A chocolate génoise entremet

When we're invited to someone's home for a weekend supper, I always (almost) volunteer to make dessert.  Thus it was that I was on the hook again to provide something tasty and not too heavy for the meal's finale.

My dessert leanings tend to veer towards a simple tart (classic apple, fruit/almond, lemon, caramel nut, ganache to name a few) or something custardy like pots de crème, perhaps served with some buttery shortbread.  But, every now and then, I like to create a layered entremet.

The word entremet is actually translated as "between servings" and can refer to a small dish served between courses or to a dessert.  In the modern pastry world it most often refers to a layered dessert made with some type of cake along with various creamy, crunchy textural components.   The possibilities are pretty much limitless - just look in any French pâtisserie window and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about!

Since Steve and my brother Dick are both chocolate lovers (truth be told Dor and I don't mind the stuff either), I focused on a chocolate plan.  I had it in the back of my brain to utilize the leftover "duja" that I had made for the sablés au praliné post on 1/2/515, so I popped it out of the freezer and into the fridge for an overnight thaw.

a mixture of chocolate and ground hazelnuts
 Whenever I have a cake question or need ideas for the type of cake I might like to make, I turn to Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible.  The information in this book is exhaustive, and just in the section on génoise alone, you'll find many variants with detailed explanations about the differences.

Génoise belongs to the sponge cake family and is typically made with eggs, sugar and flour.  It tends to be on the dry side and thus is imbibed with a syrup to moisten it before being layered with cream or mousse of some sort.

I chose the "moist chocolate génoise", a recipe I've made several times before.  It calls for bittersweet chocolate, so I got out my favorite array of chocolates.  I like to mix and match, combining different percentage chocolates to achieve about a 60-62% result.

This recipe utilizes an interesting technique with the chocolate (described below) - Rose says this releases the chocolate's flavor.

The ingredient portions here are for 1/2 recipe since I only wanted to make one cake (the full recipe makes two 9" cakes).  In the picture below you see the chocolate mixture in the forefront, made by pouring 120 gm (1/2 cup) boiling water over 113 gm chocolate, then simmering it until it achieves a pudding like consistency.  It has fully cooled and is ready to go!

half the recipe

Remember - this is 1/2 recipe!  Beat 4 eggs and 100 gm sugar in the mixer using the whisk on high speed until tripled in volume, about 5 minutes.

Amazing how eggs and sugar transform from a yellow, grainy mixture to a light, pale and airy froth of goodness!

Then sift 75 gm of cake flour over the mixture and fold it in gently.  The flour has a tendency to fall to the bottom, so pay attention so you don't have lingering clumps of flour in your batter.

Then fold in the chocolate mixture until incorporated.

Pour the batter into a 9" cake or springform pan that has been lined with parchment then buttered and floured.

just a hint of a flour streak in the center

Bake at 350º for about 30-35 minutes.  I use the touch-the-center technique to decide if the cake is done - it should feel firm, set and spongy (get it? Sponge cake!).  I also gently jiggle the pan, and if there's movement in the center, it needs more time.

just out of the oven

Loosen and remove the outer ring of the springform (if that's what you've used) and let cool on a wire rack.

Then invert the cake onto a rack, remove the pan bottom and re-invert.  Once cooled you can wrap it and hold it at room temp or in the fridge for a couple of days OR freeze it for a month or so.

Earlier in the day I had made my go-to ganache-for-whipping using 3 parts heavy cream to 1 part chocolate (240 gm cream and 80 gm chocolate in this case).  Once the mixture is chilled it is whipped to a spreadable consistency and ready for layering.

I also created a thin round with the chocolate/hazelnut ("duja") mixture by softening it over a bain marie along with a tablespoon or so of butter, then spreading it in a 220 mm circle on silpat .  Into the freezer it went until assembly time.

the "duja" round

Now it's time for assembly.  My components, seen below, are the genoise (split in two layers), vanilla simple syrup, the "duja" round, whipped chocolate ganache, plus a mixture of hazelnut nougatine and chocolate crumbs which I had in my freezer from previous projects.

ready for assembly

First a layer of genoise; brush it with simple syrup; top it with the round of "duja".

My thin round is a tad too big, so I took my kitchen scissors and trimmed around the edge.

Then I spread a layer of whipped ganache . . .

 topped it with my crunchy mixture . . .

then my second cake layer topped with more ganache and crunchies.

all layered up

looks pretty tasty!

The assembly can be completed a day before serving - just store the entremet covered in the fridge.

One can take this a step further and coat the sides with additional whipped ganache and crunchies, but I decided to leave it au naturel.  Nothin' fancy here.

ready to slice

and there you have it

The consensus was all thumbs up on this lovely blend of chocolate and hazelnut, not too heavy and not too sweet - just delicious!

OK, so I admit I didn't go the extra mile as far as any garnish for this dessert, but some great accompaniments would be a dollop of chantilly, some chopped candied hazelnuts and a flourish of candied orange rind.

Or how about a nice pool of apricot coulis and a drizzle of caramel?  Or a dose of warm créme anglaise and some fresh raspberries?

You get the idea.  Now get into that kitchen of yours and create your own entremet!

Chocolate crepe cake

Believe it or not, I had never made a crêpe until this past week.  And, since I was experimenting, I thought I'd take it a step further than just the simple crêpe- why not make a crêpe cake!

I must say I've contemplated this for awhile, after one of my former customers, Ting-Ting, asked me about making a matcha (green tea) version for her. Needless to say, it never happened, but I was nonetheless intrigued. She had such a focused interest on pastries and would often come into the shop with loads of questions about what I was offering that day, as well as reporting on various pastries she had discovered in Manhattan. The crêpe cake was one of them.

I began my research and opted for a chocolate version. I found a number of recipes on line and soon realized how easy the batter is for this classic treat - milk, melted butter, flour, vanilla, egg, a little sugar, chocolate - ingredients that most of us have in our pantries and fridges on any given day.

I chose two different recipes, one using Dutch process cocoa powder and one using melted chocolate, thinking it would be good to compare the flavors.

Above: ingredients for Dutch process version

Above: ingredients for melted chocolate version

I mixed each batter together with no muss nor fuss and refrigerated both overnight.

Above - getting ready to blend ingredients for the melted chocolate version . . . . .

and bringing it all together with an immersion blender.

When it came time to make the crêpes, I chose to make a 4-5" size, thinking I wanted a petite cake for my first attempt.  Steve and I have a small sauté pan (I think it's Calphalon) that we've had for years and rarely use.  It seemed just the thing for what I was about to do.

I heated the pan and started the process.  I soon understood what to watch for as the crépes began to set.  It didn't take long before I was into the rhythm of crêpe making - one after another I piled them onto the plate.

Above - starting to set . . . .

then after flipping, finishing it off. 

Especially when making small crêpes, I realized the seemingly inordinate amount of time it took to finish off all the batter (and I had made only half a recipe!).  At this point I could imagine having 3 or 4 pans going at once, flipping crêpes one after another in assembly line fashion!

I made a couple of crêpes from the Dutch process cocoa batter first.  I then switched over to the melted chocolate version, and, after doing a tasting of the two, decided to abandon the cocoa version, since it didn't have nearly as rich a flavor.

Once all of my crêpes were finished I layered them between sheets of parchment and put them in the fridge, since I was planning my assembly for the following day.

I decided to make a simple whipped chocolate ganache filling, using 3 parts cream to 1 part chocolate by weight.

Boil the cream, pour it over the chocolate, whisk gently, cover (plastic wrap directly on the surface to eliminate air) and refrigerate until nicely chilled.  It couldn't be easier!

When I was ready to begin the assembly, I pulled my plate of crêpes and my ganache from the fridge.

I whipped the ganache to medium firm peaks so it would be nicely spreadable . . .

and began the process.

Getting higher . . . .

and stacking until I had 21 (or was it 24?) layers (OK just try to count them!)

Into the fridge it went to set up before glazing.  My chocolate glaze is 113 gm of chocolate and 42 gm of butter melted over a bain marie.  Trés simple!

I held the finished cake, covered, in the fridge overnight.  When it was time to serve, I sliced it and garnished with caramel spiked chantilly and chopped toasted hazelnuts.

If I haven't mentioned this before, I toast nuts before using, no matter what I'm doing with them.  It brings out the flavor and adds so much to the final experience!

A note about chocolate:  for this project I used Valrhona's 64% Manjari, the chocolate I used regularly when working at Gracie's.  Since then I've come to really enjoy the flavor (and the price!) of Trader Joe's Belgian chocolate, typically mixing half-and-half of their "dark chocolate" and "72% dark chocolate".

I had made a mini-cake with leftover crêpe pieces and ganache for Steve and I to sample.  We both felt that the chocolate was too acidic and not necessarily an agreeable taste, so I was anticipating how we and our Saturday evening dinner guests, Magali and Guy, might react to the piéce de resistance.

We all enjoyed the texture and flavor, particularly with the chantilly and hazelnuts mellowing out the acid of the chocolate.  But, it was Magali who suggested a bit of orange, which reminded me that I had some candied orange peel in my fridge from an earlier project.  I put a couple of pieces of the peel on our desserts et voila!  It made ALL the difference.  What a delicious combination!

Thanks Miss Mag!