Chocolate hazelnut marjolaine

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For Steve’s one-week-early birthday meal at my mom’s I decided to make a marjolaine for our dessert. He’s a sucker for anything with dacquoise or choux paste so of course I wanted to include at least one of those components in his celebration dessert. Since we won’t be in GR on his actual birthday, Mom hosted us, along with cousin Clark, for a repast of her famous Swiss steak, cheesy potatoes, green beans and crunchy cole slaw. What a great way to launch a birthday week, eh Stevie?

Happy Birthday to Steve!

Happy Birthday to Steve!

A classic marjolaine is a layered, flourless dessert consisting of rectangles of nutty meringue (dacquoise) layered with ganache and pastry cream or buttercream. Once assembled it’s finished off with a coating of ganache or buttercream along with sliced almonds pressed onto the sides for garnish. Some flavors that are popular with the dark chocolate ganache are hazelnut, coconut, coffee or pistachio.

In my case chocolate and hazelnut were the choices, particularly since I had some of my homemade praliné in the fridge. The plan: three layers of toasted hazelnut-topped dacquoise sandwiched with whipped dark chocolate-praliné ganache and garnished with Chantilly, dacquoise kisses and more ganache. I opted for the rustic approach without the finish coat.

A quick note: my marjolaine became “floured” due to the addition of chocolate shortbread crumbs as one of my layers - omit that component and it is indeed flourless!

In preparation for dacquoise baking I used my 4” x 11” tart form to outline my rectangles - just place the form on the Silpat, dust powdered sugar over, lift off the form and voilà - the shapes are there as simple templates for the dacquoise. Cool.

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I had enough batter for the three rectangles plus some leftover for petite kisses. Awwwww.

All piped out

All piped out

Before baking I sprinkled chopped hazelnuts on top along with a generous dusting of powdered sugar.

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Dacquoise bakes at 350ºF for about 20 minutes. My version is a soft meringue - I look for lightly browned and set rectangles.

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For the ganache I put 100 g dark chocolate pastilles in a heatproof bowl, brought 250 ml heavy cream to a boil, poured it over the chocolate, blended until smooth and then added 50 g (about 15% by weight of the ganache) of praliné (caramelized hazelnuts processed to a paste). Pop it into the fridge to chill before whipping it up for the layering portion of the program. I had plenty of ganache for this purpose - good for perhaps some petite tartelettes or profiteroles.

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One rectangle of dacquoise down, ganache spread over it, then my chocolate crunchy crumbs (my favorite chocolate shortbread dough baked into crumbs) sprinkled over that.

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Another layer of dacquoise then ganache then crumbs and so on.

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To top it off I piped some Chantilly cream “pearls” along the length with swirls of ganache down the center and popped some of the dacquoise kisses right down the middle.

All set!

All set!

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We enjoyed simple slices for the birthday dessert. Light, airy, delicious!

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Enjoy spring and here’s to lots of May flowers coming soon!

And as always - happy baking!

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Chausson Napolitain

The third recipe in Philippe Conticini’s La Pâtisserie des Reves is an interesting mix of several classic pastry bases.

While I had been aware of this particular pastry, I had never researched it and had certainly never made it. In a nutshell it’s a pâte feuilletée (puff pastry) turnover filled with a combo of crème pâtissière and pâte à choux. Interesting, eh?

The recipe also calls for rum soaked raisins (a favorite of the French), but I opted for an hazelnut/cherry version instead. I developed my plan and struck out on a new adventure.

Most of the components can be prepared the day before, each one requiring minimal time, leaving you with the pâte à choux prep, final assembly and baking for the day of. It's all about timing and planning. Three cheers for mise en place!

I should point out that there are a couple of serious errors in this recipe, requiring you to pay close attention and adjust accordingly. The 200 gm of puff pastry called for is woefully inadequate, and should be about 600 gm. It was clear that 200 gm was not enough to create a 30x60 cm piece with a 1.5-2 mm thickness.

And when slicing the rouleau, the slices should be 1.0 -1.5 cm thick NOT 1/2 cm as the printed recipe states.  Philippe, where are your recipe testers and copy editors??

As I alluded to above, I admit that I’m not a big fan of rum or raisins. During the pastry program at Le Cordon Bleu, as well as my during my stage at Pâtisserie Pascal Pinaud on rue Monge in the 5th, I was amazed at how often rum (and a lot of it) was used by the Parisians.

When a recipe calls for alcohol, I tend to replace rum with either an almond or hazelnut liqueur, or I leave it out altogether and stick with good old vanilla extract.  It's so much easier on the budget, and I don't find the liqueur to be that much of a flavor enhancer.

For this particular project I replaced any rum in the recipe with Fratello, a delicious hazelnut liqueur that Steve discovered recently, used tart dried cherries instead of raisins and replaced macadamias with hazelnuts.

So let's get going!

I soaked 50 gm of cherries in Fratello/brown sugar and my softened butter/brown sugar mixture is ready to go. I weighed out 50 gm of blanched hazelnuts and coarsely chopped them before final assembly.

I have a batch of crème pâtissière chilled in the fridge.

I roll my puff out to about a 2 mm thickness and a length of 60 cm. (Note: I typically have puff pastry in my freezer so I let it thaw overnight in the fridge before rolling it out.)

I spread on the softened butter/brown sugar mixture and rolled it up snugly (the rouleau). Note: images below

The rouleau can be wrapped and refrigerated until you are ready to assemble the chausson.  Alternatively you can form the rouleau the same day, freeze it for 40 minutes or so, and it will be ready to slice.

Wrap and chill the rouleau and on the day you plan to assemble and bake your chausson make your pâte à choux. 

Once the choux is ready, blend in the crème pâtissière, add the zests of one lemon and one orange, a splash of vanilla extract, the marinated cherries and the chopped hazelnuts.  Your filling is ready to go! 

Remove your puff roll from the fridge (or freezer) and cut cleanly into 1.0-1.5 cm thick slices.

Cool layers, don't ya think?

Now comes a bit of fussiness.

The slices are rolled out into a flat, ~2 mm thick oval, and it is very helpful if you keep the slices cool. Work with 3 or 4 at a time while keeping the others handy in the fridge.  Work quickly on a nicely floured surface to minimize the potential sticking of the butter layer. I keep a bench scraper close by to lift up the dough and re-flour the surface as I go.

Scoop a grosse noix of filling just low of center on your oval and fold it over.  Don't worry about sealing the edges - just gently place them together, since you want the chausson to be open.

Yessirree!

Now give them a coat of egg wash and chill. Philippe recommends a one hour refrigeration before baking.  I put mine in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  My practice with all things puff pastry is to freeze before baking, whether it's chausson aux pomme, palmier or simply blind baking a puff crust for a quiche or flan.  The freezing firms up the dough and re-stabilizes the butter layers before it goes into the hot oven.

Bake at ~350ºF convection for about 30-40 minutes.

Remember: every oven is different, and it is sooooo key to pay attention to what's going on in there!  Even convection ovens don't always bake uniformly, so rotate and change shelf positions of your sheet pans half way through. It works!

Et voila - c'est fini! These babies were tasty indeed. Who would’a thunk it to put puff pastry, pastry cream, choux paste all together in one pastry. Oh boy, oh boy!