Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Daring Bakers- chocolate marquise

You guys may have noticed that I haven't posted a Daring Baker's challenge these past few months. Between my move to Chicago in April and a May challenge in which we were required to use maple syrup (mehh), I'm finally back after a 2-month hiatus.

And wow- what a challenge it was!!!

Chocolate marquise, torched meringue, homemade caramel sauce and spiced almonds.

I'd never heard of chocolate marquise before, so I was extra excited that this challenge introduced me to yet another novel dessert. So what exactly is chocolate marquise? I'd best describe it as a cross between a chocolate truffle and chocolate mousse. It holds its shape better than chocolate mousse but seriously melts in your mouth the second it touches your tongue. Unbelievably creamy texture.

The challenge also had us pairing the chocolate marquise with a few other components I wouldn't have thought to put together: meringue, caramel and spiced almonds.

On their own, each component is very good. (Except the meringue, I'm usually not a fan and can't really eat it on its own...) But together. WOW! What a combo.

The soft sweetness of the meringue with the
smooth silkiness of the chocolate with the 
sticky nuttiness of the caramel with the
sweet crunchiness of the almonds. 

I deviated a bit from the recipes given, as they were all about using hot spice with the chocolate. I've tried it before, and I'm not a giant fan of spicy, cayenney chocolate. I know, its supposed to enhance the flavor of the chocolate. I know, its the "it" thing to do with Chocolate. I know, I know... but I don't care. (If you do care, you can find the original recipes provided for the challenge here.)

Instead, I decided to experiment using Chinese 5-spice powder in the chocolate. I don't know exactly what's in it, but Wikipedia tells me the five spices are usually star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper and ground fennel seeds. I absolutely LOVE using it on pork tenderloin, and figured it would work well in a sweet dessert too.

The verdict?

Depends who you ask...

My mom loved it. I was not a fan.

To be honest, I think I'm just a chocolate purist. I don't like crazy flavors and spices and bacon and chillies and stuff in my chocolate. Except lavender. And orange. And nuts. But that's it (until I can think of more...)

So if I could do it all over again I'd just make the chocolate dessert without any extra flavorings in it and just let the chocolate shine. But that's the beauty of this dessert. You can be as much of a purist or chocolate skank as you want. It's your choice how much you decide to go crazy with it, if at all.

Obviously the marquise is the main character in this dessert. But can I take a moment to talk about the supporting cast?

I've never made caramel sauce before (although I have made caramels) and I have no idea why the hell not. I will never, in my entire life, buy caramel sauce again. It takes a whopping 10-15 minutes to make and is the most delicious thing ever.

Although I did overcook (aka burn a little bit) my first batch. Apparently it only takes an extra minute to burn caramel. But hey, no biggie. Even if you ruin your first batch, it's a cheap mistake to make. And once you get it right, there's no way you'll mess it up again.

And the spiced nuts, they were great. I loved this technique for flavoring my plain ole almonds. Try it, you won't regret it. (But don't overcook them like I did. Yes, I had issues burning things this time...)

And the meringue. Like I said, I don't really like meringue. But once you broil/torch it it becomes marshmallow like, and really good. Not so good that I'd eat it on its own, but with the chocolate and caramel sauce it was divine. And beautiful too!

Pre-toasted meringue fluff 

So while this isn't a weeknight "I'm-craving-something-sweet-let-me-whip-something-up" kinda dessert, it's actually not nearly as difficult as it looks. It's definitely a show stopper, and one that I hope you try at home... if not in full than at least one of the four components.

Yours in dessert explorations,

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.

There's a ton of recipes, so click below to read them all...

Chocolate Marquise, adapted from Daring Bakers
Note: You'll need an 8 x 4 pan or 6-7” round pan (springform is easiest!) To prepare the pans, line the bottom and sides with parchment or wax paper and set aside until ready to use.

3 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 large egg
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons (40 ml) (40 grams/ 1½ oz) sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (2/3 fluid oz/ 20 ml.) water
Chocolate Base, barely warm (see below)
1/2 cup (4 fluid oz./ 120 ml.) heavy cream
1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder (for rolling, optional)

1. Prepare chocolate base (recipe below) and set aside to cool.

2. 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.

3. When the eggs are getting close to finishing, make a sugar syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring the syrup to a boil and then cook to softball stage (235F).

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. 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.

5. In a separate mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.

6. 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. It'll take ~1 minute in the stand mixture.

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

8. Pour into the prepared pans and cover with plastic wrap (directly touching the mixture so it doesn't allow in any air). Freeze until very firm, at least 2 - 4 hours (preferably 6 – 8 hours).

Chocolate Base

3 oz (85 grams/ 6 tablespoons) bittersweet chocolate (about 70% cocoa)
1/3 cup + 2 teaspoons (90 ml/3 fluid oz.) heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (15 ml/ 1/2 fluid oz.) liquor, optional (I used gin)
1 tablespoon (15 ml/ 1/2 fluid oz.) honey (or light corn syrup if you want)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon/(less than 1/4 ounce) cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark, but any Dutch-processed cocoa would be fine. They said not to use regular cocoa powder but I don't see why not.)
1/4 oz unsalted butter (1/2 tablespoon/8 grams), softened
spices, optional (I used 1/4 tsp chinese 5 spice powder. Too much in my opinion...)

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. 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.

Caramel Sauce, from Simply Recipes

Note: Check out David Lebovitz's two blog posts (here and here), as well as the post from Simply Recipes for pictures and more details about making caramel. It's not hard, but it is easy to mess up. I did my homework and still threw away my first batch.

1/2 cup of sugar
3 TBSP butter, diced and at room temp
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/8 tsp salt


1.  Make sure you have everything ready to go and on hand. Making caramel is a fast process that cannot wait for hunting around for ingredients. If you don't work fast, the sugar will burn.

2. Heat sugar on moderately high heat in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart or 3-quart saucepan. As the sugar begins to melt, stir with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula.

3. As soon as all of the sugar crystals have melted (the liquid sugar should be medium to dark amber in color), immediately add the butter to the pan. Whisk until the butter has melted.

4. Once the butter has melted, take the pan off the heat. Count to three, then slowly add the cream to the pan while stirring to incorporate the cream. Note than when you add the butter and the cream, the mixture will foam up considerably. This is why you must use a pan that is at least 2-quarts (preferably 3-quarts) big.

5. Whisk until caramel sauce is smooth. Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then pour into a glass mason jar and let sit to cool to room temperature. (Remember to use pot holders when handling the jar filled with hot caramel sauce.) Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Warm before serving.

Spiced Almonds
This makes a lot more than you'll need for the recipe. These can also be made ahead of time.


1/2 cup (4 oz.) sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, optional
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white
1 cup (145 grams/ 5 oz.) blanched whole almonds


1. Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil.

2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, and salt. In a larger mixing bowl whisk the egg white until it's frothy and thick. Add the spice mix to the egg white and whisk to combine completely. Add the nuts to the egg white mixture and toss with a spoon. Spoon the coated nuts onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

3. Bake the nuts for 15-30 minutes, or until they turn light brown. Allow the nuts to cool completely and they will get very crunchy. Set aside until ready to serve.

Note: the original recipe stated an oven temp of 350˚. But my nuts got a little burned that way, so I recommend decreasing the oven temperature (although I haven't tried it this way...)


Makes about 1 cup of meringue. This must be made fresh (aka: the day of plating)

2 large egg whites
1/3 cup minus 1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla


1. Combine the egg whites, sugar and vinegar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a whisk, stir the three together, making sure the sugar is moistened evenly by the egg whites and they make a homogeneous liquid.

2. Over a saucepan of simmering water, warm the egg white mixture. Gently stir the mixture, periodically dipping your finger in the mixture to feel 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.

3. Remove the mixing bowl from the saucepan and return it to the stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Whisk until you reach soft peaks, a few minutes max. In the last 10 seconds of mixing, add the vanilla to the meringue and mix thoroughly.

Plating the dessert

When I was ready I plated the caramel sauce on the plate and then broiled/torched my meringue. Then I removed the marquise from the freezer and sliced it while still cold (so it was easier to handle). You should let it thaw for at least 5-15 minutes before serving to let the marquise get soft. You can roll the marquise in cocoa powder if you want, but I left mine nekked.

These were the notes from the Daring Bakers:
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. 

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


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