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Daring Bakers: Chocolate Marquise

Friday, May 27, 2011

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.

Get the full original recipe in pdf here.

At first glance, the recipe looked terribly complicated. A litany of ingredients and instructions, and several components to the dishit was too much to take in at one go. However, a second look showed that while it was complex, it wasn't as difficult as it seemed. It's a chef's recipe, I suppose, and if it were written for the "common folk", then we would all be professional chefs, wouldn't we?

While there should be some adherence to the recipe, I think if the quantity of ingredients for the mousse part of the marquise isn't absolutely exact, it would still come out not only edible, but luscious too.

A chocolate marquise is a mousse. When I consulted Larousse Gastronomique about this confection, I found that there is also a drink with the same name. Here's the recipe: 

From Larousse Gastronomique
Dissolve 500g sugar in a little water, then add a bottle of dry white wine and 1 litre sparkling mineral water. Cut 2 lemons into thin slices, remove the seeds and add them to the drink. Store in the refrigerator and serve with ice cubes.

All the chocolate marquise recipes I looked up contain butter and quite a lot too. Nothing against butter, but I think egg yolks, chocolate and cream are sufficient for a lovely dessert, so I'm glad this one doesn't have a substantial amount of it.

I used the recipe that yielded the smallest quantity (thanks to Audax Artifax for scaling it down), but modified it slightly. While I used all the ingredients (except for substituting tequila with cognac), I didn't follow the directions exactly. I used the sabayon/zabaglione method where egg yolks are beaten in a double boiler. This avoids cooking the sugar to soft ball stage. I don't know about anyone else, but I find trying to use a candy thermometer (one of those that hook on to the side of the pot) for such a small amount of sugar syrup isn't easy.

Many years ago I learned that adding cornstarch to egg yolks when they are heated (for example, when making a custard) will prevent them from curdling so that's what I've done. Good tip since my eggs have never seized up since following this advice.

Roll the whole slice in cocoa powder, or just dredge the top
Serves 6
120ml heavy cream
3 egg yolks at room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Chocolate Base, barely warm (recipe follows)
½ cup Dutch process cocoa powder (for rolling)
Mint Meringue Clouds (recipe follows)
Almond praline (recipe follows)
Tequila caramel (see pdf)
  • Grease a small loaf pan with vegetable oil and line with 2 layers of cling film, making sure there is about 8cm of overhang on all sides.
  • Whip the heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks. Place in the refrigerator while preparing the other components.
  • Place egg yolks, sugar, water and cornstarch in a large mixing bowl (metal or glass) over a saucepan of simmering water. Using an electric hand mixer, whisk the eggs until thick, pale and have doubled in volume.
  • Remove from the heat and fold in the chocolate base. Stir in a third of the whipped cream to loosen the mixture, then fold in the rest of the cream.
  • Spoon into prepared pan, smoothing the top. Fold the overhanging cling film onto the surface of the marquise; freeze until firm.
  • When ready to serve, remove marquise from pan using the cling film overhang. Dredge the loaf in cocoa powder before slicing, or cut into thick slices and roll in cocoa powder before plating with meringue clouds, almond praline, Tequila caramel and fruit*. 
*The fruit in the first picture are red dragon fruit formed with a melon baller.

    Chocolate Base
    90ml heavy cream
    85g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
    Pinch of salt
    Pinch of cayenne pepper
    1 tablespoon cognac
    1 tablespoon light corn syrup
    ¼ teaspoon vanilla
    1 tablespoon Dutch-processed cocoa powder
    Dash freshly ground black pepper 
    ½ tablespoon butter, softened
    • Heat cream in the microwave (do no allow to boil) and pour onto chocolate; allow chocolate to melt, then add the rest of the ingredients; stir to incorporate.
        Makes about 18 cookies 
        2 egg whites
        Pinch of salt 
        ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
        6 tablespoons castor sugar
        Splash of apple cider vinegar 
        ½ teaspoon mint essence 
        ⅛ teaspoon vanilla
        1 teaspoon cornstarch
        • Preheat the oven to 150°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
        • Place egg whites, salt and cream of tartar in a metal or glass mixing bowl; whisk together until frothy. With an electric mixer, start whisking the eggs and gradually add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, making sure the sugar is fully incorporated after each tablespoon. When the eggs form stiff peaks, fold in the vinegar, mint essence, vanilla and cornstarch.  
        • Place meringue in a piping bag with a large fluted nozzle and pipe rosettes 5cm apart on the baking sheet. Place in the oven and immediately turn down the temperature to120°C. Bake cookies until dry and crisp and they come off the parchment paper easily. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. 
        Makes 1 cup 
        ½ cup sugar  
        ½ cup slivered almonds 
        • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a dry heavy saucepan cook sugar over moderately low heat, stirring slowly until melted and pale golden. Cook caramel, without stirring, swirling pan, until deep golden. Add almonds, stirring until coated well, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Working quickly, with a metal spatula spread mixture onto foil about 0.5cm thick and cool until set, about 3 minutes. Chill praline on paper until hard, about 15 minutes. Chop praline. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

          Bread bulletin: Prune babas

          Monday, May 9, 2011

          BABAS: TALL, SLENDER AND OFTEN SPIRITED (and here, a little burnt...)  
          If I didn't know better, I would have given up, chucked the recipe and what looked like a complete mess in the mixing bowl.

          But this was a Dan Lepard recipe and I've never had problems with any of them before. So I continued despite the initial unappealing appearance of the dough and was rewarded with some very delicious buns – even if the tops are singed! (The new oven is on the way.)

          The recipe for Dan Lepard's prune babas require a good amount of butter. It is added to a yeasted egg dough, and worked in roughly at first. At this stage, all you have is a squishy mixture that oozes between your fingers and you think this is like oil and water – they're never going to come together.

          But after just five minutes of gentle kneading, everything miraculously gels together – and once again, there's that joy you feel every time the bread dough starts yielding in your hands.

          As I said, this is a delicious bread. And rich too. How could it not be with three egg yolks and about a half cup of butter. Babas are usually made in deep, slender tins. I would like metal ones, but I only found the silicone mould I used and that will come in handy for muffins, jellies and lollies too.

          Babas are usually dunked in a syrup which includes some sort of spirit (rum usually, and Dan Lepard's with Armagnac) after they are made. But since I will probably be having them for breakfast, I decided to forgo the alcohol and instead of a simple sugar syrup, I reduced the syrup from a tin of cherries (that I used for something else) to which I added a few tablespoons of pomegranate molasses for another level of flavour.

          This post has been submitted to YeastSpotting.

          Prune babas with pomegranate syrup
          PRUNE BABAS
          Based on Dan Lepard's Prune and Rye Babas with Armagnac Syrup from The Handmade Loaf
          Makes 12 (can also be made into two small loaves)
          200g strong white flour
          50g rye flour
          ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
          1¼ teaspoon dried yeast
          80g rye leaven
          100g milk at 20°C (about room temperature)
          3 medium egg yolks
          60g castor sugar
          100 unsalted butter
          200g soft prunes, pitted and cut into quarters
          • In a large bowl, combine the white flour, rye flour, salt and yeast. In another bowl, beat together the rye leaven, milk, egg yolks and castor sugar. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until you have a soft, sticky dough. Cover bowl and leave for 10 minutes.
          • Slice the butter into pieces and allow to soften. Spread these on top of the dough and work them roughly into it. Tip the dough on to the work surface and work it gently and evenly for 5 minutes, until the butter is combined and the dough is smooth. *Shape into a ball and return it to the bowl. Cover and leave to rise until doubled in size. (*Dan Lepard's instruction is to place the dough in the refrigerator in a tightly covered large container that allows the dough enough room to rise overnight. I couldn't wait and let the dough rise at room temperature on the kitchen counter.)
          • Lightly flour the work surface and roll out the dough to a 30x50cm rectangle. Lay the prunes evenly over two-thirds of the dough, then fold the dough in by thirds. With a rolling pin, knock the dough flat, then fold in by thirds again. Tap the dough with the rolling pin to seal it, then put back in the bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour.
          • Lightly grease and flour 12 baba moulds (or if using a silicone mould, do nothing to it). Roll out the dough until it is 2cm thick and cut it into 5cm squares. For each piece, pinch the corners of the dough together to seal them, creating a ball of dough and avoiding any air pockets in the centre. Press into the mould, seam side down (if using individual moulds, place them on a baking tray). Cover with a cloth and leave to rise until doubled in height (the dough should rise higher than the rim of the mould).
          • Preheat the oven to 200°C. Bake babas in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for a further 20 minutes, or until the babas are a good brown colour. Leave to settle in their moulds for a minute, then ease them out carefully.
          • Serve warm, split open lengthways with syrup: Bring 250g caster sugar and 500ml water to the boil. Remove from heat and leave to cool.

            P is for palm sugar

            Monday, May 2, 2011

            I'll be honest with you: I never knew palm sugar was a "good" kind of sugar. I wasn't aware it had a low glycemic index or that it is higher in micronutrients than processed sugar. I use palm sugar because it tastes good and has a natural sweetness; it also adds a lovely caramel colour to a dish.

            Not all palm sugar is created equal, it seems. The type of palm sugar I am familiar with is made from the sap of the coconut blossom (from the coco nucifera tree, if we want to get technical) and has long been a staple in Malaysian cooking, especially desserts.

            We call it gula Melaka (Malacca sugar, because apparently it was first made in that Malaysian state, but I haven't been able to confirm that), gula merah (red sugar, for obvious reasons), or gula tuak (tuak is the coconut flower sap). Gula Melaka is also the name of a moulded sago pudding served with coconut milk and drizzled (or doused!) with palm sugar syrup.

            The colour of gula Melaka ranges from a honeycomb yellow to a dark chocolate to a black treacle. It's usually found in a cylinder shape, because it is moulded in bamboo. It is sometimes "tall" like a silo and or a squat disc like an ice hockey puck. Sometimes smaller cylinders are wrapped in coconut fronds. Palm sugar also comes in wafer-like bars and is sometimes sold already grated.

            Any which way, it's hard to imagine Malaysian sweets and desserts made without palm sugar. It's very often paired with coconut milk as well as grated coconut and together, they make some of the best confections.

            Palm sugar can be substituted with soft brown sugar, but I don't need to tell you that the taste will be different. Like maple syrup, it has a distinctive taste and that's why I chose it for the mousse in the Daring Bakers challenge (previous post).

            After I had completed the challenge, I was so inspired by coconut palm sugar that I went out and got a few blocks of it. Here are a few things I made with that wonderful gula Melaka.

            A fine spread of coconut milk dulce de leche
            I adapted this recipe from Lori Longbotham's Luscious Coconut Desserts. I used both fresh coconut milk and the boxed variety with good results. Remember, the final colour will depend on the colour of the palm sugar you use. I have the feeling the cooking time determines the colour too – the microwave method produced the lightest colour while the stove-top and slow-cooker/crock pot versions were about the same dark colour. Coconut does not appeal to everyone, of course, but if you're a fan, this will definitely please you. It's tropical toffee.

            Makes 1 cup
            500ml coconut milk (fresh, box or can)
            150g palm sugar, grated (¾ cup, firmly packed)
            Large pinch of salt
            • Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil.
            • From here, there are three ways to proceed:
            Stove-top method
            Turn down the heat slightly so that the mixture bubbles gently. Cook it on the stove, stirring occasionally until reduced by half, about 1 hour. Take off the heat and cool before storing in an air-tight jar.

            Slow-cooker method
            Pour the mixture into a slow-cooker. Cover and turn on the cooker to High. When beads of steam start to form on the lid, remove the lid and leave the pot open. Continue cooking the mixture, stirring occasionally until thickened, 30-40 minutes. Cool before storing.

            Microwave method
            cookingforengineers has instructions for making dulce de leche with condensed milk and I thought I could cook the coconut milk version this way as well. It worked! Basically, it's putting all the ingredients in a large microwaveable bowl and giving it 2-minute nukes on Medium, whisking in between, until the mixture starts to look curdled. But I suggest you go to the site for the step-by-step instructions with pictures ­­– they explain it much better, mistakes and all. This method cuts the cooking time down to only 15 minutes so it is the quickest way but you still have to keep an eye on the mixture. I halved the recipe and even then, the milk bubbled up high and a little spilled out of the bowl.

            Use coconut dulce de leche...
            • as a filling in cakes and sandwich cookies; beaten with cream cheese for a frosting; or as a layer in Millionaire's Shortbread Bars
            • as a dip (diluted with a little cream/milk or coconut milk) with fresh/grilled fruit (the photo above, bottom right, is for illustration purposes; no double dipping allowed!)
            • to turn the English dessert Banoffee Pie (here's a quick recipe) into a tropical version
            • instead of chocolate ganache to bind cake crumbs for truffles
            • swirled through a brownie or cheesecake batter
            • straight out of the jar and into your mouth (best use ever!)
            Sweet prawns with pineapple and capsicum
            Here's a recipe that's based on the Vietnamese caramel prawn dish called Tom Rim. I am not calling it that since I used vegetarian prawns and included vegetables that aren't normally added. I was inspired to make it with pineapple after seeing this recipe from Jeannie at chinadoll-bakingdiary. I only use vegetarian prawns (it's made with soy bean sheets or foo chok) because that was what I had in the freezer, but fresh prawns will be perfect. Shell and devein them but keep the tails on.

            350g vegetarian prawns
            Vegetable oil for frying
            1 teaspoon sesame oil
            2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
            2cm ginger, sliced thinly
            ½ green capsicum (bell pepper), cut into wedges
            1 cup pineapple slices
            Palm sugar syrup, recipe follows
            1-3 finely chopped bird's eye chillies
            1 tablespoon fish sauce
            • Heat a little oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat and fry the vegetarian prawns, tossing occasionally, until golden. Set aside.
            • Leave a tablespoon of oil in the pan and add the sesame oil. When hot, add the garlic and ginger slices. Add the capsicum and pineapple and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the palm sugar syrup and fried vegetarian prawns; stir-fry for 30 seconds, making sure  the prawns are well coated with the sauce.
            • Add the chillies (to taste) and fish sauce and let the sauce come to the boil. Cook for another minute, then dish out and serve.
            Palm sugar syrup
            2 tablespoons grated palm sugar
            2 tablespoons vegetable oil
            • Heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is caramel-coloured. Remove from heat and set aside.
            Stewed bananas in a creamy sweet sauce
            This is a traditional sweet dish with three components that scream Southeast Asia – bananas, coconut milk and gula Melaka.

            Serves 4
            4 small ripe bananas
            6 tablespoons palm sugar
            6 tablespoons water
            1 tbsp sesame oil
            375ml coconut milk

            4 tbsp white sesame seeds, toasted
            • Peel and slice banana into 2.5cm-thick slices on the diagonal. Place all the ingredients into a saucepan. Cook over high heat for 3 minutes, then lower heat and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Dish out and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.