Friday, May 27, 2011

Marquise on Meringue - Daring Bakers' Challenge May 2011

Wow - even the spelling of the dish was challenging this month. I can't seem to get the hang of spelling meringue.

The May 2011 Daring Bakers Challenge was hosted by Emma of
CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

The challenge had four separate components – spicy chocolate marquise, torched meringue, tequila caramel sauce and spicy toasted almonds. All up it took me 6 hours to prepare. At the end it was utter chaos in my kitchen as I tried to "plate" everything before the sun went down so I could get a picture.

The whole process was fun and educational, and the end result was impressive. The texture of the marquise was amazing and unlike anything I have made before. I made the recipe exactly as suggested and sadly I didn't greatly enjoy the overall flavour profile. I usually like chilli and chocolate together, but this didn’t work for me and I also didn’t enjoy the tequila flavour in the caramel. I would definitely make each of the components again, but with different flavours added.

I have a lot of observations about this challenge, which probably won’t be of interest to anyone except a few hardcore DBs, but I feel it is therapeutic to share them.

Firstly, thanks to Audax Artifex for posting the half and quarter variations. The half version was enough for 16 mega-rich servings, which I used over 3 separate occasions. It was very nice, but I am awfully glad there are not another 16 portions in my freezer.

The marquise and chocolate base were fairly simple to prepare, with the invaluable help of a stand mixer. The only issue I had was with the direction to mix until the bowl was cool after adding the sugar syrup. My bowl didn’t get hot in the first place, so I just went with 10 minutes.

The meringue was fun to make. I have never before been directed to mix something with my hand and was slightly taken aback, but I loved it - you could really feel how it was supposed to feel. I don't have a blowtorch and ran out of time to buy one, so I used the grill. This was easy enough not ideal as the meringue was very tricky to move and collapsed when I tried.

The tequila caramel should have been simple to make, but stupidly I turned my back on the syrup (to look at the forums!) at the wrong moment. Of course it burned and I had to start again. The eventual finished product was wonderful, with a beautiful caramel colour and luscious thick texture.

The nuts were also simple to make, apart from the fact that I decided to blanch my own almonds, which added a good half an hour to the job! However, the proportions seemed a bit out, I think the amount of egg/sugar/spice mixture could have coated another cup of almonds and then there would have been less mixture burned onto the baking sheet.

I found the directions for cutting and plating the marquise confusing. As it read, I think you were supposed to remove the marquise from the freezer, cut the squares, roll them in the cocoa, then let them thaw fully in the fridge while you plated the other components. But it was awkward to move the marquise to the plate once it was coated. I think it would make more sense to plate the marquise, let it thaw, then pipe your meringue and torch it on the plate and lastly add the caramel and nuts. (Of course you would need a blowtorch for that which I don't have.)

Thank you to the hosts for bringing us a truly daring challenge.

Chocolate Marquise


6 large egg yolks at room temperature

2 large eggs

1/3 cup (75 grams/ 2⅔ oz) sugar

2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons (1⅓ fluid oz/ 40 ml.) water

Chocolate Base, barely warm (recipe follows)

1 cup (8 fluid oz./ 250 ml.) heavy cream

1 cup Dutch process cocoa powder

Torched meringue (recipe follows)

Spiced almonds (recipe follows)


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg yolks and whole eggs. Whip on high speed until very thick and pale, about 10 - 15 minutes.

  2. When the eggs are getting close to finishing, make a sugar syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small saucepan.

  3. Bring the syrup to a boil and then cook to softball stage (235F/115C). If you have a cake tester with a metal loop for a handle, the right stage for the syrup is reached when you can blow a bubble through the loop.

  4. With the mixer running on low speed, drizzle the sugar syrup into the fluffy eggs, trying to hit that magic spot between the mixing bowl and the whisk.

  5. When all of the syrup has been added (do it fairly quickly), turn the mixer back on high and whip until the bowl is cool to the touch. This will take at least 10 minutes.

  6. In a separate mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Set aside.

  7. When the egg mixture has cooled, add the chocolate base to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Try to get it as consistent as possible without losing all of the air you've whipped into the eggs. We used the stand mixer for this, and it took about 1 minute.

  8. Fold 1/3 of the reserved whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to loosen it, and then fold in the remaining whipped cream.

  9. Pour into the prepared pans and cover with plastic wrap (directly touching the mixture so it doesn't allow in any air).

  10. Freeze until very firm, at least 2 - 4 hours (preferably 6 – 8 hours).

  11. When you're ready to plate, remove the marquise from the freezer at least 15 minutes before serving. While it's still hard, remove it from the pan by pulling on the parchment 'handles' or by flipping it over onto another piece of parchment. Cut it into cubes and roll the cubes in cocoa powder. These will start to melt almost immediately, so don't do this step until all of your other plating components (meringue, caramel, spiced nuts, cocoa nibs) are ready.

  12. The cubes need to sit in the fridge to slowly thaw so plating components can be done during that time. They don’t need to be ready before the cubes are rolled in the cocoa powder.

  13. Plate with the torched meringue and drizzled caramel sauce, and toss spiced almonds and cocoa nibs around for garnish. You want to handle the cubes as little as possible because they get messy quickly and are difficult to move. However, you want to wait to serve them until they've softened completely. The soft pillows of chocolate are what make this dessert so unusual and when combined with the other elements, you'll get creamy and crunchy textures with cool, spicy, salty, bitter, and sweet sensations on your palate.

Chocolate Base


6 oz (170 grams/ ¾ cups) bittersweet chocolate (about 70% cocoa)

¾ cups (180 ml/6 fluid oz.) heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1/8 cup (30 ml/ 1 fluid oz.) tequila

1/8 cup (30 ml/ 1 fluid oz.) light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/8 cup (2 tablespoons/less than 1/2 ounce) cocoa powder

1/16 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 oz unsalted butter (1 tablespoon/15 grams), softened


1. Place the chocolate in a small mixing bowl.

2. In a double-boiler, warm the cream until it is hot to the touch (but is not boiling). Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate.

3. Allow it to sit for a minute or two before stirring. Stir until the chocolate is melted completely and is smooth throughout.

4. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

5. Set aside until cooled to room temperature. Do not refrigerate, as the base needs to be soft when added to the marquise mixture. If you make it the day before, you may need to warm it slightly. Whisk it until it is smooth again before using it in the marquise recipe.

Torched Meringue

Makes about 2 – 2½ cups of meringue. If you aren't planning on serving *all* of the marquise at once, you might want to scale this recipe back a bit.


6 large egg whites

¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (210 ml) (7 oz or 200 gms) sugar

Splash of apple cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Combine the egg whites, sugar and vinegar in the bowl of a stand mixer.

  2. Using your (clean, washed) hand, reach in the bowl and stir the three together, making sure the sugar is moistened evenly by the egg whites and they make a homogeneous liquid. Over a saucepan of simmering water, warm the egg white mixture. Use one hand to stir the mixture continuously, feeling for grains of sugar in the egg whites. As the liquid heats up, the sugar will slowly dissolve and the egg whites will thicken. This step is complete when you don't feel any more sugar crystals in the liquid and it is uniformly warm, nearly hot. Remove the mixing bowl from the saucepan and return it to the stand mixer with the whisk attachment.

  3. Whisk until you reach soft peaks. In the last 10 seconds of mixing, add the vanilla to the meringue and mix thoroughly.

  4. When you're ready to plate the dessert, spoon the meringue onto a plate (or use a piping bag) and use a blowtorch to broil.

Tequila Caramel Sauce


1/2 cup (120 ml/4 fluid oz) (4 oz/115 gm) sugar

1/4 cup (2 fluid oz./60 ml) water

1/2 cup (4 fluid oz./120 ml) heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon tequila


  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water on medium-high heat. Boil until the water completely evaporates and the sugar caramelizes to a dark mahogany colour.

  2. Working quickly, add the cream to the darkened caramel. It will bubble and pop vigorously, so add only as much cream as you can without overflowing the pot.

  3. Return the pot to the stove on low heat and whisk gently to break up any hardened sugar. Add any remaining cream and continue stirring. Gradually, the hard sugar will dissolve and the caramel sauce will continue to darken. When the caramel has darkened to the point you want it, remove it from the heat.

  4. Add the salt and tequila and stir to combine. Set aside until ready to serve.

Spiced Almonds


1/2 cup (4 oz.) sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg white 1 cup (145 grams/ 5 oz.) blanched whole almonds


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil.

2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, and salt.

3. In a larger mixing bowl whisk the egg white until it's frothy and thick.

4. Add the spice mix to the egg white and whisk to combine completely.

5. Add the nuts to the egg white mixture and toss with a spoon.

6. Spoon the coated nuts onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

7. Bake the nuts for 30 minutes, or until they turn light brown.

8. Allow the nuts to cool completely and they will get very crunchy. Set aside until ready to serve.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gumbo - Daring Cooks' Challenge May 2011

As may be apparent, I have lost my cooking mojo a little in the past few months. Shamefully, I missed both last month's Daring Cook and Daring Baker challenges. But I am back and determined not to let things slip again.

Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh.

I have never made gumbo and thought it looked delicious. And bonus, it is seasonally appropriate for the cold Sydney autumn we are experiencing. As a gumbo virgin, and feeling nervous about the roux component, I decided to follow one of the suggested recipes, for a smoked sausage and chicken gumbo, as closely as possible. I couldn't find either of the specified sausages so I opted for just a hot smoked sausage from the local Italian deli and it was great. I couldn't find celery salt for the Creole spice mix, so I substituted celery seed. And I couldn't find file powder so I left that out.

I took the host's advice and chopped everything before I started. I was glad I did as the roux did need constant attention.

I was very nervous about the roux but it worked out perfectly. These pictures shows the development of the color from the start, after 5 minutes, after 10 minutes and after 15 minutes – just as the recipe said.

Once the onion was added to the roux it started to smell amazing. Then as each new ingredient was added, it just got better and better. The finished product was really, truly delicious and more than worth the effort. Tom declared it the tastiest thing he had ever eaten – though I should add that he had run a half-marathon earlier in the day and that I don't cook him two-meat treats very often.

Thank you so much to the host for introducing us to this classic dish in such an accessible way. I will absolutely be making gumbo again and again.

Drew's Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo
Adapted from My New Orleans: The Cookbook by John Besh

1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) rendered chicken fat, duck fat, or canola oil
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) flour
2 large onions, diced
1 chicken (3 ½ to 4 lbs.), cut into 10 pieces
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) Basic Creole Spices (recipe follows), or store-bought Creole spice blend
2 pounds (2 kilograms) spicy smoked sausage, sliced ½ inch (15mm) thick
2 stalks celery, diced
2 green bell peppers (capsicum), seeded and diced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 quarts (3 liters) Basic Chicken Stock (recipe follows), or canned chicken stock
2 bay leaves
6 ounces (175 gm) andouille sausage, chopped
2 cups (480 ml) (320 gm) (11 oz) sliced fresh okra, ½ -inch (15mm) thick slices (or frozen, if fresh is not available)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) Worcestershire sauce
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Filé powder, to taste
Tabasco, to taste
4-6 cups (1 – 1½ liters) (650 gm – 950 gm) cooked Basic Louisiana White Rice (recipe follows)

1. Prepare homemade chicken stock, if using (recipe below).
2. Prepare homemade Basic Creole Spices, if using (recipe below).
3. Season the chicken pieces with about 2 tablespoons of the Creole Spices while you prepare the vegetables.
4. Make sure all of your vegetables are cut, diced, chopped, minced and ready to go before beginning the roux. You must stand at the stove and stir the roux continuously to prevent it from burning.
5. In a large cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan, heat the chicken fat, duck fat, or canola oil over high heat. Whisk the flour into the hot oil – it will start to sizzle. Reduce the heat to moderate, and continue whisking until the roux becomes deep brown in color, about 15 minutes.
6. Add the onions. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir the onions into the roux. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue stirring until the roux becomes a glossy dark brown, about 10 minutes.
7. Add the chicken to the pot; raise the heat to moderate, and cook, turning the pieces until slightly browned, about 10 minutes.8. Add the sliced smoked sausage and stir for about a minute.
9. Add the celery, bell peppers, tomato, and garlic, and continue stirring for about 3 minutes.
10. Add the thyme, chicken stock, and bay leaves. Bring the gumbo to a boil, stirring occasionally.
11. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, skimming off the fat from the surface of the gumbo every so often.
12. Add the chopped andouille, okra, and Worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper, several dashes of filé powder, and Tabasco, all to taste.
13. Simmer for another 45 minutes, continuing to skim the fat from the surface of the gumbo. Remove the bay leaves and serve in bowls over rice. Pass more filé powder at the table if desired.

Basic Creole Spices

2 tablespoons (30 ml) (33 gm) celery salt
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) sweet paprika
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (18 gm) coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (6 gm) freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) garlic powder
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) onion powder
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (4 gm) cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) ground allspice

Mix together all spices in a bowl. Transfer the spices to a clean container with a tight-fitting lid. Store up to six months.