Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chocolate Pavlova

I recently joined the Daring Kitchen community. It is a group of people who like to cook and bake and every month challenge each other to make something that people are likely to find unusual and/or challenging.

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.

Pavlova is a dessert from Australia and New Zealand. The particular recipe we were told to use is apparently slightly non-traditional, but it is delicious regardless.

Step 1: Chocolate Meringues

3 large egg whites
½ cup plus 1 tbsp white granulated sugar
¼ cup confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside. 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.) Add the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder to 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.) 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.

Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. If you make them thick or bake them for less time, the middles come out kind of marshmallowy, which I think is pretty fantastic.

Step 2: Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse:

1 ½ cups heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
9 ounces very dark chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 cups mascarpone
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp orange juice

Now, mascarpone cheese is somewhat hard to find and expensive, but you can make your own from cream without much trouble. That site says not to use ultra-pasteurized cream. Ultra-pasteurized was all I could find. It works just fine.

Put ½ cup 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. 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.) 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 meringue.

Step 3: Mascarpone Cream

1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
6 tbsp sugar
½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat. 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. 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. Gently fold in mascarpone (the recipe called for more heavy cream at this point, I decided that was not needed). Drizzle over the mousse.

And then I got peaches and realized that they would go well with the chocolate

And on a completely different note, mushroom update:

I'm guessing this is what they look like before they open. Either that or I have two kinds of mushrooms in my planter now...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Well, THAT was unexpected...

A few days ago I found a lady bug sitting on a chive in my little window sill herb garden. Given that I live on the fifth floor I was not expecting that. I'm guessing someone had opened the window for a bit and it flew in.

This morning I went to check on my herbs and was in for a bigger surprise.

Little mushrooms?! Sure enough...

Apparently I get to weed my indoor planter.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Dogs, etc

Every Saturday morning there is a farmer's market at Piedmont park. It has absolutely fantastic peaches. Today I got there reasonably early and then stuck around for the cooking demonstration (where they talked about how to make your own yogurt). While waiting for it to be time for the cooking demonstration I found a shady place to sit, eat a peach and just watch. There are a very impressive variety of dogs that get to visit the market. Here are just a few

That last guy was sitting near me and kept trying to come over. His owner explained that he really likes peaches :-).

After the cooking demonstration I walked across the park and came across a lovely butterfly.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Basil Pesto

My basil needed to be cut back and I wanted something other than pasta. I also had a head of cauliflower in the fridge. This was the result. A friend and I had it on its own for dinner and finished it, but I think it would also work well as a side for roasted or grilled chicken (or you could chop the chicken up and mix it in too).

1/2 head cauliflower, cut into bite size pieces
1 can chickpeas, drained
~1/2 cup pesto

Saute cauliflower in a little bit of olive oil until it starts to get tender. Add chickpeas and cook until cauliflower is done and peas are warm. Toss the cauliflower and chickpeas with the pesto and enjoy :-)