The Beloved’s birthday was this past Friday, the 12th. As part of our celebration, I created a Big Ass Dessert for him. Well, let me amend that. It wasn’t so much one Big Ass Dessert as it was Individual Desserts. But, it had a lot of layers, so that has to count for something, right?
Individual desserts make everyone feel special, because nobody has to feel like they’re sharing. Plus, it’s easy to deal with portion control–just choose the size of the Vessel in which you build your desserts. Don’t worry about the layers being even to begin with. If some of the layers aren’t stacking up so beautifully, press down on the whole thing until all the layers are touching the glass all around and it magically looks beautiful. You can go from this:to this:All I did between picture 1 and picture 2 add another sponge cake layer and press down firmly until it went from ugly to magically pretty.
**Mocha Orange Temptation (I just made that up. It didn’t really have a name)
And here’s the dessert as I assembled it, layer by layer. See, I’m a Helpful Blogger. Occasionally. **All the recipes are at the end of the post. See, I’m Especially Helpful today. You’re welcome.
- Cointreau simple syrup soaked mocha sponge cake (1 part sugar, 1 part water, splash of Cointreau for simple syrup; sifted cake flour and cocoa powder, whipped egg yolks, sugar and espresso powder, whipped egg whites)
- Coffee-orange, speckled chocolate mousse (egg yolk, sugar syrup, espresso powder, salt, whipped cream infused with coffee and orange zest and then strained, grated milk and bittersweet chocolate)
- Chocolate-orange crispy meringue (3 egg whites, 1.5X weight of half powdered sugar/half granulated sugar, salt, orange zest, cocoa powder) This layer gets chewy after being refrigerated for awhile.
- More of Layer 2
- More of Layer 1
- More of Layer 2
- Coffee-orange whipped cream (more of that infused cream whipped with some sugar and a pinch of salt)
- A jaunty shard of crispy meringue along with some Microplaned crispy meringue
While the 11-year-old gamely tried it and pronounced it Too Coffee-y, and the 8-year-old opted for the Kid-Friendly Ice Cream Sammich, the 3-year-old Chowed Down and probably slept the Cointreau-induced Sleep of the Innocent that night. And for the record, all the adults loved it.
I put a candle in each of the desserts and had everyone make their own wish for The Beloved. Keen, huh?
As a Further Birthday Treat, Saturday morning we got up pretty early and I drove us out to the Outer Banks to Weeping Radish Brewery. The Radish is the oldest microbrewery in North Carolina. I think they opened up in 1985. They are an all-organic brewery run by a very nice German family, and to make them even Keener in my book, they also have a certified German butcher on site who makes all kinds of wonderful sausages from locally, organically and compassionately raised am-i-nals. We came home later that day with a case of 22 oz bottles of Weeping Radish brews as well as a sack of satisfying sausages. Sausages and beer–now there’s a novel idea.
Being a German brewery, most of the beers were lagers rather than ales, but they were across-the-board really great. Their hefe weizen was very complex and flavorful with a long finish that a Blue Moon can’t even begin to approximate. The Kolsch was light and refreshing. Their Black Radish was a light porter-style lager that was toasty and roasty but much lighter than its ale cousin. They even have a beer called Radler (German for cyclist) which is a mixture of one of their lighter lagers and stevia sweetened lemonade. (They don’t use sugar because the sugar would add to the fermentation). The resulting mixture is a perfect lawnmower beer.
If you ever get the chance, you should seriously go to The Weeping Radish. Their beers were all excellent. If you don’t live close to the Outer Banks, you at least owe it to yourselves to check out their website.
And now, for you Dear Readers, a Photo Essay of the day:
- 5 oz cake flour
- 1 oz cocoa powder
- salt, to taste
- 5 oz egg yolks
- 6.5 oz. egg whites
- 6.5 oz sugar
- splash of vanilla
- powdered espresso, to taste
Works best w/2 stand mixers, or a stand/hand one-two combination.
Whip the BeJeezus out of the egg yolks along with 1/2 the sugar, vanilla and the esresso powder. The yolks should be extremely thick–almost marshmallow-creamy looking. Do this first because the emulsifiers in the yolks will keep this foam stable.
Sift together the salt, flour and cocoa powder. You don’t want any lumps.
Whip the whites together with the other half of the sugar to glossy, medium-stiff peaks.
Pour the whites onto the yolks and then sift the dry over all. Using your clean hand or a big spatula, gently but thoroughly fold everything together until there’s no dry stuff left hanging around.
Spread onto a Silpat or parchment lined half sheet pan and bake at 375 until springy and done–about 18-20 minutes. Or so.
- 3 egg whites
- 3 ounces powdered sugar
- 2 ounces granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
- microplaned oranged zest
- splash of cointreau
- cocoa powder to taste–I used a couple of heaping spoonfuls
Whisk everything together like mad for a very long time. This stuff won’t get to stiff peaks because of the oils in the orange zest and the fat in the cocoa powder, but you don’t need it to since you’re not piping it. Just whip it until it’s very thick and spreadable–sort of like a too-thin frosting or a glaze consistency.
Spread onto a Silpat lined half sheet pan and bake at 225F for an hour or so, or until the meringue is Firm and crispy all the way through.
It will continue to crisp as it cools, so check it when it’s cool. If it’s still a little ooey-gooey, throw it back into the oven for awhile. You can’t hurt this stuff, unless you turn up the oven to A Billion. And you won’t do that, so you’re good.
Chocolate Speckled Coffee-Orange Mousse (This makes a ton, but it’s hard to make less than this amount and have it turn out okay. Just share with friends).
- 24 oz heavy cream (steep ground coffee, orange zest and a splash of orange extract in the cream overnight, then strain. Use more than 24 ounces of cream to do this, because you’ll lose some volume as the grounds soak up some of the liquid)
- 2 oz sugar
- 1.5 oz water
- 2 egg yolks
- espresso powder, to taste
- 8 oz grated dark chocolate
- 4 oz grated milk chocolate
- salt, to taste
- splash of Cointreaux
- splash of vanilla
Whisk egg yolks until thick. This is kind of hard with only two. Use your
Cook sugar with water to 248F.
With the mixer still on, pour the syrup into the yolks, making sure not to splash the syrup on the whisk attachment. I usually pour mine in a thin stream down the inside of the bowl itself.
Continue whipping the yolks until light and very thick. Add espresso powder to taste along with the vanilla and Cointreau. Remember that the cream is already coffee-flavored, so don’t get too heavy handed with the espresso powder. Just add it a little at a time. Keep whisking the yolks until completely cooled and thick. (This cooked sugar/yolk combo is called a pâte à bombe. It’s a useful thing to know. Just file it away for now).
Add 1/3 of the whipped cream to the pâte à bombe and fold in thoroughly. Fold in the rest of the cream, and then fold in the grated chocolate.
If you want to make this a true mocha-orange mousse, just melt and cool the 12 oz. chocolate. Then, fold it into the pâte à bombe and the pâte à bombe into the cream.
Cointreau simple syrup
- Equal parts (by weight) of sugar and water
- Cointreau, to taste
Bring sugar and water to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in some Cointreau, to taste. Let cool.
Coffee-Orange whipped cream
- About 8 oz of cream steeped together overnight with coffee grounds, orange zest and a splash of orange extract.
- powdered sugar, to taste
- pinch of salt
- splash of Cointreau
I didn’t measure anything for this. Just whip the cream on medium speed, adding sugar until it’s as sweet as you want it. Don’t forget the pinch of salt and a splash of Cointreau. Then, whip to medium-stiff peaks.