Sunday, June 27, 2010

Daring Bakers June 2010: Pavlova

Hello, everyone! I'm back from vacation and it's now time to post my second ever Daring Bakers challenge. (And please excuse the really long post...I've got a lot to talk about with this recipe!) I was really excited when I found out what we'd be making. I mean, chocolate pavlova? Chocolate mascarpone mousse? Yum! Bring it on! Pavlova is extremely similar to a meringue, made by whipping egg whites with things such as sugar and cornstarch (in this instance, confectioners' sugar, which has cornstarch in it) and then either piping it or spreading it onto a baking sheet and slow baking, resulting in a crispy exterior and marshmallowy center. It's traditionally just a vanilla meringue and is topped with whipped cream and fruit, but we Daring Bakers got super fancy, and made our pavlovas chocolate, topped with a chocolate mascarpone mousse and a crème anglaise sauce. Crème anglaise is French for English cream, and is basically a custard sauce made for pouring on desserts. It uses the same basic ingredients as custard or pudding does, except there's no cornstarch added, so it stays a sauce instead of becoming thick. I thought I had a clear picture of what I would like best and what I was least looking forward to...but to my surprise, it turned out quite different.
I was very excited to use the mascarpone. I've been wanting to try this cheese for a while now being as people have compared it to cream cheese, but said that it was much better. I'm not too much a fan of cream cheese, so I thought I might really like this one. The cheese was alright...but it basically just tasted like heavy cream. I don't know why I expected a kind of sweetness to it, but I should have known better, especially being as I've looked over this recipe for mascarpone that the Daring Bakers made for tiramisu before I was a member. The only ingredients in it are heavy cream and lemon juice. However, it would make a great base for American buttercreams, I think. If I ever decide to use mascarpone in the future, I'll definitely make it myself, because it was a bit pricy to buy already made. Anyway, the process of making everything was crazy simple. Each recipe went by so easily that I was quite surprised. The meringue for the pavlova? Easy peasy. The mousse? Piece of cake. The crème anglaise? Nothin' to it. Although there was quite a bit of down time for each process, everything went by so perfectly. In fact, too perfectly. I should have known that, with everything going by so smoothly, something bad was bound to happen.

Well, I expected to like the mousse the most, the pavlovas second best, and I actually didn't expect to like the crème anglaise. However, it was the exact opposite. I don't know what happened to my mousse, but something definitely went wrong. I folded in the mascarpone cream and the mousse was beautiful and smooth and creamy. However, I set it off to the side and did something for a small moment, and when I came back, I noticed it was starting to get weirdly thick. I tried to think nothing of it, and put it in the fridge until the pavlova was ready hoping that it would be okay. Needless to say, it wasn't. It was extremely thick and had a weird texture, one that I would liken to ricotta cheese. I definitely couldn't pipe it, so I just kind of had to lob it on to my pavlova as prettily as possible. The taste was just okay...but I think it was too dark and not sugary enough for my tastes. The longer it set in the fridge, the thicker and more weird-textured it became...I had to throw almost all of it out. I was SO disappointed, especially being as I used pricy ingredients in it (the same chocolate I was talking about last post). It was most likely my fault, but I'll probably never try this mousse again. The pavlovas were good, however, I baked them too long. They were crunchy all the way through instead of marshmallowy in the center. But they did taste good, so I would make this recipe again, just not bake it as long. And the crème anglaise? I actually loved it! It was the only recipe that went by without a hitch, and it was really, really delicious. I would definitely make it again, and really, it didn't even need the mascarpone or cream stirred in! It was perfect as is! Anyway, I'd encourage you to try this recipe anyway. Hopefully yours will go by better than mine did. :)

Chocolate Pavlova with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse and Mascarpone Crème Anglaise (from Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard)
Makes about 8 small pavlovas or 1 large pavlova

For the crème anglaise:

  • 1 cup (235 ml) whole milk (I used 2% and it was fine)
  • 1 cup (235 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons (75 grams) sugar
  1. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow. (I did this in my stand mixer.)
  2. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat.
  3. Pour about 1/2 cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. DO NOT OVERCOOK.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight. (I chilled mine overnight. I suggest doing this too, as it saves time when you're making the rest of the dessert.)
For the chocolate meringue (for the pavlova):
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (110 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
  • 1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.
  2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tablespoon at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should be firm but moist.)
  3. Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)
  4. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon.
  5. Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. (If you make thinner pavlovas like me, you may want to take them out a lot sooner. I baked mine for 2 hours, and as I said, mine came out crisp all the way through. Start checking at 1 hour.) Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
For the chocolate mascarpone mousse:
  • 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
  • grated zest of 1 average sized lemon (I omitted)
  • 9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
  • 1 2/3 cups (390 ml) mascarpone
  • pinch of nutmeg (I used cinnamon)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) Grand Marnier (I used about a tablespoon of vanilla)
  1. Put 1/2 cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool. (My chocolate didn't completely melt using this method, so I quickly put on a double boiler and melted the rest that way.)
  2. Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)
  3. Mix about 1/4 of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.
For the mascarpone cream:
  • 1 recipe crème anglaise
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) mascarpone
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) Sambucca (optional) (I omitted)
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  1. Prepare the crème anglaise. Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the Sambucca and let the mixture cool. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.
To assemble:
  1. Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and fresh fruit if desired.

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

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