Sunday, June 27, 2010

Daring Baker's Challenge: Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

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.

When I read this month's challenge, I thought, hmm....I can do this. I'd made chocolate meringues on a whim last year...No problem. Mascarpone cheese is expensive though..especially for graduate students so I thought, great I'll make some. I'd been wanting to attempt mascarpone since I first saw the recipe on Deeba''s blog Passionate About Baking. However, this month has been a very busy time in the lab for me. The end of the month crept up and I realized I had to step on it to get done. I had a weekend workshop near DC for the weekend of posting so I wound up losing a bit of sleep to complete the task but I'm glad I did it. The recipe is made of 5 parts (on my end). 1) chocolate meringues 2) mascarpone 3) creme anglaise 4) chocolate mascarpone mousse 5) mascarpone cream. I used Dr. Fankhauser's mascarpone instructions (with the lemon juice option). In NC, it is pretty near impossible to find single pasteurized cheese. Apparently there's a law requiring milk to be ultra pasteurized. As a result, my mascarpone was prepared with ultrapasteurized milk. I've no other mascarpone to compare it too but the recipe came out well. I reasoned if it was being incorporated with other flavors, it should be fine. The rest of the recipes were required to be followed other than creme anglaise. I had no other recipe I favored so I adhered to the recipes posted by the daring kitchen. I'll go ahead and show you my results and they'll be followed by the recipe.

Step 1: Mascarpone....I was in a rush and didn't get a picture
Step 2: Meringues..I had fun with these and made a lot of different piped options

Steps 3-5...sauces were composed

Finally assembly..

This is the star shaped one. I was very pleased with how it came out.

Recipe 1: Chocolate Meringue (for the chocolate Pavlova):

3 large egg whites
½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar
¼ 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 tbsp 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. (Class made rounds, hearts, diamonds and an attempt at a clover was made!)
  5. Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Recipe 2: Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse (for the top of the Pavlova base):

1 ½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone (don't forget we made this a few months ago - get the printable .pdfHERE)
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice)


  1. Put ½ 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.
  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 ¼ 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.

Recipe 3: Mascarpone Cream (for drizzling):

1 recipe crème anglaise
½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone
2 tbsp (30 mls) Sambucca (optional)
½ cup (120 mls) 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.

Recipe 4: Crème Anglaise (a component of the Mascarpone Cream above):

1 cup (235 mls) whole milk
1 cup (235 mls) heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar


  1. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow.
  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 ½ 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.

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.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Double Take: Ravioli in Basil Cream Sauce

Got basil? I have a ton of it! This year I planted new basil because I'd given up on last's years coming back. Of course, within 2 weeks of planting new basil plants, I noticed the seedlings popping up from lasts year's plants. This meant I had even more basil! Which is kind of an awesome thing really. I have plenty to cook with, dry, and share with friends who randomly want to make pizza with some fresh basil. Our local groceries tend to not meet the basil demand so it can be surprisingly hard to get when you want it sometimes...alright often. Hydroponic basil doesn't count as a good solution.

Anyway, as I flipped through USL looking for a recipe for which I already had most ingredients and that Mel and Bender would eat, My eye fell on 'ravioli in basil cream sauce'. A 30 minute recipe (after cooking from this book, I didn't trust it to just take 30 minutes) was appealing to me. My experience with the book has also taught me that the portions are unrealistically large. When it said 4 servings, I converted it to at least 6 . Mike and Rebecca recently got back from Europe followed by the Appalachian Trail so I invited them to join me. This way I'd have a reasonable amount of leftovers but not more than I could handle. Plus, cooking with a friend always makes it more enjoyable. Our groceries stock fresh ravioli (look near dairy) in a variety of flavors. Rebecca and I actually had an adventure with the ravioli. It apparently didn't get placed in the buggy after it was bagged by the grocer. I thought that it might've gone home with Rebecca but she left the next morning (after shopping) for the Appalachian Trail. By the time I realized, she was well out of phone range. Graciously, a week later, I realized the problem and the grocery kindly let me pick up fresh ravioli. Whew! Some real craziness went into the making and procuring for this recipe. I chose to prepare the dish with 4 cheese ravioli and ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta. They had some lobster ravioli that I found intriguing but spinach won via eeni-meeni-mieni-mo. You know how it is. Has anyone out there tried lobster? I'm still curious.

Ravioli in Basil Cream Sauce

2 packages (~10-12 oz ) ravioli, heavy cream, 1 can of tomatoes with green chilis (I used mild Rotel because Rebecca was very enthusiastic about it) , a few cloves of garlic, 2-4 green onions, parmesan cheese, and oh yeah...basil.

Cook the ravioli for about 5-7 minutes in boiling water, drain and set aside. Warm the cream with tomatoes with green chilis. Toss in garlic, onions and basil and bring to a boil. Add parmesan. Stir quickly to get it to melt. Ladle sauce over ravioli and enjoy.

Rating: We all enjoyed this very much. We were disappointed that the parmesan wanted to clump rather than melt into the sauce to thicken it. We decided in the future parmesan on top would work better. Also we prefer a thicker sauce. Therefore, I recommend adding a little cornstarch dissolved in cold water until thickened to your preference. I also am a heavy on the sauce sort. If all that are eating are, you may want more sauce...double perhaps. The flavor for this dish was excellent though. The clumps of parmesan goodness were pretty exciting when we hit them too. Overall, I'd repeat it and thicken the sauce. Oh, independent of the recipe, I'd choose 4 cheese ravioli again but not the spinach ricotta. The spinach had too much spinach and I thought would've been better with some garlic in there....but you know how I feel about garlic. :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Double Take: Key Lime Curd Tartlets

Key Lime Curd Tartlet

I love lime. I might like it more than garlic. ...maybe. Its close and they're very different. However, I think more recipes need garlic than lime...but I digress.

When I was little, my favorite ice cream was a seasonal variety made by PET called Key Lime Pie. It was lovely. Creamy key lime ice cream with little chunks of pie crust. My dad and I always did grocery shopping together. The ice cream freezers were always included in our shopping. We made sure to check for new flavors and often tried some strange varieties...banana pudding for example. I was not a fan of that one. However, we decided to try key lime pie. I loved it. I was perhaps the only one in the family that felt that way about it. However, since I liked it that much and finished it, my dad made sure to get that ice cream again in the following years when it came out around Christmastime. One year, sadly, PET stopped making it. I was disappointed but dealt with it. After all, there were other ice cream flavors to try! Other than that, most of my lime exposure has been regular limes. I enjoy them especially in lime meringue pie. Ahh..its so good.

Anywho, this spring I participated in a food co-op. Every other week I've gotten random fruits and vegetables. One week, I got KEY LIMES! I was super excited. I told Mel and she said to save them and we'd make the key lime tartlets. I wasn't sure how many limes I needed to get the juice for the recipe but Mel reassured me that key lime juice is sold near the mixers at the grocery store. I must confess, I hoped my limes would yield enough juice. However, after juicing 4 and having less than 2 Tbsp to show for my effort (key limes are small and hard to squeeze), I was thankful the store sold the juice. The price wasn't bad but seemed like an enhanced bargain after I experienced the labor involved. With ingredients in hand, Mel and I needed to squeeze some time in to make the tarts. We found a small window and went for it..Results follow.

Preparation: This recipe has two key parts: curd and tarts. Having made both before I figured this would be pretty easy.

Curd: Whisk eggs, key lime juice (in case you're wondering, I found it a bit sweeter than regular lime juice, yummy), sugar and butter together. Cook in a small to medium sauce pot for 10-15 minutes. When done, the mixture should be thick and smooth, like cooked jello pudding. Add some lime zest and pour all into a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate 4-6 hours. (Refrigeration allows the curd to become more firm. It will be runny if you don't wait. Its worth the wait.)

The Curd

Tartlets: 2 c. flour, some sugar, a little salt and baking powder, butter, and 6 TBSP of water. I've made tarts before, as I mentioned. This seemed like a lot of water. I decided to add the water one Tbsp at a time after mixing the other ingredients together. Unfortunately, even 4 Tbsp is too many. In case you're wondering, 4 Tbsp of water results in a mixture that will not stand up and when heated will fall and collapse to make a flat shell at the base of your cute tartlet tin. Disappointing. To fix this recipe, add only 2 to 3 Tbsp of water. Add only enough to get your flour to all stick together and form a ball. If its sticky, add a bit more flour to compensate. I highly recommend the Williams-Sonoma recipe I posted previously. It works the first time. The recipe is at the bottom listed under Pineapple cream cheese tartlets. After a second round of dough, the tarts were rolled out and placed in tart pans. I cut out a large circle, rolled it up on a smooth glass (you can use a rolling pin but a cup or glass works well if you have limited space to work), and unrolled it over the tartlet pans. Press gently and TADA, tart dough in a tart pan. Using a fork, press some holes in the tart to keep the bottom flat during baking. You can chill these for a couple hours or go ahead and bake. If you go ahead and bake, the dough may pull away from the sides a bit but its nothing major if you are in a hurry. Bake at 375 F for 15-20 minutes. Allow the dough to cool.

Tart Before Baking

Tart After Baking

Assembly: Put the lime curd in the tart. If desired, make a little whipped cream by adding heavy whipping cream and some sugar to a pint jar and shaking vigorously for about 10 minutes. Alternately, you can whip it with your mixer but that takes 15 minutes or so. A dollop of whipped cream goes well with these. Unfortunately, I could no longer wait to take pictures once the whipped cream was on mine. It was gone.

Completed Tart...Just before adding the whipped cream and being devoured!

Evaluation: Make again! and again! The curd is so awesome you could eat it by itself. Be sure to reduce the water for the tart crust to 2-3 Tbsp or it WILL NOT WORK. A dollop of whipped cream on top makes these especially tasty. Lauren and Ruthann agreed they were awesome and Ruthann helped me finish off the curd..we definitely were eating it crustless by the spoonful!

Be sure to pop over to Fabulously Fun Food to get Mel's take.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Double Take: Peach-Congealed Salad

Since no two friends can like all the same foods, it is inevitable that some things in the USL cookbook would appeal to either Mel or I but not both. I have a food intolerance to mushrooms. Therefore, all mushroom-centric dishes are in Mel's court. Anyway, I picked 3 different recipes. One I got bored of and couldn't motivate myself to prepare (much less eat) it. The second I messed up and then fixed. However, the explanation will have to wait for another day. As a result, today's "Ew I'm not making that" is Peach-Congealed Salad.

I'm kind of picky about mucilaginous (gooey, slimy) foods. Certain textures are more than I can swallow. However, there's a jello salad my mom makes that I like. She started making it when I was in first grade, shortly after my dad was diagnosed with diabetes. At that time, there were few "sweet" options for diabetics. Her mixture was a combination of small curd cottage cheese, crushed pineapple, and sugar free pistachio pudding. Describing it doesn't sound like all that much, but we really came to like it. It wasn't pound cake, mind you, but we liked it. When I saw the congealed salad in USL, I thought, why not? Maybe it would be good too.

Since its copyrighted, I'm not going to post the recipe but I'll describe it for you. It'll give you a good idea of it anyway.

The Process:

Combine milk and nearly half a bag of large marshmallows in a small pot. Turn the oven to a low setting (I used 4) and melt the marshmallows.

Meanwhile, toss pecan halves into your handy food processor (or grab your favorite mallet) and prepare crushed/chopped pecans. I suppose you could purchase toasted crushed pecans but they didn't have them at our store. To toast the pecans, toss them in a frying pan with NO OIL. Turn the heat up to medium high and toss the pecans. When they smell toasty, they're done. I realize "smell toasty" sounds ambiguous. Basically check on them and flip them for about 3-4 minutes. The smell of the nuts will change and they'll be done. Toss the nuts into a bowl with a can of crushed pineapple and about a third of a bar of cream cheese. Stir together well.

Don't forget your marshmallows and milk! Stir them around. When the marshmallows are melted, add a small packet of jello mix. (I strongly encourage you to use 2 small boxes and don't use sugar free. Otherwise, the flavor will be lacking). I chose peach. Stir until the jello is dissolved. Then combine with the cream cheese mixture. Stir well and place in your fridge until completely cooled.

Meanwhile (back at the ranch..If you get this reference, awesome!) pour a cup of whipping cream and whip until it forms stiff peaks. If you're worried about making a mess, pour it into a pint jar, cap with a lid, and shake. This is an excellent job to keep someone busy for a few minutes. It also works if you don't want to wash the mixer pieces or you don't want the noise to scare cats. Anyway, shaking takes about 10 minutes, the same as beating with a mixer.

By this point, your cream cheese/jello mixture should be cool. Fold the whipped cream into it, and return to the fridge to chill for 6 hours. Tada. You can use a mold but I just used an 8 cup tupperware container. It only took up maybe 4 cups worth of space but I wanted to be safe.

Taste test: So-so... not bad but less than awesome. I could smell the peach flavor but couldn't taste it. Bummer. I think I'd actually be willing to try again with either stronger flavor or doubling the flavor. The texture and other ingredients reminded me of the salad my mom makes. However, hers does not set as firmly.

Be sure to head over to Mel's Fabulously Fun Food to see what she whipped up that I didn't.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Double Take: Croissant French Toast with Strawberry Syrup

Local strawberries are now in season in NC! As these tasty fruits reach their peak, it seems appropriate to test some of the USL recipe which include strawberries. Mel chose "croissant french toast with strawberry syrup." As the title indicates, the recipe substitutes croissants in place of loaf bread and includes fresh strawberry syrup in place of the familiar maple syrup. Topped off with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream, the french toast recipe looked sure to please.

(1/2 recipe...because my tongue gets bored trying to eat recipes designed for a whole family which take me a week to consume)

Whipped Cream

The recipe calls for 1/4 c. of whipped cream with 3/4 Tbsp of sugar. I complied. However, I suggest increasing the sugar to whipped cream ratio to at least double. Further, I like whipped cream. Who can resist it? Therefore, I'd probably double the amount of whipped cream for future preps.

Strawberrry Syrup

This strawberry syrup was quite easy. Core and slice a pint of stawberries and cover them in sugar. Be reasonable. 1/4 c. or less of sugar is plenty. Wait 30 minutes. Add some orange juice and orange rind. For the orange juice, add about the same amount (or less) as you have strawberry juice. Toss in a little orange zest. Boil for 5 -10 minutes. You want to have a syrup and not just liquid. While boiling, you're ready to start the toast.

Toast Dip

Beat an egg with a little milk (as you would for making scrambled eggs) and add 1/2 tsp of vanilla. That was easy.

Toast Prep

Melt butter in a skillet (enough to cover the base, this will vary with your skillet size but somewhere between 1-2 Tbsp). Slice your croissants in half. (A bread knife works well for this but lacking one, you could try the trick of slicing it with dental floss. You're guaranteed not to cut a finger with floss.) Dip both sides of each croissant half in the toast dip. Place in the skillet for 1-2 minutes per side. Voila!


Croissant base, syrup, whipped cream, croissant top, syrup, whipped cream. Devour.

The above quantities to prepare 2 croissants worth of french toast. The recipe takes about 55 minutes or so to execute since you have to cut up the berries and let them sit. The actual hands on time is about 20-25 minutes.

Review: The recipe as stated needed tweaking. I have most of these tweaks listed above. The strawberry syrup that I made wasn't thickened after 5 minutes of boiling. However, this could vary from week to week due to the weather. Strawberries picked on a rainy week have a high water content and spoil more quickly than those picked on a dry week. When I prepared this, my strawberries were definitely from a rainy week. I suggest to be attentive and use your best judgement for how thick you want your syrup to be. My main other comment is that I had mixed feelings about orange juice added to the strawberry syrup. It tasted fine. I could taste a hint of orange but it didn't overpower the strawberry flavor. However, I think you could make the syrup with lemon juice and zest or no citrus at all. This goes really well with a couple slices of bacon.

I would make this again. I liked it and enjoyed it even more the second time on the following morning.

Be sure to check out Mel's view at Fabulously Fun Food!