Sunday 5 April 2015

Marina and the new chocolate dessert

Marina in the middle with the rather cool Bowie t-shirt

I'm not sure about chocolate desserts. Given the choice, I have a fruit based dish at the end of the meal. Chocolate is too... monotonous. It's a monoculture in the mouth. It doesn't change. True, you could say the same of a lemon tart or a raspberry parfait but somehow chocolate is more... fascist.

But Marina wanted a chocolate dessert... and no gluten... so that was tarts and profiteroles out. I went with chocolate marquise. It's a no bake thing, denser than a mousse lighter than a tart; a sensual, glossy slab and bloody rich however you cut it. For crunch I stuck it on a pâte sablée biscuit (the Roux recipe). To add texture I stuck a chocolate tuile in it. For contrast and creaminess I added a puff of butterscotch mousse (my own recipe) and for a refuge of sourness, some cherries, lightly poached in a spiced syrup. 

No one seems to know why the marquise is so called. After exhaustive research (honestly I clicked past page one of the Google results and everything) no French noblewoman stumbles forward from history. A French dictionary claims it is refined 'like a marquise' but that means precisely nothing. How is a frozen mousse more refined than, say, an apple tart or a pork chop? Refinement makes me think of light, airy and delicate, very much unlike a chocolate marquise.

I'll list the recipes below.

Pan fried French gnocchi
Starters was a return to a long lost friend: pan fried French Gnocchi (no, nothing like their Italian counterparts), coupled with dressed broad beans, bacon bits and flamed tomatoes.

Mains was a shoulder of pork, roasted low and slow overnight - coupled with the requested cauliflower purée, with some cavolo nero cabbage, making an appearance for colour as much as flavour, pickled fennel, a simple white port and apple gravy with en papillote root veg bulking up the veg/carb role.

5.6 kilo shoulder joint. Cooked, covered for about 14 hours at 120°C. This was just after I sliced off the crackling for serving. It didn't slip off. I like to remove the under layer of soft, white, fat too.

Root veg en papillote. Butternut squash, swede, carrot and celeriac.

Shredded pork with gravy, cavolo nero cabbage, pickled fennel and cauliflower puree.

Looks simple. Too damn simple! There are six elements here - at least two hours work.

Chocolate Marquise 

Makes enough for twelve people. Or fewer but good luck with the diabetes. This recipe isn't difficult - a child could do it, so long as they have a powerful stand mixer and hand whisk - but does call for many bowls or much washing up. There's no baking, just refrigeration.

Melt 300g dark chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. Don't let the water hit the bottom of the bowl blah, blah. You can also use your microwave on low or, ahem, your new sous vide machine. Chocolate melts at 30 and 32°C; much higher temperatures will cause 'seize', where the chocolate splits into it constituent parts. This explains the chemistry. Seized chocolate can be recovered (not entirely satisfactorily) by adding a tablespoon of boiling water and whisking like mad.

Beat 150g unsalted butter, softened with 75g caster sugar until pale and fluffy. In another bowl, beat 75g caster sugar with six egg yolks until pale and creamy. In yet another bowl, whisk 450ml of double cream to soft peak stage.

Add six tablespoons of cocoa powder to the butter/sugar mix and fold through. Pour the cooled, melted chocolate in with this too. Carefully fold in the yolk/sugar mix and finally fold through the whipped cream.

Either pour into moulds or line a 6.5 x 22cm tin with 3 layers of cling film, leaving a 10cm overhang. Refrigerate for a few hours but remove at least 30 mins before eating or your guests will be hacking away at a chocolate cliff face. Before serving you can use a blow torch or a hot palette knife to smooth the surface and render it glossy. It does make it look much more attractive.

Chocolate tuile
Makes about 30 or one MASSIVE one.

Preheat the oven to 160ºC

Cream together 40g of softened unsalted butter with 100g of icing sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Sift in 15g of plain flour and 10g of cocoa powder and mix through. Add 35ml orange juice (or coffee or water will do). Mix thoroughly until smooth.

Drop teaspoons of the mixture at least 12cm apart on to baking-trays lined with silicone mats or greased non-stick baking-paper. Spread the mixture thinly with a lightly wetted finger into 6cm discs. Or pipe lines or squiggles. Don't get too fancy as the mix will spread hugely. For added interest and texture you can sprinkle a few cocoa nibs on each one.

Bake in batches for eight minutes, until they have spread out with plenty of holes in the mixture, and are lacy around the edges.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool and harden slightly, otherwise it's like pushing lava around. One at a time carefully lift them off with a palette knife while they are still warm and malleable and shape over a rolling-pin. If you want basket-shaped containers, mould them over the top of a small upturned ramekin or dariole mould (we all have them right?). You can also twist them gently or cut them into shapes with a scissors. Be careful though, once cool these are very brittle. The tuiles are also very sensitive to moisture but can be stored for a day or two in an airtight container, between leaves of baking paper.

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