Sunday, January 1, 2017

Cocoa Nests with Caramel Mousse - TWD: Baking with Julia

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia - 106th installment. The recipe is Cocoa Nests with Caramel Mousse (baked in July, finally blogged now!) 
This is another multi-component pastry chef-style dessert. As described in the book, none of the components of this dessert are terribly difficult and it's a good chance to practice using the pastry bag!   This dessert was delicious,  and the directions are very clear, although it is not terribly practical for a home baker with time constraints (aka me :-)
Components are:

  • Cocoa meringue shells, the "nests"
  • Caramel mousse
  • Crunchy caramelized pecans (praline), chopped into small pieces
Meringue: beat the egg whites, and add sugar, beating until shiny (so far, so good):
You then fold in a combination  of powdered sugar and cocoa powder.  This seemed to really deflate the meringue - here it is after adding those dry ingredients:

You pipe this mixture with a star tip into 4" ovals you have drawn on your parchment, with a raised edge of stars to make the nest edge.  These are baked for two hours at 200°F, so they are super crisp.

This is one of the points at which things get slightly  impractical for the home baker - you now need a large surface area to store these pretty, but fragile shells. The recipe states that you can wrap them airtight and store them in a cool dry place for up to a week - good to know that they will keep, but how do you wrap these airtight without smashing them, and where is the mythical cool dry place with this much horizontal surface ? :-)

The remaining components both involved carmelizing sugar.  The praline involves carmelizing sugar on the stove until it colors to light brown, tossing in pecans to coat them with caramel, and then spreading this onto an oiled baking sheet (I used my Silpat silicone baking mat, because NOTHING seems to stick to that :-)   Once this is hard, you chop it finely in the food processor (sounded like chopping up rocks, but the blade did the trick).
Final component - the caramel mousse:  Again, carmelizing sugar on the stove, but for this, you add water to the caramel after it browns, and then some gelatin which has been dissolved in water with some dark run added.  You beat up six egg yolks and then drizzle in the caramel gelatin mixture, beating for an additional 5-10 minutes to cool the mixture down.  Fold in whipped cream, and you have the mousse.  
Assembly (pretty easy - most of the work is already done!): Pipe or spoon mousse into each shell, and then sprinkling with praline.  If you've got the time and space, this is definitely impressive, and the combination of flavors and textures is wonderful.

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