Oh man. Has a month gone by already? After making last month’s croquembouche, I was all prepared to whip this one up way ahead of schedule and then write the post for the end of the month. And this month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge looks awesome as well. But life got in the way (as it always does), and the mad dash to the finish line was pretty much in order (which clearly didn’t even work, as I am a day late). The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.
The reality, which I should have realized ahead of time had I actually taken a look at my calendar, was that the challenge fell on a really busy weekend. Gay Pride weekend. Which means I would be running around the entire weekend, trying to go to the numerous parties, hanging out with the numerous friends, and generally trying to keep up without collapsing from all the fun we were having. Who has time to bake when there are drag queens to go and watch, A-list power lesbians throwing parties, and marches to watch and participate in? Well I squeezed it somehow!
The weekend started Saturday morning bright and early. We ran out the door to meet up with our friends Karen and Ben and their adorable child Gigi (who we babysat a week ago) at the Academy of Science. Our friends Felisa and Chris and their equally adorable child Lily also met up with us and we had a lovely time wandering through the indoor rainforest, marveling at the butterflies and the gorgeous birds and the tropical fish.
After dining at the Moss Room for lunch (probably one of the better museum café’s that I have ever been to – thanks go Charlie Phan of Slanted Door and Loretta Keller of COCO500 who run it) we ran off to the A-list power lesbian party in the castro. It was fantastic fun and met up with my new BFF Carolyn over at anti-bride. I’ll be doing a few guest food blog posts over there, so look out for those! She’s FABULOUS! Love. Her. She introduced us to the most amazing florist friend of her’s, Melissa of asimpleceremony who was recently was awarded the Top Wedding Flowers award from the SF Chronicle/SF Gate. Yay! I love meeting new amazing people!
After hanging out with them and meeting the fantastic people over at the party, we ended up missing our other party (oh the trials and tribulations of double booking!) and instead ran over to Dolores Park where we bumped into and hung out with my awesome friend (and probably the most talented graphic designer I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with) Sandrine and her gorgeous wife Olga. Then it was off to watch the dyke march! Dykes on Bikes rock!
Ah San Francisco. Never a dull moment here! We ran into our friends Jamie and Edo and got a chill drink with them, and then bolted over to the Castro for their annual notorious Pink Party. Basically a giant block party, we didn’t stay out that late, having had a long day, and knowing the next day was going to be equally long.
Sunday we woke up early again, and dashed down to the gathering area for the Pride Parade. We were marching with AJ’s college, as he was the GSA sponsor for the community college he works at. We planned on going to the early meet and greet with AJ’s chancellor and president but we kept on running into friends on the way and by the time we made it there, the party had broken up!
But no worries, we met up with everyone at the gathering area, where I was able to offer my leftover gluten free snickerdoodles to them all. They were much welcome, and not a single person figured out that they were gluten-free! In fact when AJ told them that they were gluten-free, after they ate them, they started asking me about them utterly surprised, and one women (who was trying to phase out gluten from her diet) totally ended up taking one and asking me about gluten-free baking. I ended up giving her my blog card so she could make the cookies herself.
We walked around admiring the awesome floats and costumes and when it came time to march the parade we were well received by the crowd. Because who doesn’t LOVE community college? It’s such a great bargain! I decided this year not to try to get the group to yell my chant “COMMUNITY COLLEGE FOR THE GAY COMMUNITY! THE BEST EDUCATIONAL BANG FOR YOUR BUCK IN THIS ECONOMY!!!!” as no one seemed to take up my chant last year. I probably needed to come up with something more succinct and pithy, but I just couldn’t that early in the morning.
Of course the float ahead of us were a little more popular since they were passing out free stuff like t-shirts, buttons and balsa wood airplane flyers. I suggested to AJ that next year, we should pass out some to make us more popular as well…maybe free college credits? He wasn’t sure how legal that would be.
Then off to the pride booths and stages, where we ate street fair food (AJ loves meat on a stick) and hung out with friends, new and old. Exhausted, we headed over to our friend Peter and Grant’s place to chill out and decompress from the masses. They recently moved to a condo two blocks away from the celebration and there, we hung out a few friends on their communal deck drinking wine and sparkling juice and then eventually moving up to their condo on the 19th floor where we ate awesome pulled pork and spicy vegetarian tacos. What a great way to end pride!
Then finally I made it back home where I, in the last minute hour, pull together the daring baker’s challenge. Delicious and super rich, I think I overbaked the meringue as it was pretty crisp, not quite as billowing fluffy on the inside as I have had with other pavlovas. It was my very first time making baking meringue so I’ll know better next time. But the chocolate mascarpone mousse was SO fantastic, not very sweet, and intensely chocolatey. Because I didn’t have it in me to make the creme anglaise after the day (I know it’s not that hard, but give me a break, I was TIRED!), I went with an easier slightly sweetened mascarpone whipped cream, and layered the pavlova with fresh berries (boysenberries, tayberries, blackberries, olallieberries, and some strawberries). Decadent and delicious, AJ ate as much as we could before collapsing in a slightly sunburned mess.
Bring on next month’s challenge! Hopefully July won’t be nearly as insane (I can only cross my fingers). That said, I wouldn’t change my life for anything. Because as much as it’s ridiculously insane, AJ is awesome, my friends are awesome, and though not everything is perfect in my life, I’m slowly realizing that my life isn’t going to slow down. It’s just going to keep on being insane. So why not embrace the insanity and ride it high and proud?!?!
Happy June everyone, gay, straight or inbetween! May your life be as blessed as mine is right now!
Whilst baking this dessert, I listened to a sneak peek preview of the new Kylie Minogue album Aphrodite. Because nothing else seemed as appropriate for gay pride as listening to Kylie Minogue.
Chocolate Pavlova with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse and fresh berries
adapted from Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard
This recipe is broken into three parts, but all of them are easy and can be done concurrently or consecutively.
3 large egg whites (at room temperature)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
pinch of coarse sea salt
1/2 cup plus 1Tbsp superfine (baker’s) white sugar (not powdered sugar)
1/4 cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1. Preheat your oven to 200˚F. Line a baking sheet with a silpat or a piece of parchment.
2. Put egg whites in the mixing bowl of a standing mixer with the salt and the cream of tartar and using the wire whisk, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form at a medium-low speed. Gradually add in the superfine sugar until stiff peaks form, and the egg whites are glossy. You want the egg whites to be firm but still moist and glossy. You don’t want them dry.
3. Sift the confectionary sugar and the cocoa powder in to the egg whites and fold them in. It’ll take some arm work, but eventually the dry ingredients will fold in together.
4. Fit a pastry bag with a large round or star tip and fill with the chocolate meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shape you want (I went with the classic spirals) and bake in the oven for 2 hours or so until dry and crisp.
Note 1. You can make these ahead of time and store the in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Note 2. It isn’t completely necessary, but I add the cream of tartar and the salt to egg whites when I beat them. The cream of tartar stabilizes the egg whites (if you are one of those lucky people who own a copper mixing bowl, than you can skip the cream of tartar, as the copper melt actually helps stabilize the egg whites). The salt helps firm up the protein of the egg white and also help break up the gelatinous nature of the egg white. If you don’t have cream of tartar you can use a 1/4 tsp of vinegar or lemon juice, but both of them impart a sour flavor while the cream of tartar is general flavorless. Using the cream of tartar or the acid keeps the egg whites from becoming grainy or deflating after a minute or two and releasing water.
Note 3. Having your egg whites at room temperature helps the egg whites beat up nice, fluffy and shiny. Also making sure you mixing bowl is clean, devoid of oil (even finger grease will make a difference) and and dry.
Note 4. I whip my egg whites at a lower speed than most people do or as most recipes call for. I do this because it not only gives me better control over the egg whites and I’m less likely to overbeat the eggs, but the air bubbles that it creates are smaller and your end up with more stable egg whites. Don’t feel like you have to crank the mixer to high just to whip your egg whites. Trust me, it takes longer, but you’ll be much happier with the results with a slower speed and the use of cream of tartar and salt.
Note 5. If you don’t have superfine sugar, just use regular. I like using the superfine sugar because it dissolves into the egg whites easier. The original recipe called for regular sugar so it’ll work just fine.
Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (try not to get ultra-pasteurized if you can, as it doesn’t taste as good)
9 oz of dark chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 cups mascarpone
pinch of nutmeg
2 Tbsp Cointreau or Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur (or orange juice if you prefer)
1. Put 1/2 cup of the cream in a medium saucepan and warm up the cream until it starts to bubble on the sides (but don’t let it boil!).
2. Removed immediately from the heat and using a whisk, mix the chopped chocolate into the cream until all the chocolate melts. Put aside.
3. Place the mascarpone cheese, the remaining 1 cup cream, and the pinch of nutmeg into a mixing bowl and whip until the marcarpone loosens up. Add the Cointreau and whip until on medium- low speed until soft peaks form. Don’t overbeat as the marscarpone cheese will break.
4. Take the chocolate mixture and fold it into the mascarpone whipped cream gently until fully incorporated.
Simple sweetened mascarpone thickened cream
1/2 cup of mascarpone cheese
2 Tbsp of confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1. Sift the powdered sugar into the heavy cream and mix until it is dissolved.
2. Add the mascarpone cheese and the cream into a mixing bowl and whip until thickened but before peaks form.
Assemble the dessert
Fresh fruit or berries, rinsed gently and sliced if necessary (I used blackberries, olallieberries, tayberries and strawberries)
Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar for dusting
1. Spoon the mousse in a pastry bag fitted with a large star or round tip
2. Put one of the chocolate meringues on a plate and pipe some mousse onto it in a fancy swirl.
3. Place some berries onto the mousse and press down so they don’t slide off.
4. Drizzle some of the thickened mascarpone cream onto the berries.
5. Place another chocolate meringue on top of the berries and repeat step 2-4.
6. Stack as high as you want (I did three levels, but I probably should have stopped at two!) and then dust the top of the dessert with some confectioner’s sugar to make it even prettier.
7. Stand back and admire your dessert and then dig in!