Cooking my way through Dorie Greenspan's Paris Sweets, plus other treats I come up with
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Pierre Herme's Criollo Cake
Now that my WSET exam is finally over, I can catch up with blogging. No more late-night flashcard making! I don't know how much more geography and region names I could have crammed into my head. (Although I have to admit, I wish I had an iPhone flashcard app back in school. It totally beats lugging a stack of cards everywhere).
This is a cake I made two weeks ago to celebrate the new office move. The new building is decidedly more labyrinthine, I think it was built before people realized that right-angle intersections are a good thing. And don't even get me started on the garage. Let's just say that it's the traditional location for intern puzzle hunts.
On the bright side (no pun intended), I finally get a window view (even if it's through someone else's office).
Let's talk about the cake. The Criollo cake is a multi-layered affair consisting of two coconut daquoise disks, lemon-ginger chocolate mousse, and caramelized bananas. It sounds a little fussy, but it's actually quite simple to make (it's definitely one of the easier cakes in Chocolate Desserts). As a testament to it's simplicity, I made it because I had four egg whites to get rid of and I happened to have all the ingredients in the pantry.
I was highly skeptical of the coconut daquoise at first. It's basically a meringue with ground almonds and coconuts mixed in. I worried that the baked meringue would be limp and spongy, like the cotton stuffing in an old cushion. Boy was I wrong! It turned out crisp on the outside and meltingly soft on the inside, the just chewy enough to remind you of an almond joy bar but with none of the coconut pieces left itching in your throat. It was one of the best thing I've ever baked (to clarify, I was feasting on the extra batter that I had piped into meringue buttons.)
1/2 cup (40 g) unsweetened dried coconut
1/3 cup (45 g) blanched almonds
3/4 cup (75 g) confectioners' sugar
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/3 cup (70g) sugar
Preheat oven to 325 F. Process the coconut, almonds, and confectioners' sugar in a food processor and process until powdery. Sift through a strainer.
Beat egg whites, gradually adding sugar until firm peaks form. Fold in the sifted dry ingredients in 3-4 additions.
Now, you can either put half of the batter into a pastry bag and pipe out the batter in a spiral (think snail shell) until it forms a 9 inch circle. Or, you can be like me and dump half of the batter onto the sheet and shape it into a circle. Either way, it's going to be hidden inside the chocolate mousse so appearances don't really matter.
2 medium bananas
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons (20 g) unsalted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar.
Cut the banans on a slight bias to 1/2 inch thick slices. Toss with lemon juice to avoid oxidation.
Melt the butter in a skillet. Stir in the brown sugar while the butter is bubbly. Toss in the bananas over high heat, stirring constantly, until caramel-coated. Try to avoid getting them mushy. Transfer bananas to a plate and cool.
You can spoon any leftover caramelized bananas over ice cream.
The recipe may seem fussy and yes, there are three separate steps involved. Good organization and a thorough reading of the recipe before you start will definitely help. The resulting mousse is rich and fluffy, with just a kick from the zest and ginger to keep you on your toes. If you're not making the cake, this would be a sophisticated dessert on its own, served with a dollop of whipped cream and a few crisp cookies.
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup (70 g) sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 cup (250 g) heavy cream
6 ounces (170 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon finely grated peeled ginger
Whisk together the eggs and yolk. Cook the sugar and water over medium heat until the sugar melts. Turn up the heat and cook without stirring until it reaches 257 F (5-10 min). In the mean time, have a mixer ready to whisk the syrup into the eggs. Once the syrup is hot enough, immediately pull the pan from heat and slowly pour the syrup into the eggs, with the mixer running at its lowest speed. Once all the syrup have been mixed in, turn up the speed to high and beat for 5 minutes, until the eggs are at room temperature, pale, and more than double their original volume. It's very important to have the syrup hot enough, otherwise the sugar cools down too fast and you get lumps of hard candy at the bottom of the bowl.
Beat the cream until it holds medium peaks.
Melt the chocolate over a double broiler or microwave. Pour it into a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients for the mousse. Stir in lemon zest and ginger. Then cool the chocolate until warm to the touch (114 F). Fold the whipped cream into the melted chocolate in two batches, then fold in the whipped egg mixture.