Délice of Chocolate, Chocolate Sorbet, Cumin Caramel
Specialty Equipment: water bath, ice cream machine
Specialty Ingredients: glucose, fondant, popping candy, trimolene
Dish as in The Fat Duck:
I’ve become a slave to the book. Just six recipes in and I follow the recipes to the letter, manically planning a dish before cooking it. When I just started cooking cookbooks really helped to learn basic dishes. I cooked a dish with one hand while in the other holding the cookbook I was cooking from. Slowly the books moved away from me, first ending up on the kitchen table and later in my bookcase. With the steady retreat of books from the fireline of my stove I became much more relaxed when cooking, especially for larger parties. Cooking recipes for this blog brings back the familiar anxiety of bending over recipes trying to follow them as close as possible. With recipes from The Big Fat Duck Cookbook there if of course little room for interpretation, especially since I am trying to recreate them. But if you are not keeping up a cook through blog try to keep cookbooks out of the kitchen. They can be a great help, but also a pain in the ass. I find it helpful to read what they want to achieve in a recipe and deduct some ratios from the measurements instead of weighing everything out to the gram (or measuring exact cup levels). For long recipes or recipes that don’t stand for the slightest deviation, like cakes, I write down the ingredients and some measurements on a piece of paper and hang it in the kitchen. Everything to keep books from the kitchen.
Now on to the délice. After the previous cooking tour of five days I looked for something that could be done in one day, but was also not one of the few simple dishes. I have to save some of them for later. This chocolate dish seemed to fit the bill and my love for chocolate did not hurt the chances for a home treatment of the dish. I’ll shut up in a minute and get to the cooking, but have one more thing to say.
When you see chefs in videos or read cookbooks, you have a high chance of bumping into the following statement: ‘Quality ingredients are everything’. Or ‘you are only as good as your ingredients’. A cliché, but, as I learned from the new Woody Allen film, cliches are from time to time required to make your point. Chocolate dishes in particular suffer immensely if you don’t use a high quality chocolate. I remember the first time I made chocolate truffles with Valrhona chocolate (Guanaja 70%) and was blown away by the flavor. I made them a while ago with standard supermarket chocolate and they were ok, but far from great. So you can put your heart and soul into a chocolate dish, but if you don’t use chocolate with some personality the dish will be, without exception, a shadow of what it could be. I took no chances and hunted down some Valrhona milk and bitter chocolate sold in a nearby wholesaler. These chocolates can be really expensive if you buy them in small quantities in specialty stores, so if you can find a wholesaler and larger packaging go for it. I’ve bought a 3kg package of Guanaja for 1,20€ per 100g (about 1.8$ per 3,5 ounce).
I started with the base of the délice, so I needed to roast hazelnuts, let them cool and chop them. They are mixed with gingerbread spice, popping candy, molten milk chocolate and cacao butter. I made the spice mix from aniseed, mace, dried ginger, cinnamon (just seeing this is not mentioned in the recipe, oops), allspice, cloves, cardamom and coriander seeds. Popping candy is the candy from back in the day, known as pop rocks, space dust and more. Cacao butter is one part of chocolate and is extracted when cacao beans are crushed. It looks quite a lot like parmezan cheese.
Next were the caramel and sorbet. The sorbet is made by mixing trimolene, milk, cacao and milk chocolate. This has to be cooled for 12 hours in the fridge and before churning heated to 60˚C to fully emulsify the liquid and solids. But I was feeling this last step was the same as asking my ice cream machine for the largest ice crystals possible. If I would have heated the sorbet base it would have taken much longer in the machine to freeze so the chance of ice crystals increases. Besides my trusted machine was already a bit upset after my remarks on its functioning, so I was not taking any chances. I just blended it with a hand held blender and did not heat it.
The caramel is made by infusing cream with cumin and cinnamon, boiling the sugar to a golden brown color, incorporate butter and lastly the cream. I always add the cream first to cool down the caramel before adding butter, but now I followed the recipe. The problem is that the butter gets extremely hot the minute it hits the pan and starts foaming and splits, so you (probably) end up with a caramel that is split. Maybe the butter is added first to heat it to the point of a beurre noisette, but if this is the logic, I would make that in a separate pan. My advice: first the cream and then the butter.
The topping of the délice is a chocolate glaze made by boiling sugar to, again, a caramel, incorporate water, cacao, salt, coffee beans and simmer for a few minutes. After cooling down a bit you have to add some bitter chocolate.
Next up was the tuile. It is made from black pepper, allspice, coconut puree, T45 flour, sugar and butter. Coconut puree can be expensive, because I could only find it in 1kg packages, so I made a substitute of fresh coconut flesh and coconut milk. Opening a coconut can be tricky, but the flavor is worth it, with the bonus of some coconut water. I used regular flour, cause I have no idea what T45 flour is. It didn’t help that even Google had a hard time telling me what the stuff is.
The dish is garnished with some chocolate caramel crisps. Sugar decorations always look easy on paper, but are quite difficult in practice. For me it often ends up in disaster. I boiled fondant and glucose to 170˚C, instead of the instructed 163˚C (first mistake) and added cacao. The book calls for chocolate bars of 100% cacao (you first have to melt them) and I think the reason is it will combine quicker and better with the caramel than powder. I had a hard time mixing the cacao and caramel and by the time it was reasonably mixed it had cooled, resulting in a stiff mass. If you can pour the caramel thinly on a baking sheet it is easier to work with and make thin crisps out of it. So if possible try to work as fast as possible when making them and use chocolate bars.
After finishing all the parts I began with the tempering process of chocolate. What I know of this process and the subsequent molding of the chocolate is that larger quantities make it easier. I was thinking of the hole this blog burned in my wallet, so I opted for 100g of chocolate (second mistake of that day!). You have to place the chocolate for 12 hours in a water bath of 53˚C, seed it with chocolate, cool it down to 28˚C and up to 32˚C. This went relatively ok, but 32˚C is not that warm, especially for 100g of chocolate. By the time I put a plastic strip with molten chocolate on the outside of a ring mould (third mistake!, should have been the inside with the chocolate not in contact with the mould) the rest hardened. Damn. You can’t simply reheat it, you are screwed. If you heat it is no longer tempered, so all my hope was on the one ring mould.
Of course I didn’t realize I already made my third mistake of putting the strip on the outside of the mould with the chocolate against the ring. After it set there was no way the chocolate would let go of the iron without a fight. In the picture you can see a piece of the chocolate. To my amazement the chocolate did have some qualities associated with properly tempered chocolate. It did not melt by touch (body temperature) and when breaking it in pieces it snapped instantly instead of bending/giving away first.
My approach was now to fill a mould with chocolate ganache and stick some strips of chocolate against them, instead of making the chocolate casings and filling them with ganache as instructed in the book. The ganache is pretty straightforward: mix chocolate (I used a mix of Valrhona Tanariva and Guanaja), cream and whipped cream. What is peculiar about this step is that the ganache should be stored at 16˚C, but this keeps it, because of the high level of cream, extremely fluid. You have to put it in the fridge to let is set and have some texture. If you have chocolate casings you can fill, the ’runniness’ of the ganache is not a problem, but than you could better make a mousse instead of a ganache. A characteristic of a ganache is that it has some body and this is not achieved at 16˚C. Maybe someone has some ideas on this?
Ok, so I filled a mold with some ganache, encased it with chocolate (not tempered) and topped it with the chocolate glaze. As for plating, you put some caramel on a plate with a line running through the edge, slide the délice next to it and add a piece of the spiced tuile.
The next part is always nerve wrecking, scooping a perfect shaped rocher of ice cream (made with one spoon, instead of a quenelle which is made with two spoons). In the book they always look perfect, like some sort of up scale model in the ice cream world, like the Gisele Bündchen of ice cream scoops. I totally messed up with my first attempt (which I put on the plate), so I cleaned the plate and decorated it again with the caramel, tuile and délice. This time the scoop came out much better. The caramel crisp sits on top of the sorbet.
The dish is good, but quite heavy as most of chocolate desserts are. Two things made this dish stand out: the popping candy and the spices. The spices, especially in the base, brought a warmth complementing the chocolate. The popping candy gave it, top put it in Idols terminology, ‘the fun factor’ (ahum). If you have eaten space dust it brings you straight back the years candy was all that mattered in the world. I associate popping candy with fruit flavors, so in this dish it wasn’t a match made in heaven. In all, a good dish, and I especially recommend making the base of the délice sometime, because it will bring most definitely a smile to your face and the people you serve it to.