It's been a while since I participated in food events that my cooking plus baking skills have gotten really rusty. As a promise to myself, I plan to take part more regularly in food events this year. Starting up my resolutions is one of my favourite events, Sugar High Friday. Although it's not Friday today, due to the deadlines I have decided to post this on Monday. This time round, David Lebovitz has chosen Chocolate by Brand as a theme where you make a chocolate dessert and explain what brand of chocolate is used.
Personally I have gotten kinda "chocolate shy" since my last fiasco when people didn't like my taste for Valrhona's bittersweet chocolate. Hence this time round, I decided to take my friend's advise and purchase this German chocolate known as Mohrenglanz from a bake shop called Guten Braun. The bake shop buys it in bulk which they cut in 500 gram bars. It makes perfect sense also to experiment with this chocolate since it's cheaper (RM17 for 500 grams) than Valrhona which I guess will be reserved for both of us since we prefer our chocolate more bitter.
I wanted something special for the event hence I settled for a Chocolate Crepe Cake. Based on the Mille Crepe which has been taking Malaysians by storm at a little cafe called Food Foundry, my search on the Internet revealed a few sources. Although I was keen to try Delicious magazine's recipe which I have, I decided to experiment further by using a different filling. Martha Stewart's version looked inviting and too sweet with the hazelnut meringue. Moreover, there has been many attempts to recreate this which has been documented on the Net. Then I found Amanda Hesser's tribute on the New York Times to Lady M's Mille Crepes which started this craze and she suggested Pierre Herme's Vanilla Pastry Cream. Since I have Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme on my bookshelf, I decided to use his recipe for chocolate pastry cream instead. Like Amanda Hesser's suggested recipe, I added whipped cream at the end to soften the pastry cream.
Couple of pointers while I was making this:
- Use a light frying pan to make your crepes. Doesn't need to be a special flat crepe pan or anything expensive. I used a smaller one (18 cm) which was easier for me to turn my crepes. Melted butter was used to coat the pan. The first crepe is always an experiment so I use it to absorb most of the melted butter. If there's excess, remove it with a tissue. For each crepe, I usually remove it from the fire when I pour the batter, swirl it around till I get a thin layer and pour it back to the jug with the batter. It creates a tail at the side of the pan, which I will cut out to make the crepe a round shape. I find if I add the batter when it's on the hob, it gets too hot and the crepe sets too fast. I usually cool down my frying pan by placing it on a wet tea towel at the side. Remember to not cool the pan too much or else when you swirl the batter, it won't stick to the pan. You'll find as you keep making them, your crepes get better and better.
- You need to ensure each layer of pastry cream is even. I made a mistake of adding too much hence my crepe cake was slightly tilting to one side.
- Although Pierre Herme's chocolate pastry cream recipe seemed complicated, it wasn't and it was easy to make for a first timer. All it did was create a lot of saucepans for me to wash though.
Hope you'll give the crepe cake a try one day. It was quite time consuming task but a show stopper when I brought it over to Splashie Boy's Sunday family dinner. The thought of so much chocolate pastry cream can be daunting but the texture is nice and light akin to a chocolate mousse. Although I was initially worried about using the Mohrenglanz chocolate instead of my usual Droste or Valrhona, I was quite happy on how it turned out. Since I still have a large block of chocolate, I'll be experimenting with it more in cakes and cookies.
Chocolate Crepe Cake
Crepe Recipe (taken from the Delicious magazine recipe)
1 2/3 cups flour ( 250g plain flour)
1 tbsp caster sugar
3 eggs, plus 3 egg yolks
40g unsalted butter (or 2 tbsps), melted, plus extra melted butter to brush,
Mix flour, sugar, eggs, yolks and milk in a blender or food processor until smooth, then pour into a jug and stand for 30 minutes. Just before cooking, stir 40g (2 tbsp) melted butter through the batter. Heat pan and brush with extra butter, add enough batter to coat base, swirl to cover, tip off any excess. Cook for 45 seconds, then flip and cook for 30 seconds more or until golden. Repeat with butter and remaining batter till you get abt 20 crepes, stacking with baking paper in between.
Chocolate pastry cream (from Pierre Herme's Chocolate Desserts)
2 cups (500 grams) whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons (75 grams) sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
7 ounces (200 grams) bittersweet chocolate, melted (Pierre Herme recommends Valrhona Guanaja)
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Fill a large bowl with ice and set aside a small bowl that can hold the finished pastry cream and be placed in this ice bath. Set aside a fine meshed strainer too.
In a small saucepan, bring the milk to the boil. Meanwhile, whisk the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together in a heavy bottomed medium saucepan. Whisking all the while, very slowly drizzle a quarter of the hot milk into the yolks. Still whisking, pour the rest of the liquid in a seady stream into the tempered yolks.
Strain the mixture into the saucepan, place pan over medium heat and whisking vigorously and without stop bring micture to the boil. Keep the mixture at the boil, whisking energetically for 1 to 2 minutes. Still over heat, stir in the melted chocolate, then remove the pan from the heat and scrape the pastry cream into the small bowl.
Set the bowl in the ice bath and stir until the temperature reaches 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove cream from water bath and stir in the butter in three to four additions. Return cream to the ice water bath and keep it there, stirring ocassionally until completely cool. Whip heavy cream (I used one small carton rather than 2 cups as mentioned in Amanda Hesser's recipe) and fold it into the pastry cream.
Lay one crepe on a cake plate. Using an icing spatula, completely cover with a thin layer of pastry cream. Cover with a crepe and repeat to make a stack of twenty, with the best-looking crepe on top. You can either sprinkle sugar on the top crepe and use a blowtorch to caramelize it or sift icing sugar on top. For my crepe cake, since I had excess pastry cream, I iced the sides and top just like a cake. Chill in the fridge until time to serve, cut into slices and serve.