces that have formed. When the caramel has darkened to the point you want it, remove it from the heat and add 1/2 t salt and 1 T tequila. Set aside until ready to serve.

When you are ready to serve, prepare the meringue (this makes approx. 2 cups) by combining 6 large egg whites, 7 oz sugar and a splash of apple cider vinegar in your mixing bowl. Stir over a double-boiler until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is almost too hot for you to be able to put your finger in it. Move to the mixer and whisk the eggs to soft peaks. Add 1/4 t vanilla in the last few seconds of mixing.

When you are ready to serve, plate the meringue (pipe or scoop it onto the plate)and then torch it (or put under the broiler briefly) to give it some color. (Some others have suggested you can put any remaining meringue in a zip top plastic bag in the freezer until you are ready to use it again.)

Take the marquise out of the freezer and unmold it. Roll each of the 9 cubes in cocoa powder (about a cup), lay the cube on the meringue and let it soften in the refrigerator. Once it's softened, add the caramel and nuts and ENJOY!

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