…more specifically Eclairs with Dark Chocolate-Espresso Mousse, Espresso-Dark Chocolate Pots de Creme and Frozen Mascarpone-Espresso Parfait on Deep Dark Chocolate Cake. Although this was work related, this is how I spend my Saturday. I am not getting fancy on you all of a sudden but it was either this post or more puddings, creams and mousses. Yes, I seem to veer away from cakes lately as there are not one that strikes me, although I did find a couple to try today.
Friday afternoon I got a call from K., one of the chefs I used to work with at the restaurant asking me if I’d make the desserts for a fancy dinner of wine representatives next weekend because he did not have time and the Executive Chef in his usual fashion was throwing fits about everything regarding this event. I agreed and he finished our conversation by saying "ok, well you bake tomorrow and I’ll be at your house on Sunday, I trust you"….Why oh why, tell me that…he was going to jinx me! I had the list of wines and descriptions and samples to be served next weekend and for the most part of the afternoon I tried to come up with desserts made with them or complimenting them. I wrote, scratched, sketched, scratched…never happy. Finally I completely changed my course: there would be appetizers and entrees cooked with the wines, sauces and reductions, emulsions and stocks, and then desserts with more wine? Crazy! These people might appreciate a break, a true one: a coffee break. After spending my Friday evening (oh my life is fun!) working ideas on paper, I finally had a plan for Saturday.
I baked all day, tweaked the flavors after many a sip of wine..dang my job is tough!! At 9pm, I sat down with a good omelette and a chunk of bread, tired but happy…Oh boy! Do I miss those days when my restaurant kitchen was my lab, when K. and I used to have our lunch breaks upstairs bitching about Big. Exec. Chef, dreaming about our "dream orders" me wanting quinces in July and him exotic Chinese mushrooms for pennies. And then, we were always called back to the dirty grind of reality by the voice of Big Exec. through the intercom "Helen, we are 86 lemon tarts and brulees, get to work! K., the veal shanks ain’t gonna braise themselves!" It’s good to know that some time after I left the restaurant, K. still relies on my opinion and just frankly told Big Exec.to f$#& off when he told him I was their dessert consult this time around! I was cracking up hearing their conversations…ah sweet revenge!!
Anyways, back to the desserts, largely inspired by my boyfriend Richard Leach (maybe I should tell him I "really" like him!), but tweaked to serve the guests in questions (read very tipsy after all that wine) and the logistics of the kitchen I would be baking and plating in: tight, busy, orchestrated like an assembly line that night so no time for me to come up with super fancy stuff. I am still working on a fruit based item, we just can’t make up our minds on what we like best, so that post will probably for next week. My initial "final" Saturday afternoon had mousse, an espresso shot and a parfait. I did not like the look of the mousse molded and plated, the espresso shot I had in mind was topped by a milk foam and that step only would require me to cross the whole kitchen with the hot line on one side and the dishwashers on the other side just to get to the frother on the other side of the waitstaff station..yeah right! The parfait was the only thing that stayed from my original thought, I just added the caramel corkscrew because I just can’t leave sugar alone! When K. came over Sunday, he was happy and relieved that I had taken that thorn out of his schedule. We drank and I fixed us spaghetti a la Lisa and we drank again…Not too shabby a weekend if I may say!
Eclairs With Dark Chocolate Espresso Mousse: (serves 4)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
Heat oven to 375F. Heat water, sugar and butter in 3-quart saucepan to a rolling boil. Stir in flour. Stir vigorously over low heat until mixture forms a ball, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and let cool a few minutes. Beat in eggs, one at time making sure the eggs are well incorporated each time. The dough should have the consistency of thick mayonnaise. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip with the batter and pipe fingers of dough about 3-4 inches long on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until puffed and darker brown on top, 20 minutes, let cool completely before filling with the mousse. You’ll have more than just for 4 servings but you can freeze the shells for up to 3 months.
Dark Chocolate Espresso Mousse:
3/4 cups bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup espresso
2 egg yolk
1 Tb sugar
1 cup heavy cream
Combine the chocolate, butter and espresso in a small saucepan over low heat until the chocolate melts and stir until combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolk and sugar until pale. Fold the chocolate into the egg mixture. Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold it into the chocolate base. Refrigerate one hour before using. Fill the eclairs with the mousse. Dip them into the chocolate glaze. Let set in the fridge
1/2 cup dark chocolate
1 Tb butter
2 Tb cream
Melt the chocolate in the microwave, add the butter and cream and stir until combined
Chocolate Espresso Pots de Creme:
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup espresso beans, crushed
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate
5 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 300F. Heat the milk with the sugar and beans until it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and let it steep for 20 minutes. Strain the beans and reheat briefly, add the chocolate and stir until well combined.
Whisk the egg yolks, and slowly add the hot chocolate milk,whisking until well combined. Strain and divide among 4 heat resistant glasses or dishes. Set them in a roasting pan and fill with water (limit depends on the height of your pan and your glasses but the higher the better for even baking). Bake until the custard is barely set, about 30 minutes. Remove from the pan, let cool to room temperature and refrigerate until ready to use. When ready to be plated, whip the cream to soft peaks and divide evenly among the glasses or dishes, sprinkle with cinnamon.
1/2cup mascarpone cheese,at room temperature
1/4 cup strong espresso
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1 cup heavy cream
In a small bowl, combine the mascarpone cheese the espresso and 2 Tb sugar and whisk until smooth. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites adding the remaining sugar one tablespoon at a time until stiff peaks are formed. Fold into the mascarpone mixture.Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold into the egg-mascarpone base. Pipe or spoon into molds of your choice (I chose Flexipan Cannele molds). Freeze until ready to use.
Dark Chocolate Cake:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder (like Hershey’s special dark)
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 Tb salt (really, not a typo, but it does wonder with the parfait above)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup warm water
Preheat the oven to 325F.
Cream the butter, cocoa and sugar together until smooth. Add the baking powder,baking soda, salt and flour. Mix until smooth and add the eggs, then the water very slowly. Pour the batter into a 8×8 inch pan lined with buttered foil or parchment paper. Bake 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Refrigerate overnight. When ready to plate, cut out circles a little larger than the diameter of the parfait base and set the parfaits on top.
For the decorations, I made a simple chocolate sauce and espresso flavored creme anglaise as well as caramel corkscrew but feel free to skip or use other things. Same with the trio: make one, two or all and have fun! All the components work together, but also separately for lighter bites and they can be made over several days, and kept refrigerated or frozen (the parfaits).