Friday, October 21, 2005

SHF#13 The Dark Side: A Week in the Life of A Chocoholic

Until some years back, I always thought of myself as more of a cook than a baker. Once bitten by the baking bug, however, there was no turning back. Suddenly, a whole new world opened up to me, a landscape dotted by mounts of sifted flour and clouds of whipped egg whites. What started it all? Why, an all-consuming obsession with chocolate, of course. While I find certain other ingredients and their related handling techniques fascinating, nothing whets my appetite more than a dessert involving chocolate, nothing creates as urgent a need to head straight for the kitchen.

If I sit down and do the math, I fork out a disproportionately large chunk of change stocking up on bars of Valrhona (mostly Manjari 64%, the rest Lacté 41% and Blanc 35% as I adore milk and white chocolate too) every month. Thanks to some unmitigable disasters resulting from the use of what I think of as econo-bars, I've long since learnt that great chocolate desserts start with great chocolate - scrimp on the choice of chocolate and it's practically pointless lavishing all that time and effort on a recipe. Strange but true; cheap chocolate is not going to magically transform into a decadent dessert through the alchemy of the kitchen.

Hardly a week goes by without a chocolate dessert or two (or three) that simply begs to be tried - I've earmarked enough intriguing recipes as must-make in my books to last me a lifetime. The terrific theme for the 13th edition of SHF hosted by Lovescool is The Dark Side. Below, a chocolate dessert diary of sorts, a typical week's worth of curiousity (and craving) sated. The recipes pair bittersweet chocolate with caramel, with liqueur, and with coffee respectively. All three feature flavour combinations that I like; I have been really psyched about giving these recipes a whirl.


Chocolate Caramel Sandwich Cookies

Aside from loads of delicious ideas for all manner of savoury sandwiches, Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book also has a whimsical (and equally delicious) chapter dedicated to "sandwiched sweets". Each of these pretty treats features two intensely chocolatey cookies sandwiching a rim of vanilla-scented caramel dotted with a fudgy chocolate centre. As all that peeks out of the circular cut-out is the fudge, biting into one presents a lovely surprise. The finishing touch - a few grains of fleur de sel - adds further to the surprise.


Carmen Meringay

How could I resist a name like that, not to mention the surreal appearance of this dessert in Alice Medrich's Bittersweet? Once baked, the crisp meringue shells can be filled with anything you fancy, be it mousse or whipped cream-and-berries or ice-cream - think of them as edible containers. I filled them with a bittersweet chocolate and Cointreau mousse.


Tarte au Café

For me, no bout of chocolate dessert making is complete without a Pierre Hermé recipe - this tart is based on one found in Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan. A cookie-like pâte sucrée crust is filled with mocha ganache (the original uses a white chocolate and coffee ganache) and topped with coffee whipped cream. In the original version, white chocolate acts as a vehicle for the coffee flavour. Using bittersweet chocolate reverses the roles; coffee here acts to accentuate the seductively dark flavour of the ganache.

46 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everything looks amazing! And the photos are superb, as usual. I love your wooden-leaf-white-cup set. :)

12:12 am, October 22, 2005  
Anonymous mel said...

Ok my browser was acting up, that was me.

12:12 am, October 22, 2005  
Anonymous tokyoastrogirl said...

Everything looks beautiful (and I'm sure tastes great too). One question: how did you make those meringue shells? Did you pipe it around a cylinder and bake or did you pipe out individual strips of meringue and seal them together with some icing?

1:22 am, October 22, 2005  
Blogger Nic said...

Those chocolate caramel sandwiches look divine, but I am loving the Carmen Meringue. I've wanted to try something like that for a while now, but doubt that my meringues would turn out as lovely.

1:40 am, October 22, 2005  
Anonymous Alice said...

Wow, Wow and Wow!!! They are all so pretty! I'm also curious as to how you made the meringue shells. The last photograph is incredibly stunning...wonderful props. :)

3:01 am, October 22, 2005  
Blogger boo_licious said...

Wowee, J they all look scrumptious that I don't know which one to start with. The carmen meringay is amazing and your meringue shell is so white and lovely.

3:19 am, October 22, 2005  
Blogger soycap said...

Hi Jocelyn,

Your posts never seem to dissapoint and I am so glad for that! I cannot express how much I enjoy your amazing food and photography :) Another beautiful entry! Your tarte au cafe looks so elegant and appealing...wish I had a fork and could dig into the pic...haha!

4:17 am, October 22, 2005  
Anonymous tiptup said...

everything looks amazing as always! yum!

5:22 am, October 22, 2005  
Anonymous gwenda said...

sigh. as breath-taking as usual.

5:28 am, October 22, 2005  
Blogger michelle said...

Your pictures transport me to a little bistro cafe' enjoying a quite moment with some incredible desserts...ahhh...thanks for that respite from work. I'm the same way, I started out cooking, but am finding a true love of baking growing stronger all the time!

6:27 am, October 22, 2005  
Blogger michelle said...

Oh wait, I was also curious as to what you served with each one? (ie. what's in that glass with the carment meringay - it looks divine!)

6:29 am, October 22, 2005  
Anonymous stephen said...

Alice and Boo got there first with the words I said out loud when I saw this post...WOW!! I love them all (you're so geoMETRIC!) but especially the carmen meringue...and the photos are to die for...(I'm sorry, I gushed a little...)

7:09 am, October 22, 2005  
Blogger Santos said...

i'm always loathe to pick up another nancy silverton book because the recipes seem to take 3 days to complete; however, those cookies (which look topped with gold leaf instead of fleur de sel, btw) are going to send me to the bookstore today!

funny about the carmen meringay--i read the directions and thought "eh, i'll wait for j or keiko to make it" and moved on to a less complicated recipe. heee.

9:00 am, October 22, 2005  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Amazing! Fabulous! Fantastic! Sorry...I'm a bit high on all the chocolate. Your week-of-chocolate has me drooling and I'm still recovering from my own SHF creation. Thanks so much for sharing your obsession and for joining in on SHF...I'm totally in awe.

10:04 am, October 22, 2005  
Blogger Mika said...

Awesome (as usual). You must be a professional pastry chef! All the three look delicious not to mention beautiful. Your carmen meringay looks as gorgeous as the one in the book.

11:10 am, October 22, 2005  
Anonymous stef said...

j, you never cease to amaze me with your writing and photography -- whenever i come here i leave feeling like i've just visited the Louvre for foodies. you make food breathtakingly beautiful, can't help but gush too!

12:41 pm, October 22, 2005  
Blogger Clare Eats said...

ACK!
I am dying here J! I am always going to feel like a hopeless compared to you!

4:11 pm, October 22, 2005  
Anonymous augustusgloop said...

Exquisite as always J. The carmen meringay looks gorgeous. I envy your dessert recipients!

4:12 pm, October 22, 2005  
Blogger Reid said...

Hi J,

You've outdone yourself this time. I love dark chocolate and those chocolate caramel sandwich cookies look amazing! I haven't tried the Carmen Meringay just yet, but I just knew you would. Lovely presentation....AS ALWAYS!...I just wish I could leave you with some inspirational comments like you always seem to leave for me.

Are you sure you're not going to open up your own shop? I'm sure you'd give Pierre Hermé a run for his money.

5:25 pm, October 22, 2005  
Blogger Skrat said...

Hi J,
the Carmen Meringay is so beautiful! I would never have thought of using meringue as a shell. Superb job yet again!

7:08 pm, October 22, 2005  
Blogger Pille said...

J - I am totally speechless - you (and your creations) are just too good to be true. Absolutely impressive! I unfortunately missed out again (I'm not in speaking terms with my oven at the moment, in terms of baking, you see), and your entry (well, entries really) have left me drooling. Again..

9:37 pm, October 22, 2005  
Blogger Nicholas said...

Hi J,
Good job! Again as always!
Do you work in this line (Pastry Chef, Food And Beverage, etc, etc.) professionally?
I doubt you'd have any problems fitting in if you already aren't!

12:26 am, October 23, 2005  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Wow, a triple header! As everyone else has said, absolutely stunning. I especially love your picture of Carmen Meringay - the lighting and composition are so beautiful!

I'm with you on the good-quality chocolate - anything less and it's hardly worth doing. By the way, I finally got the p.h. chocolate book! It's really stunning, I don't know why it took me so long. Thanks for the push ;)

12:39 am, October 23, 2005  
Anonymous cath said...

Jocelyn,

everything looks amazing as always; I can almost "taste" the dark chocolate just looking at those cookies -- and the meringue...WOW. I think I'm not going to bother buying "Paris Sweets." I'm just going to keep coming to your site to see you do it better! :-)

5:57 am, October 23, 2005  
Blogger joone! said...

i'm seduced to pick up my chocolate book by pierre herme book again :).

6:18 pm, October 23, 2005  
Blogger The UnProfessional Chef said...

Hi J

Just managed to locate your blog after hearing about it from mutual people we know from UK uni days :)

The blog is great!! I started my own too but a far cry from your gorgeous pics and adventurous attempts at cooking. This chocolate entry is very very yummy.

Keep cooking! I'll be reading!

8:44 pm, October 23, 2005  
Blogger Cathy said...

Jocelyn - you've left me swooning. Just unbelievable. What I want to know is, who gets to eat all this stuff? I know you must have some help!

10:44 pm, October 23, 2005  
Blogger pseudo chef said...

The pictures have left me craving for chocolate :), especially that of the hot chocolate and meringay.

Great pictures!

12:11 am, October 24, 2005  
Blogger Michèle said...

Hi J, you never cease to amaze! I am completely envious of those around you who get to sample your wonderful creations. You are a true artist!

12:58 am, October 24, 2005  
Blogger Vivilicious said...

Jocelyn, you go girl! I can't believe you are not a professional pastry chef/food stylist/food photographer. What are you waiting for? While I bumble along with my sad little blog, I come over to yours to see how the big kids do it, sigh. Yes, I would like to know what you piped the meringue around, too please... And what kind of camera do you use, if I may be so bold...Keep up the good work, m'dear!

6:34 am, October 24, 2005  
Anonymous S said...

I was a happy recipient of chocolate caramel sel cookies and a tarte au cafe. Those cookies were pure cacao heaven.

9:26 am, October 24, 2005  
Blogger eatzycath said...

truly inspirational, mirroring Joone's comment, I need to pick up again that chocolate book by Pierre Herme, and satisfy that chocolate lust!

11:14 am, October 24, 2005  
Blogger Shauna said...

My goodness, J, how do you do it? I feel excited when I put up a post every other day these days, but none of them have the succulent photos of this one. Oh my goodness, that Carmen Meringay looks fantabulous. And I believe it's gluten-free. This is going in my Monday round-up of the best gluten-free recipes of the week.

Really, I should just link to you every week.

1:08 pm, October 24, 2005  
Blogger deborah said...

J - this is astounding! I hope you are making good use of your wonderful talents. Could we have a Singaporean female version of Pierre Hermé on our hands?

4:48 pm, October 24, 2005  
Blogger latifa said...

amazing like always. I think you won this monthes SHF. J: you should seriously use your talent in somthing,a cook book for example. and i will be the first one to buy it.

5:01 pm, October 24, 2005  
Blogger Steffles said...

your carmen meringay looked like a work of art. and yes, i can see your obsession with chocolate oozing out of these web pages! good job J.

9:31 pm, October 24, 2005  
Blogger chronicler said...

Excellent! What a fabulous choice of desserts! Like everyone the merengues are a fav! However, a choice between three? I'll have all of them!

11:10 pm, October 24, 2005  
Blogger tara said...

Jocelyn, once again you have produced the epitome of a given theme. There really are no words. Gorgeous.

2:38 am, October 25, 2005  
Blogger the baker said...

oh J, everyone else has said what i've wanted to say! your talent is beyond measure and each time i click your link, i wait in anticipation as the page loads, and there's always that moment of silence where i just stare at your timeless photography and admire your skills with my mouth agape. thanks for putting up that Valrhona photo. you just made my day. can you be my personal chef? ;) i'll pay you cocoa beans! haha

8:15 am, October 25, 2005  
Anonymous Tea said...

Wickedly delicious and beautiful looking creations! I bow down to your amazing skills. Fantastic work!

10:41 am, October 25, 2005  
Anonymous meefed said...

Pictures look amazing.
One question: where did you get the gold leaf for the fudgey middles of the chocolate caramel fudge cookies? Have been searching the whole of Singapore for gold leaf.

4:24 pm, October 25, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi mel, thanks...i adore that leaf-and-cup set too...

hi nic, i'm sure any meringue fantasy (or anything, for that matter!) you care to create will turn out jaw-droppingly stunning

hi alice and toykoastrogirl, thanks...the meringue shells were piped around cylindrical "forms" constructed from corrugated cardboard lined with baking parchment. after baking, the cardboard and parchment are then carefully removed.

hi boo, thanks...the low oven temperature helped keep the meringue pale...

hi soycap, thanks for your kind words...coming from you, i'm really flattered...

hi tiptup, thanks!

hi gwenda, thanks...good to hear from you!

hi michelle, thanks! cookies went with iced chocolate, carmen meringay with shots of amaretto, and the tart with coffee

hi stephen, thanks for visiting. i'm beet-red from your kind words...

hi santos, trust you to spot that...the cookies are topped with both gold leaf and fleur de sel... i must say of all the nancy silverton books i have, this is the one i use with any regularity (mostly because the recipes don't take forever to complete!)

hi jennifer, thanks for dropping by...i really enjoyed this particular shf

hi mika, thanks...alice medrich's book is definitely one of my all-time favourites...

hi stef, whoah...you're so sweet...the louvre for foodies...how's that for the art of praise...pardon the pun, i couldn't resist ;)

hi clare, funny you should mention...your multi-course extravaganzas always leave me speechless ;)

hi ag, thanks! i must say i was pleased at how the meringue shells turned out...

hi reid, the kind comments you leave always have me inspired...

hi skrat, thanks!

hi pille, thanks...hope you make peace with that oven soon...

hi nicholas, thanks, you're being very kind...i'm an enthusiastic amateur...

hi melissa, thanks...i really can't wait to see what recipes you'll be trying from the book - we can swap "trucs" ;) and whatever you make, i have no doubt it'll turn out utterly breathtaking and delicious...

hi cath, paris sweets is a terrific book - i can't seem to get enough of it...

hi june, i have a feeling you'll be seduced all over again...

hi the unprofessional chef, now you have me very very curious...

hi cathy, have i ever mentioned i have a pretty insatiable appetite for sweets? w is a pretty big eater too ;)

hi pc, thanks :) glad you like the pictures...

hi michele, thanks! i'll trade you anytime for those chocolate fleur de sel truffles ;)

hi viv, thanks for your kind words...i use a nikon D70s, which i'm slowly getting to know better...

hi s, thanks! all thanks to your fabulous s.b. cocoa...

hi eatzycath, i picked up that book and have never put it down since ;) it's the ultimate...

hi shauna, hmmm, succulent photos...that's a new one...i'm filing it under "must-use descriptions" as we speak...thanks for linking to me, i'm beyond honoured...

hi saffron, this baking-addicted amateur blushes at your very generous encouragement...

hi latifa, thanks...if it ever happens, i'll be sure to come knocking on your door ;)

hi steffles, thanks...i think obsessed just about sums up my feelings towards chocolate...

hi chronicler, thanks...i must say i really enjoyed making the meringue shells...

hi tara, coming from you, that's awfully high praise...

hi the baker, you're much too kind...i'll take payment in cocoa beans anyday ;)

hi tea, thanks, you are very kind!

hi meefed, thanks! you can order gold leaf from sun lik at seah street

1:38 am, October 31, 2005  
Blogger glutton rabbit said...

Wow, your photos are SO amazing... everything looks so tempting!

7:54 pm, October 31, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi glutton rabbit, thanks!

4:24 am, November 03, 2005  
Blogger s.j.simon said...

lol. did you know that chocolate was banned in switzerland for many years. read this

5:05 am, November 30, 2007  
Blogger Claudia said...

J.

guess I was not the only one to learn that cheap chocolate means nothing but a disaster waiting outside the kitchen door.

Unfortunately I haven't any valrhona supplier to run to around here.

the worst results come with cheap white chocolate which I love as much as the dark and the milk.

Cheers,

C.

7:56 pm, November 23, 2008  

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