Sunday, June 27, 2010

June Daring Bakers Challenge - Chocolate Pavlova 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

Here is the recipe we Daring Baker's followed this month with my changes in red italics. This is a very rich dessert not at all similar to what Australians would call pavlova but more like meringues.

 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) Dutch processed 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.

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.

I piped several shapes -regular individual meringues and the tear drops studded with flaked almonds and the "S" shapes which became swans.

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  I omitted this
9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone homemade
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice) this I replaced with Amaretto 


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.

I made my own mascarpone as there was so much required for this recipe.

Recipe 3: Mascarpone Cream (for drizzling):
1 recipe crème anglaise
½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone
2 tbsp (30 mls) Sambucca (optional) substituted Marsala
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.

My swan swam on a lake of Mascarpone cream.

This was not my most favourite challenge actually I was quite dissappointed. The quantity of mousse and cream was more than double what I needed for the amount of meringues. The meringues I felt were very dry and the mousse too thick, chocolatey and grainy in texture though not mouth feel. Apparently this is how it should be though I would have preferred a smooth mousse. However in saying that, my children loved them!  This is not a recipe I would make again but I would use the concept of meringue, mousse and a sauce to create a dacquoise because I like the idea of the crunchy and creamy textures.

Check out Aparna, Clumbsycookie, Anasbageri and other Daring Bakers who enjoyed this challenge and were more successful than I. Thanks Dawn for hosting the June Daring Bakers Challenge!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hazelnut Cakes

While flicking through one of my lastest cookbooks "Baking with Julia" I noticed the recipe for Hazelnut Baby Loaves. The texture of these cakes was so delicate that I really had to try them. 
Sitting in the fridge was a cup of homemade mascarpone leftover from a recent recipe so I decided to substitute this for the cup of creme fraiche. The result was a moist, delicate and beautifully scented cake on which I drizzled lemon glaze. This is a recipe I will make time and time again.

The Cakes ( adapted from Baking with Julia)
1/3 cup hazelnuts
1 cup castor sugar
1 2/3 cups self raising flour
1 teaspoon almond essence
1 cup mascarpone cheese
125g butter
2 large eggs, at room temperature

Melted butter  and flour for greasing the pans

First peel the hazelnuts. Heat the oven to 180C. Bring 1 cup water to the boil add 1 1/2 tablespoons bi carb soda and the hazelnuts. Boil for 3 minutes or until the skins slip off easily. Drain and rinse under cool water. Peel and dry well. Toast in the oven for 15 minutes or until lightly toasted.   
 Grease and flour 12 muffin pans.
Place the hazelnuts and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until fine. Do not overprocess or you will have nut butter. Stir the ground nuts together with flour. Set aside. Mix mascarpone and almond essence. Reserve.
Beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Continue beating until fluffy.
Now, working with a rubber spatula fold in the flour alternately with the mascarpone. 3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of mascarpone. You will have a thick batter.
Divide the batter evenly among the muffin pans.
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven allow to rest for a minute or two. Remember they are delicate. Turn out carefully and allow to cool.

I iced my cakes with lemon icing - simply a mixture of icing sugar and strained lemon juice. This was a lovely combination of delicate aromatic cake with tangy icing. 
OK, so this is not "lite" recipe but so worth making.
Somehow calming and soothing.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Mini Cream Horns

Mini Cream horns are a very easy, popular, bite size pastry. As long as you have the cream horn moulds which are available at all good kitchen stores the options are endless. These are my favourites! I recently prepared them for my nephew's 21st birthday party. Prepared with old fashioned mock cream these delicious morsels can be frozen for up to a month before the special occasion. Or keep them on hand in the freezer for when guests unexpectedly drop in. With fresh whipped cream, strawberry jam and fresh strawberries you have a beautiful dessert for you next dinner party. Or why not try chocolate mousse? Children as well as adults will love these!

 You will need:

puff pastry sheets
icing sugar
strawberry jam
dulce de leche

 Mock Cream:
250g butter
3/4 cup castor sugar
1 teaspoon gelatine
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, optional
1/4 cup cold water, extra

Prepare the Mock cream first. This will make lots of cream but any left over can be used to ice cakes or cupcakes or frozen for later use. Mix gelatine with 1/4 cup water, stand 5 minutes then heat gently to dissolve. Allow it to cool to room temperature.  Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Very gradually add the gelatine mixture. Once this is incorporated gradually add the cold water and cream of tartar, if using. By this stage the cream should be white and fluffy.

You can refrigerate your cream until the cream horns are ready. The cream will need to be removed from the refrigerator for a few hours to allow it to soften to a creamy consistency. The time this will take will depend on your climate.

Heat the oven to 200C. Butter your moulds well .Dust a sheet of thawed puff pastry with sifted icing sugar then cut into about 1cm strips.

Fold the pastry over the end of the mould wind the pastry around the mould overlapping slightly.

 Place on a baking paper lined baking tray with the end of the pastry down so that it doesn't pop up during baking. Brush lightly with milk.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until crisp and lightly browned.

Remove and cool until ready to fill.

Using a teaspoon or a piping bag place a small amount of jam or dulce de leche in the bottom of the pastry horn then fill with cream mock or fresh. I like to top the jam horns with a red glace cherry and the dulce de leche horns with a choc chip.

Dust with icing sugar and the are ready to serve.
Enjoy the crunchy, creamy sweetness! Mmmmm!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mediterranean Chicken

There are times when you don't really want or don't have the time to cook a dinner with lots of fuss and bother. We all have our favourite dishes for these occasions. This is mine!
I have adapted it from an old "Vogue wine and Food Cookbook" circa 1990. These were quite the up and coming recipes at the time. But I do think that some old recipes really a worth keeping and not updating. It is rather strange in the combination of the marinade ingredients which seem to work with a balance of salty, sour and sweet. It must be prepared 24 hours in advance and is delicious served with steamed rice or couscous.
For 6 people (with leftovers) you will need:
1.5kg free range chicken, portioned
or 8 chicken drumsticks if you prefer 
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups pitted prunes, quartered
3/4 cup dried apricots, quartered
3/4 cup green olives, pitted
1/2 cup capers
4 bay leaves
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups white wine

Spread out the chicken in a large non-corrosive dish. Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next night about an hour before dinner heat the over to 180C. Place the chicken in a shallow baking dish and pour over all of the marinade. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until the chicken is cooked.  

Serve the chicken on a bed of buttered couscous or rice with a green salad.