TWD-Marquise au Chocolat w/ Kahlua Crème Anglais

Cocoa and Raspberries

Marquise au Chocolat with Cocoa and Raspberries

Alternate post title: HOW I RUINED MY STOVE MAKING MARQUISE AU CHOCOLAT W/ KAHLUA CRÈME ANGLAIS.  More on that later.

This is the first February baking challenge from Tuesdays with Dorie and it is the perfect seductive, chocolate dessert to serve your Valentine! This recipe is a basic, frozen Chocolate Mousse, that can be dressed up any way you choose. Whipped cream, chocolate curls, fresh fruit, orange peel, liqueur…basically anything you think complements chocolate!  I chose to make a Kahlua Crème Anglaise and to add some raspberries, as it was one of Dorie’s suggestions for this recipe from her latest cookbook, Baking Chez Moi. The Kahlua was my call!

This recipe begins with a lot of chopped chocolate, melted with creamy butter, over a Bain-Marie–how French!

Pile of chopped semi-sweet chocolate melting with butter

Pile of chopped semi-sweet chocolate melting with butter

I stirred until the chocolate was smooth and glossy, then folded in the egg yolk mixture.

Folding in the egg yolks

Folding in the egg yolks

I love the trippy swirl!

The last step is folding in whipped cream, which creates a lovely, thick batter.

I made sure I left no white streaks

I made sure I left no white streaks

Once it is combined the batter is transferred into a loaf pan lined with cling wrap. As usual, I did not have the patience to keep trying to smooth the cling wrap in the pan. I told myself the batter would smooth and flatten it. I carefully tried to smooth the top, but as you can see in the picture below, it looks like a monkey tried to smooth it! I’m really trying to improve my skills, but I often give up too easily, thinking the task impossible. Eh, I’ll cover the top with cream and berries!

I am blind to imperfection. I really thought this was fairly smooth!

I am blind to imperfection. I really thought this was fairly smooth!

The loaf pan was tightly wrapped and set in the freezer. Four hours later, it was time to unmold the Marquise. It was stubborn and did not want to come out. I put a casserole dish with warm water on my stovetop (all counter space was taken) and set the loaf pan inside to loosen things up. It worked!

Here is a pic of the bottom of my wrinkly loaf, due to my poor cling wrap smoothing skills!

Seriously, I can do better than this.

Seriously, I can do better than this.

RIP MY STOVE

I didn’t realize it at the time, but as I was trying to loosen the mold on my stove, I must have sloshed some water over the side of the casserole pan into the lower right gas burner. This would prove fatal to my stove when I was at minute four of continuously whisking my Crème Anglais for 7-10 minutes, in a warm pan, on the aforementioned burner.

I was whisking away, when suddenly, the  flame on my burner flared and WHOOSHED and the lights in the kitchen went out. My husband flipped the breaker and the lights returned, but two of the knobs on the stove started spewing black smoke as the wiring sizzled. The burners were clicking and I was sure there would be a glass explosion. I yelled for my husband, who crawled under the smoking stove and turned off the gas. On the bright side,  I now have a nice, new stove.  Clean, no scratches and burners that heat evenly.

I stood off to the side continuing to whisk the Crème Anglais. The stove was dead and the house reeked of burning wire, but I was able to save the crème! I continued to whisk it in the cooling pan, on the still hot burner, but it wasn’t thickening. Okay, so don’t tell The French, but I finished heating it in the microwave! Mon Dieu! Blasphème! I heated it for 20 seconds then stirred. I repeated this a number of times until I had a thick, pourable, delicious sauce!

Microwaved Crème Anglais. Look at all that lovely vanilla! Can you smell the Kahlua?

Microwaved Crème Anglais. Look at all the lovely vanilla! Smell the Kahlua?

The chilled Crème Anglais was so good I wanted to eat it with a spoon.  So I did…just a few spoonfuls! I’m glad I did because the flavor of the rather bold crème was totally overpowered by the rich chocolate of the cake.  Even though I poured quite a bit onto the cake, the flavor was just swallowed up by the chocolate. The crème was better paired with the raspberries.

The finished product. Anyone who eats this rich and decadent dessert will instantly fall in love with you! Or love you more than they already do!

Marquise au Chocolat with Kahlua Crème Anglais and Raspberries

Marquise au Chocolat with Kahlua Crème Anglais and Raspberries

TWD-Gingerbread Buche de Noel Completed

It was so much fun to make this cake and learn some new baking techniques! The directions are so well-written that even the novice baker (me!) could follow them. It was a challenge, but what a feeling of accomplishment. I did not make anything ahead and tackled each step in order. There were enough pauses at the end of each step to work on the next step. The whole project had beautiful pacing built right in. I credit the genius of Dorie for that. It took me four hours to finish,  but I felt amazing as I completed each step!

So, I started off making the pralines. I was slightly anxious as the flame on my burners are all uneven and the sugar was turning amber in some places and not others. It worked out fine and I took it off the stove when I got that strong caramel smell. This was based on a tip from another TWD baker.

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Next I prepared the baking pan and tackled the batter. This step and making the icing were the two components of the cake that I approached with much foreboding. What a nice surprise when  the batter was much easier than I expected and was so fluffy and beautiful in the mixer bowl.

batter

While the cake baked, I set out my rack,  laid out the cotton dishtowel and liberally sprinkled the whole thing with powdered sugar. After the cake had cooled for five minutes, I mustered my courage and flipped it out onto the dishtowel. Perfect!

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I used the towel to roll it and got a nice even roll. Again, I was so surprised that I was able to do this! I was really expecting disaster at every turn. (It did come eventually, in step 4 with the icing, but I’ll elaborate later).

While the cake came to room temperature I made the filling, then spread it on the cake. There was just enough filling. I would have liked a little bit more. Rolled it up and got a nice even, tight roll.

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While the cake was setting in the fridge, I made the icing. Technique wise, everything went well. BUT, I used a pure, vanilla extract that was supposed to have a richer flavor. Perhaps I was supposed to use less than the recipe called for, but this vile vanilla ruined the icing! It had such a strong, bitter chemical taste and it completely overwhelmed the icing. Ahhh, I thought, here’s the disaster I’ve been expecting all along. I was soooo close to knocking it out of the ballpark!  I didn’t have any eggs left to make another batch of icing, so I used the yuck batch. I knew it would look good in the pictures and that I could scrape it off before I ate the cake! (UPDATE: I’m revisiting the icing issue. I obsessed over why the icing was so disgusting and was craving the sweet, marshmallow flavor the other TWD posters were raving about. I made a batch of the icing again tonight, using a different vanilla and only 2 tsp instead of a whole tbsp. I made sure the syrup was the right temperature before I added it to the egg whites and immediately added the vanilla in case the alcohol needed to cook out. The icing was still bitter and inedible. Maybe I just don’t like this icing. Or maybe I have a genetic aversion to vanilla when mixed with sugar, cream of tartar and egg whites? You know, like the unfortunate people who taste cilantro as soapy because of a genetic predisposition? Whatever the case, I’m sticking with buttercream frosting!)

But even the icing disaster couldn’t really get me down, or the fact that I didn’t center the cake properly on the platter. I was just  happy to have made my first fancy pants Buche de Noel!  See how excited the snowman is? Victory!

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How did it taste? Delicious. The cake is so fragrant and flavorful. The filling, both sweet and tangy, paired perfectly with the spiced cake. I scraped off as much icing as possible, but in small quantities, mixed with delicious cake, it wasn’t too bad. The pralines made the whole thing extra special. I know with the sweet, marshmallow frosting it would have been heaven on a plate!

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TWD: Gingerbread Buche de Noel

I can’t wait to make this Gingerbread Buche de Noel from Dorie Greenspan’s fabulous cookbook, Baking Chez Moi : Recipes From My Paris Home To Your Home Anywhere!  I’ve never made spongecake, or a rolled cake for that matter, but I have watched Dorie make the cake here. When it’s done, it should look like this. We’ll see…

Update: Ha Ha! I just looked at the recipe for the cake and the recipe looks quite complex. I may be way out of my league here! But I’m going to follow the directions and give it a shot. If it’s a total flop, I have it feeling it will make a pretty funny Pinterest fail!

In this festive recipe, Dorie Greenspan reinterprets the classic French bûche de Noël, a Christmas cake fashioned to look like a Yule log. Instead of the usual chocolate cake filled with ganache, she bakes a fragrant lightly spiced sponge cake and fills it with pecan cream cheese filling, while billowing marshmallow frosting evokes a snowdrift. (Photo: Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times)