Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pastry Class: Coffee Panna Cotta, Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Souffle

Had my penultimate pastry lab today. The instructor realized we'd lost a class session due to the Presidents' Day holiday, and he hadn't scheduled enough time for the final. So, we had to condense three labs into two. Part of that was doing the creme brulee along with the tarts last class. We had to skip doing the bread pudding. That is fine with me, as it is one of my go-to desserts.

The other item that got moved was the panna cotta, which was added to today's agenda. We ended up making three very rich desserts. In addition to the panna cotta, we made a chocolate mousse, and a chocolate souffle. To garnish all these we made a raspberry sauce, and pecan brittle.

Panna cotta means 'cooked cream' in Italian. It is primarily milk or cream, and sugar. It uses gelatin to thicken.

Gelatin comes as a sheet, or as a powder. In either form, it must be bloomed before use. To bloom means to soak in ice water for about five minutes.

This panna cotta is flavored with mocha extract and vanilla bean, and is garnished with a raspberry sauce.

Mousse is French for 'frothy foam'. dessert mousses generally have whipped eggs or whipped cream to lighten them. This mousse has both.

This mousse uses sugar cooked to the soft ball stage (240 F) to cook the egg enough to be safe. It is flavored with dark chocolate, and garnished with a quenelle of whipped cream and minced pecan brittle.

This is a very simple dessert. It can be served by itself, or as one layer among many in a parfait. Panna cotta can also be used in that way.

The final dessert we made was a chocolate souffle. The name souffle comes from the French verb for 'to puff up'. A souffle has two components, a base that provides flavor, and whipped egg whites that provide leavening.

When the souffle is baked, the bubbles in the whipped whites expand, puffing up.

Souffles need to be served immediately. If allowed to cool, they will collapse.

We split this one open, and poured raspberry sauce inside.

Souffles are not that difficult. They do require an attention to detail. They are more of a logistics issue, in that they must be served right as they are made. They can't be made in advance.

As always, all recipes are courtesy Chef James Foran.


Coffee Panna Cotta

11 oz by vol. cream
5 oz by vol. milk
1 3/4 oz by wt. sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
2 tsp. mocha extract
pinch salt
2 sheets gelatin (or 1 tsp. dry gelatin)

Soak gelatin in ice water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out seeds. In a saucepan, combine cream, milk, sugar, extract, vanilla bean (seeds and pod), and salt. Heat over medium heat until it almost reaches a simmer. Stir in gelatin. Strain into a metal bowl.

Place bowl in an ice bath. Stir frequently, scraping down sides and bottom. When thickened, pour into ramekins. Chill until set, about two hours.

Chocolate Mousse

8 oz by vol. cream, whipped to very soft peaks
6 oz by wt. dark chocolate, melted
1 egg
3 egg yolks
2 1/4 oz by wt. sugar
1 oz by vol. water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip egg and yolks on high until they reach maximum volume.

In a small pan, combine sugar and water. Cook to 240 F.

Turn mixer to low speed. Pour hot sugar carefully in a steady stream down the inside of the mixer bowl. Once all the sugar is added, turn mixer on high and whip until egg mixture reaches room temperature. Turn off mixer, and remove bowl. Add cream and chocolate. Carefully fold until thoroughly mixed.

Pipe mousse into molds or cups. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.

Chocolate Souffle

7 oz by wt. bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 oz by wt. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. sour cream
4 egg yolks at room temperature
7 egg whites at room temperature
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
2.3 oz by wt. sugar
pinch salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

chill ramekins, and generously brush with soft butter. Coat inside with sugar. tapping out excess. Keep refrigerated until needed.

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Remove from heat, stir in sour cream. Set aside to cool slightly.

Whisk egg yolks into chocolate.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and whisk to soft peaks. Gradually add sugar and salt, then mix on high speed to stiff peaks. Fold 1/4 of egg whites into chocolate to lighten, then fold in remaining whites.

Pipe into ramekins. Bake until puffed. Serve immediately with raspberry sauce.

Raspberry Sauce

8 oz by wt. raspberries
2 oz by wt. sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to boil, simmer for 3 - 4 minutes. Puree and strain.

Pecan Brittle

6 oz. by wt. sugar
2 oz. by vol. water
1 oz. by vol corn syrup
1 1/2 oz. by wt. butter
3 oz. by wt. toasted pecans, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. salt

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water. Cook over medium heat until sugar becomes a medium amber color. Carefully whisk in butter and salt. Remove from heat, stir in nuts. Place between two silicon baking mats, and roll out thin. Allow to cool.

Happy eating!

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