01 June 2011

As promised

As promised, a marathon recipe ensues, I warn you. Best made over two days, these desserts are tasty enough to be worth the effort (once in a while, at least), and interesting enough to be a show stopper after a nice meal.

spiced cherries and almonds

While not the most scintillating activity in the kitchen, it is possible to make this dish without a stand mixer. Take it from me: pull up a chair, grab a book, and set the timer; if you move the hand mixer around from time to time and check it every few minutes, you may survive the monotony.

Another interesting note about this recipe is the admonition to only use Dutch cocoa powder. While I have used both, and always heard that they can be used interchangeably, I had never had a side-by-side comparison. Since my current cocoa powder was all natural, I bought some Dutched powder and did a little research. While they can, indeed, be used interchangeably, the key advantages to Dutched powder are its darker color—more appealing to many eyes—and a reduction in the natural acidity of cocoa, allowing its other flavors to take center stage. While substituting with natural powder in the marquise probably wouldn't make a great difference, the cocoa powder used to coat each piece will likely be unpleasantly bitter and acidic unless Dutched powder is used.

Marquise with Spiced Cherries and Cinnamon Almonds
Adapted from a Daring Bakers recipe by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt.
Note: a full batch of the cherries and almonds are not needed—but you should really make a full batch anyway, as both are versatile and keep well.

1¾ cup heavy cream, divided
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used about 72% cacao)
pinch cinnamon
2 tablespoons corn syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Dutched cocoa powder
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
7 eggs, divided
1 cup sugar, divided
Additional Dutched cocoa powder for coating
Spiced Cherries
Cinnamon Almonds

Whip 1 cup of the cream to stiff peaks; set aside in the refrigerator. Prepare an 8" square pan much as you would for brownies; line with two long strips of parchment the width of the pan, laid crosswise with the ends hanging over; set aside.

Heat the remaining ¾ cup cream until almost simmering. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl and pour the hot cream over it; let it sit for 1-2 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt. Slowly stir the mixture until well combined; add the cinnamon, corn syrup, vanilla, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, and butter and mix well. Set aside the chocolate mixture to cool to a warm room temperature (I keep it on the stove because my kitchen is chilly).

Meanwhile, begin the egg base for the marquise. Separate five of the eggs, setting the whites aside for the meringes. In a large bowl with a hand mixer, or in a stand mixer, begin beating the 5 yolks with the additional two eggs. Beat on high speed until very thick and pale, about 15 minutes (probably a bit more with a hand mixer, a bit less with a stand mixer).

When the eggs are almost done, mix ¼ cup sugar with 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, swirling to mix, then cook to 265ºF (soft-ball stage). When the syrup is hot, drizzle it into the egg mixture while beating on low speed. When combined, increase the speed to high and beat until cooled to room temperature, about 5-10 minutes more. Add the chocolate mixture and quickly beat just to combine—don't beat too long or you will lose the air that you whipped into the eggs. Fold in a third of the whipped cream to lighten the mixture, then quickly fold in the remaining cream. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, press a layer of plastic wrap against the mixture, and transfer to the freezer until completely frozen, 4-6 hours minimum (easiest to just freeze overnight and finish the dessert the next day).

To make the meringue, bring the five reserved egg whites to room temperature. Place the whites and remaining ¾ cup sugar in a double boiler over simmering water. Beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until hot to the touch and the consistency of marshmallow cream, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat and beat until cooled and holding stiff peaks, about 6-8 minutes more.

Preheat the boiler or a hot oven (400-450ºF). Line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone. Spoon the meringue into six nests and hollow the centers with a large spoon. Bake or broil until browned all over and carefully transfer to serving plates (the bottoms will be a bit sticky). Alternatively, shape and brown the meringue nests on the serving plate and brown with a blowtorch.

To assemble the desserts, spoon some cherries into each nest and pour some cocoa powder onto a plate. Turn the marquise out onto a cutting board; if your baking dish has curved edges, trim those and set aside. Cut into nine equal squares, coat each thoroughly with cocoa, and arrange atop the cherries. Set each dessert aside to thaw at room temperature (15-20 minutes) or in the fridge (around an hour). Scatter with almonds and serve.

Makes 6 full desserts with 3 remaining marquise blocks (mine are frozen, ready to be coated, thawed, and served with meringue, whipped cream, or custard whenever needed)

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