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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Daring Baker Challenge: Chocolate Pavlova with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

I'm excited to debut my first Daring Baker's challenge!

This month the challenge was to make a decadent Chocolate Pavlova with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse.


I started by making my own mascarpone -- I'm still not sure if I did that out of ambition or to save a little money, but I'm glad I did. Here's the tutorial I followed.

Once that was done, I set about making the components of the dessert. Despite the three separate components, and the time involved, I found it pretty simple to make.

I had never made a pavlova before. If you aren't familiar with pavlova, it's kind of like a big meringue with a soft marshmallowy center. This one was so delicious, I could have eaten the batter straight from the bowl! My first pavlova turned out a little wonky, but that's no big deal. I broke it up and served it trifle style.

The chocolate mascarpone mousse is the real star here, and definitely worth the time and effort. I highly recommend it! I'm excited to lave some left over. I think I'm going to stuff strawberries with the remainder for Sunday dinner tonight. :)

I omitted any alcohol or citrus from the recipes provided below, but if you like that sort of thing I'm sure it would be delicious. I also added raspberries, which I though gave it just the right touch of freshness and tangy sweetness. I loved this just the way I made it.


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

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

Directions:
  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

Directions:
  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

Directions:
  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.
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.

Sorry for the crappy photography. My husband took our camera halfway across the world for the summer. I took these with my phone. Not bad, though I say it myself... :)

{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.}

Monday, June 14, 2010

Local Flavor: Robin's Nest








I'll be honest with you. I don't really want to share this restaurant with you. I want to keep it to myself. (I'm selfish like that...) But because I love you all with a muchness, I guess I'll let you in on it.

Robin's Nest is the best sandwich shop in Salt Lake, hands down. Why, you ask?

Let me break it down for you:

Robin's Nest excells at out-of-the-ordinary sandwiches. I'm telling you, I have never met a Robin's Nest sandwich I didn't like.

My first love was The Madam: "Roasted Turkey Breast, Tomato, Melted Provolone, Lettuce, Bacon and Light Ranch on Ciabatta" (don't forget to add avocado!). Then one day an employee there told me that the Madam was playing it safe and that I should explore other options. I told him to bring me his favorite sandwich, and I wasn't disappointed. He brought me the Robin's Grill: "Bacon, Tomato, Avocado, Cheddar, Provolone & Roasted Garlic Spread (!) on Sour Dough" -- it was heaven. The last time I went, I finally tried thier signature chicken salad sandwich, The Rooster Call. It was easy to see why that was the sandwich that made them famous.

In addition to the fabulous set menu, Robin breaks out mouthwatering weekly specials that always make me drool a little.

Then there's the orzo pasta. So much basil-y, pinenutty goodness! It comes with your sandwich, whether you order a whole or a half -- trust me, skip the chips and have this instead. But come early. It's so popular that they often run out!

The Robin's Nest also has a very convenient downtown location at 311 S. Main St. Open from 10:30 to 4:30, Monday through Friday, Robin's Nest caters to the business lunch crowd (and what a crowd there is!), but don't let that stop you from stopping by. Despite the cramped set-up, the service is friendly and quick,  and the food is amazing.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wishlist Wednesday: Bento Lunch Box



Ms. Bento Lunch Jar by Zojirushi

I've been pondering the bento box for quite some time now. These Japanese-style lunchboxes are becoming quite the trend in the US. They are cleverly designed to compartmentalize your lunch, and some are equipped to keep it hot or cold for hours. They are available in a lot of different styles, many of them featuring Hello Kitty or characters from Studio Ghibli films. (!) While these are adorable for kiddos, the Ms. Bento featured above (along with the larger Mr. Bento) is more office-appropriate.

My office has the teensiest tiniest fridge in creation. It is always crammed full of junk. This bento box is designed to insulate food, meaning that I could leave this at my desk and not worry about my lunch until it's time to heat it up in the microwave. Plus, it comes with a spork. I'm sold!

What do you think of bento boxes? Do you have something else you use to transport your lunch or keep it at the right temperature?

Interested in seeing more bento options? Check some out here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Lunching

Although I didn't get in quite as many posts as I had hoped, I did have fun focusing breakfast in the month of May. Now that June is upon us, we'll move on to lunch.

I work full time and go to school, so lunch is one of those meals that can fall by the wayside more often than not. Most of the time, I try to make a little extra dinner and take that for lunch the next day, but that doesn't always work. If I don't have leftovers, I often get a Lean Cuisine from the grocery store or eat out. Lunch doesn't really get to be celebrated as a great meal -- I just shovel food in my mouth to get me through the rest of my work day.

Shouldn't there be more?

What do you like to do for lunch?

I look forward to exploring lunch more adventurously this month! As always, your comments, suggestions and requests are welcome.

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