Whisked away.

I like whisking things. I especially like whisking things until soft peaks form. There is something borderline existential about watching a liquid turn into pillowy fluff. It’s fun. Of course, it helps that we now have stand mixers to do all the hard work. But I had a lot of fun with this recipe. It has a few components, but not a lot of steps. It’s relatively easy to put together. And I liked the fact that each one of these components, though particularly delicious when combined, could stand alone as a perfectly respectable dessert. The first step is basically a chocolate meringue. The second, chocolate mousse made with mascarpone (I added some fresh mint for an extra kick) and the third, a sauce that you could very well eat by itself if you feel so inclined. Why not?

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 is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

Mine isn’t quite as pretty as it should be, I know. But, let me explain. I love Jamie Oliver. I love his scruffy, disheveled yet put together style. I love his throw food-scraps-over-his-shoulder, pick-ingredients-fresh-from-the-garden, rustic approach to cooking. I love his Food Revolution (read more or sign the petition here). And I love love love his tray-baked meringue. Because a simple meringue is tough to come by. And there’s something fun and flippant about plopping the meringue into a rectangular shape on a tray and not really caring what it looks like. So that’s exactly what I did. And although it might not look all that pretty, it’s pretty darn delicious.

Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse:

adapted from Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard

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

Directions:

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets 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 and feel silky when pinched between your fingers). Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white (it looks like it won’t work, but continue folding gently and it will eventually come together). Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into any shape you desire. You could also free form your shapes (like Jamie) 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.

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
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice)

Directions:

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. 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 OVER BEAT or 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 pavlova. NOTE: I had some fresh mint leaves lying around, so I added a tablespoon, finely chopped, for a little something extra.

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

Directions:

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.

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

Directions:

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 the eggs from scrambling. 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.

Assembly:
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.

And finally, Jamie’s tray-baked meringue:

Jamie Oliver’s Tray-Baked Meringue

from thefoodnetwork.com

4 large free-range or organic egg whites
1 1/4 cups raw sugar (I use turbinado)
Pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Put your egg whites into a squeaky clean bowl, making sure there are absolutely no little pieces of egg shell or egg yolk in them. Whisk on medium until the whites form firm peaks. With your mixer still running, gradually add the sugar and the pinch of salt. Turn the mixer up to the highest setting and whisk for about 7 or 8 minutes, until the meringue mixture is white and glossy. To test whether it’s done you can pinch some between your fingers – if it feels completely smooth it’s ready; if it’s slightly granular it needs a little more whisking.

Dot each corner of the waxed paper with a blob of meringue, then turn it over and stick it to the baking sheet. Spoon the meringue out onto the paper. Using the back of a spoon, shape and swirl it into a rectangle. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour or until crisp on the outside and a little soft and sticky inside.

NOTE: Jamie’s recipe also includes pears, hazelnuts and a chocolate drizzle. I’m sure it would make it even more delicious, but I love the simplicity of the meringue on its own.

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