Methods & Madness… Class 18: Desserts
Recipes & Ramblings from Chef School
The best was saved for last, with desserts being our final lesson of Pro Chef School. We overindulged with Chocolate Cake, Lemon Tart, Chocolate Pudding, Tiramisu, Crème Brulee, Caramel Ice Cream, and the killer one Gâteau au Chocolat. I think everyone gained ten pounds! The subject of desserts is so vast, and our allotted time so short, that we were only able to cover basic sauces and a few foundations for other desserts.
Basic Sauces & Dessert Bases
Crème Anglaise is a light custard sauce made of sugar, egg yolks, hot milk, and vanilla, all which are cooked on the stovetop. It can be served with pies or fruit and is ideal as a base for desserts, such as today’s chocolate cake recipe.
Coulis is cooked fruit and sugar that has been pureed and strained. Freeze it to make a sorbet. Fold in egg whites or cream to make a mousse. TIP: Use a little lemon juice to avoid browning of stone fruit and to brighten the red pigments in the berries.
Ganache is a chocolate sauce made of bittersweet chocolate and cream. It can be whipped for filling or icing, poured over cake and sundaes, or chilled and made into truffles.
Caramel Sauce is sugar that has been caramelized with cream added. It is a great dip for apples, and as a topping for ice cream and cake. When making the caramel sauce, do not stir the sugar once it is dissolved. If you do, crystals will form up the side of the pan.
TIP: You can brush the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in warm water if crystals start to form.
Fruit Curd is a dessert spread usually made with lemon, lime, orange or raspberry. The basic ingredients are beaten egg yolks, sugar, fruit juice and zest, which are gently cooked together until thick, then allowed to cool. Great served with scones or used as a filling for tarts. Add whip cream to make a mousse.
Pastry Cream is rich, thick and creamy custard made from a mixture of milk, eggs, sugar, flour, and cornstarch. It is used as a filling for cakes, tarts, cream puffs, and Napoleons.
Custard is based on a cooked mixture of milk/cream and egg yolk.Depending on how much egg is used, custard may vary in consistency from a thin pouring sauce (crème anglaise), to a thick pastry cream used to fill éclairs. The most common custards are Flan, Boston Cream Pie, Crème Brulee, Crème Caramel, English Trifle.
Sponge Cake is a cake made with flour, sugar, and eggs. It has a firm, yet airy texture, similar to a sea sponge, which makes it flexible before the cake has cooled after cooking. This allows the creation of rolled cakes such as the Bûche de Noël. This basic recipe is also used for Madeleines, ladyfingers, and trifles.
Sweet Pastry Crust is a rich pastry with a crisp cookie-like texture. This crust is usually prebaked and perfect for tarts. The difference between this crust and a basic piecrust is more sugar and an added egg.
Rona and I were assigned Lemon Tart. Click here for recipe.
I am posting the recipe for a dense, dark French chocolate cake called Gâteau au Chocolat. This cake can be made in advance and frozen. My suggestion is to make two – eat one, freeze the other.
This ends our final lesson. What’s on the menu for the next two weeks? Testing our knowledge to see what stuck, what rose, and what landed in the garbage pail. I look forward to putting my newfound knowledge into future recipes and classes. Stay tuned for more…
Gâteau au Chocolat (French Chocolate Cake)
- 12 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate
- 5 1/3 ounces unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 5 large eggs separated
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch cake pan. Cut a parchment circle to fit the bottom of the pan and butter it as well.
Combine the chocolate, butter and sugar in the top of a double boiler placed over simmering water. Melt over medium heat, stirring until the ingredients are thoroughly blended. Set the mixture aside.
Whisk the egg yolks into the chocolate. Whisk in the flour.
Beat the egg whites in a large bowl just until they form firm peaks; do not overbeat.
Cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before unmolding. Dust with confectioner’s sugar, if desired.
Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the chocolate batter and mix vigorously. Gently fold in the remaining whites. Do this slowly and patiently. Do not over mix, but be sure that the mixture is well blended and that no streaks of white remain.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is firm and springy, 35 to 40 minutes.
Cook Time: 35 mins - Serves: 8
A presentation will always leave a lasting impression on your guests. They will taste with their eyes before a bite even comes close to their mouth. This cake was dressed with crème anglaise and a raspberry coulis.
Here are some other options when creating artwork on the dessert plate:
-Cocoa powder or shaved chocolate
-Finely ground coffee
-Carved fresh fruits
Quote of the Day
“There’s nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with chocolate”. – Linda Grayson
I say there is nothing better than a friend who knows how to make a good chocolate cake, and shares.
…and then she paused for thought.
Hope you have enjoyed our adventure in the culinary classroom. Join us each week as we continue learning new culinary skills.