Dessert Plating: Dietary Guidelines

Happy Friday once again. Today was perfect for me as I did not have class. Le Cordon Bleu elected to give us Friday off instead of Monday for Columbus Day. With that said it was a short week for plating. We had two days to create two different plates meeting dietary guidelines of our choice. Some examples are Sugar Free, Low-Fat, Dairy-Free, etc. Although I have dietary needs myself (Lactose Intolerance) I opted for Vegan and Gluten free so that I can challenge myself. So let’s start with Plate #1..Gluten Free.

 What initially came to my mind when brainstorming for possible components was how much I miss ice cream being lactose intolerant. So I decided to make items that maybe would be missed by those with gluten allergies or vegans whose morals wouldn’t allow them to ever try such textures and flavors. Of course the obvious item that came to my mind for those with a gluten allergy would be cake. As this is culinary school I can’t simply make any ordinary cake so I made a Chocolate Kahlua Cake cut into proper portions with a round fluted cutter. To make the cake gluten-free, I used Rice Flour and Tapioca Starch to replace regular cake flour or all-purpose usually found in most cake formulas. I also added xanthum gum. The cake tasted delicious on its own but I wanted to add more components and give height to my plate utilizing the cake rather than an external component. To do this I made a White Chocolate Caramel Creme Anglaise which I poured over the cake and allowed to drip over the edge to give that warm, fresh from the oven look. To add texture I placed cherries soaked in brandy over the creme anglaise and topped with another layer of cake. For added adornment and height, I tempered white chocolate and squeezed it into a mold using a baking squirt bottle to create the scroll. The decorative dots outlining the cake were created with a Cherry & White Peach Coulis.

For the final component on of the Gluten Free plate, I created a two-toned chocolate bowl overflowing with cherries. To create the bowl, I used a round chocolate mold. Utilizing the already tempered chocolate used earlier for the scroll, I squeezed abstract lines around the bottom and sides of the mold. I allowed this to chill until firm in the refrigerator. Meanwhile, I tempered dark chocolate for the remainder of the mold. Once the white chocolate had hardened, I poured tempered dark chocolate over the streak of white chocolate until about 1/3 of the mold was filled. I then placed secured the second portion of the mold over the filled portion and allowed it to set up overnight to ensure it would be fully solidified. On the day of plating, I allowed the chocolate bowl to warm slightly, about 10 minutes at room temperature before attempting to remove it from the mold. This ensured the mold removed crisply without cracking. The bowl was then filled with the remaining brandy soaked cherries and tipped over on the plate to create a natural overflowing look.

With the Gluten-Free Chocolate Kahlua Cake plate finished, it was time to move quickly on to plate #2…Vegan. Let me start by saying I have never in my career ever worked with anything remotely vegan except for the common organic fruit and vegetable. Items available to me such as Tofu and Agar Agar were new and I admit a tad bit intimidating.

 Despite the intimidation I pushed forward and ran for the exotic ingredients before the rest of my classmates used them all (our pantry is limited considering the large class size). The first item I snatched was oat flour and thankfully so as it was gone quickly following my usage and there was only one bag to be had in purchasing. Since you are now aware of the main ingredient I’m sure you can almost guess what the bar is…. and if not it is Oatmeal Raisin sillies. Well Oatmeal Raisin Date Bars. Following Vegan dietary concerns, I made sure to plump my Raisins and Dates in Dark Rum free of animal additives used during fermentation. I also was sure to toast my oats in vegan imitation butter and sweeten with Agave. Once the bars were out of the oven and cooled it was the difficult task of cutting them into presentable squares. My largest complaint about the Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Bars is their texture. Even the slightest movement and they crack and shatter into crumbs. It was obviously fate that I made a larger pan then necessary to compensate for the amount I broke in the process of cutting. Finally I managed to get one decent square out of the bars and plated it right away before it shattered in the way of its predecessors. To attract the eye to the bar and add texture to the eye, I created a Banana Poppyseed Coulis which I fanned out from the bar and across the plate. The coulis consisted mostly of banana puree and agave to sweeten.

For the final component and least favorite of all my plates so far is the Vegan Pumpkin Banana Mousse. The reason for such hatred between the mousse and I is its texture/consistency. My idea of mousse is a creamy, velvety yet heavily rich dessert that only takes a few spoonfuls and you are satisfied even though you could devour several spoons if given the opportunity to have a larger dish and scoop. This mousse met none of those requirements. The tofu imparted a distinct flavor and it didn’t fully incorporate with the pumpkin and banana puree, causing small pellets to form even after running through the robocoup (food processor) several times. Also the consistency wasn’t as firm as mousse typically is because it lacked the key volumnizing ingredient (heavy cream) and stabilizer/setter (gelatin). I did the best I could with this dish to be quite honest. I placed dollops in a nice parfait dish hoping to glamorize it somewhat. I layered fresh raspberries throughout to add color and a welcoming familiar texture. The parfait added height to my plate if nothing else, especially with the tempered dark chocolate adornment added to act as a straw.

All in all I did enjoy the vast majority of the components on these plates despite the lack of typical ingredients I am accustomed to working with. You never realize how much heavy cream and eggs are in everything until you are told you can’t work with them due to dietary concerns! I did taste everything and it all tasted well in my opinion except for the mousse. If given the opportunity for a do-over I would replace only the mousse and maybe have made a vegan sorbet instead. I am thankful for the experience of working under dietary guidelines. It will forever be useful to my career and future in baking, especially with the large amount of people living with conditions, diseases, or religious beliefs requiring specific dietary needs. Following dietary guidelines is a must for every pastry chef and even novice baker ready to take innovation to the next level.

All content © Honeybee’s Patisserie 2011

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Dessert Plating: Non-Traditional Napoleons

Happy Monday everyone! This past week has been very busy for me. I just began my final class at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Orlando. This class is Dessert Plating and it is a very demanding course to say the least. Not only is it crucial to understand all of the elements which are important to plating a high end dessert but also we have to create our own flavors and they must be creative and a bit risky. It has been difficult because in all of the previous courses students are held on a tight leash when it comes to what we would make in class. We had to follow the recipe in our textbooks or whatever Chef declared we must follow and we couldn’t deviate much from that in the ways of presentation or flavor options. With this class they basically throw you to the wolves and chef gets to sit back and watch with a grin.

 In week one of Dessert Plating, our simple instruction was to create a a few dessert sauces with our own flavor choices which would compliment our finished plates of non-traditional Napoleons due on friday. The first order of operations was to choose my two flavor stars for each plate. My first star I chose was Pumpkin. The second was Peach. Let’s start with my first plating: The Pumpkin Praline Napoleon. For the first Napoleon, I was instructed to use sheets of Phyllo dough and enhance them in any way I chose. To do this I first melted some butter and added a praline flavor compound by Amoretti to enhance the butter with flavor. I delicately soaked my first layer of phyllo with the enhanced butter and spread a Praline mixture I created over the buttered phyllo sheet. My Praline mixture consisted of pecans, brown sugar, honey, and vanilla. I continued the layering process until I had about five sheets of Praline enhanced phyllo melded together. Before baking, I cut the phyllo layers with a metal fluted cutter to create the non-traditional circle shape. Once strategically placed on the baking sheet, it was to the oven for the phyllo. About 7 minutes later, caramel crisp goodness emerged and wafted in my direction.

Once the phyllo layers were completed it was time to focus on filling options. I chose to flavor a basic pastry cream with Pumpkin and its complimentary warm spices of ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. To assemble the napoleon, I placed one layer of praline enhanced phyllo on the plate and used a pastry bag fitted with a star tip to pipe a round of pumpkin spice pastry cream in the center of the phyllo circle. To prevent any leaking pastry cream while waiting to present my plate, I lined the outer edges of the enhanced phyllo with fresh cut raspberries. This created a dam for any running pastry cream and also added complimentary flavor and texture. I repeated the process once more before placing my final round of praline enhanced phyllo on top.

With the napoleon constructed it was on to decorative sauce creation and adornments for the presentation. To compliment the raspberries I added to the napoleon, I created a Strawberry Rhubarb Rum Coulis. I placed four rounds on the plate all leading the eye toward the napolean. To add contrast to the red colored coulis and compliment the pumpkin spice pastry cream filling, I created a Maple Nut Creme Anglaise. I placed four rounds between the Coulis and drew a bamboo skewer through both sauces to add a finishing look to the plate. For the final adornment, I simply utilized leftover praline to prevent further waste. I shaped the praline mixture into a mound and topped it with a fresh blackberry. This added height, color contrast and it complimented flavors within the dish, which is of course important.

 Now that the first plate was complete it was on to number two: The Spiced Peach Napoleon. For this napoleon I had to utilize puff pastry and again enhance it. I laid out a sheet of puff pastry and cut it into rounds again using my fluted metal cutter. When melting the butter I enhanced it with a dash of cayenne pepper to add heat which would later compliment the sweetness and other spices. Once the butter was melted I brushed it over the sheet of puff pastry in order for my enhancement to stick…that being Toasted Cayenne Coconut. Once the puff pastry had fully baked and cooled, I proceeded to use a bench knife to cut each circle in half. This created another non-traditional shape, that being a half moon. To fill the puff pastry layers I opted for a Peach Mousse. To assemble the napolean I placed one puff pastry moon on the plate and again used a disposable pastry bag fitted with a star tip to pipe a small amount of peach mousse onto the pastry. I then topped the mousse with a spiced poach peach, which I will describe in a moment. I repeated the process once more but alternated the direction of the half moon. After placing the final layer of puff pastry, again alternating the direction for an even more noticable non-traditional shape, I piped a rosette of peach mousse and topped it with some of my remaining Toasted Cayenne Coconut.

As for the decorative elements to this plate, I made sure to incorporate sauce and fresh fruit for added textures, tastes, and colors. As mentioned previously, I created Spicy Poached Peaches not only for the napoleon but also decor. I poached the peaches in red wine with whole allspice, black peppercorns, and a cinnamon stick until tender. For plating I aligned three peaches to create an abstract basket to hold the fresh blackberries. This created additional color, shape and complimentary flavors for the rest of the plate. This all leads to the final element on the plate, the sauce. The sauce I chose to create was chocolate. This added a distinct color which popped off the white plate and also added contrast to the other colors. To make the chocolate flavor meld with the rest of the plate, I enhanced it with Tangelo and Orange Blossom extracts made by Amoretti. These are wonderful jewels to have in any pastry kitchen as they give great options for creating epic flavor profiles in any dish, whether culinary or pastisserie. I placed the chocolate sauce in three simple dots on each side to draw the eye back and forth between the bushel of peach and berries to the napoleon.

 After this first week of non-traditional Napoleons, I realize what is ahead of me for the weeks to come. This week I will be creating custards with my own flavor profiles. My options are Panna Cotta, Creme Caramel, Creme Brulee, and Bread Pudding which I will contruct my own of each. I will also be required to create decorative adornments such as flavored pate a choux filigree and Florentine or Tuille cookies. It shall be interesting. I will be sure to post the finished products. Until then….have a good rest of your week. Enjoy the fall weather as I am from Florida 🙂

 

All content © Honeybee’s Patisserie 2011

Peanut Butter Mousse Cookie Cups

On the tenth anniversary of September 11, nothing could lift spirits higher than indulging in the sweet, comforting combination of peanut butter and chocolate. This cute little dessert is based upon cookie cups which have a crisp exterior while maintaining the soft, sweet interior beloved by all sugar cookie lovers. These cups are filled with a mixture of peanut butter, whipped cream, and cream cheese to create a light, fluffy mousse. Also let’s not forget the peanut butter mousse is sandwiched between a rich layer of chocolate ganache dolloped on the bottom of each cookie cup and drizzled on top for a designer finish. I’m usually the type who tries it after I finish baking it and leave the rest to be eaten by others but I couldn’t even stop munching these days after they were baked. YUM!!!

The whole process begins with something so basic… a bag of sugar cookie mix blended with pecans and pressed into muffin tins. This simple step of the formula creates a crisp yet tender cookie shell. It is important to note that when pressing the cookie mix into the muffin tin, the right amount of cookie mix pressed will seem like a lot but is necessary to create a solid base to build upon later.

 Once the sugar cookie cups have been baked and cooled, the peanut butter mousse and chocolate are prepared. A dollop of chocolate is placed in the bottom of each cookie cup. For the most elegant presentation, the peanut butter mousse is piped into each cup using a disposable piping bag fitted with a large star decorator tip. When the filling is piped into the cookie cup, it will resemble the look of a giant rosette on top of a cupcake. If you do not own disposable piping bags or decorator tips, you may spoon the peanut butter mousse into the cups and use a small spatula or back of the spoon to smooth out the top.

Lastly, place the remaining melted chocolate in a squeeze bottle or piping bag fitted with a fine, round decorator tip. Use the melted chocolate to create a swirl design around the piped peanut butter mousse filling. If you are not a chocoholic or lack any of the above equipment needed for the melted chocolate, you may certainly skip this step and keep the rosette look created by the piped peanut butter mousse. Both looks are impressive and elegant in appearance.

 The following formula requires a sugar cookie mix for the cookie cup crust. Sugar cookie mixes are found in supermarket baking aisles near the boxed cake mixes. I chose the 17.5 oz. sugar cookie mix by Betty Crocker for this formula. It created the perfect wet sand texture necessary for proper pressing into the muffin tins and when mixed with pecans and filled with peanut butter mousse and chocolate, the processed flavor usually found in cookie mixes was obliterated. All the cookie mix left behind was the desired softness and sweetness expected of a sugar cookie. Perhaps best of all, the sugar cookie mix saves precious time, relieving us busy bakers from the long task of baking the sugar cookies from scratch and cleaning up the numerous dirty dishes left behind!!!

Peanut Butter Mousse Cookie Cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 (17.5 ounce) pkg.  Sugar Cookie Mix (see above for prefered brand)
  • 4.5 oz. Chopped Pecans, toasted
  • 2 tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
  • 8 tbsp. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 13.5 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 9.75 oz. Chunky Peanut Butter
  • 1 (8 ounce) pkg. Cream Cheese, softened
  • 4.25 oz. Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 6.75 oz. Semisweet Chocolate Chips

Formula:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°. Grease muffin tin. Combine sugar cookie mix, pecans, and flour in a bowl. Slowly add in the butter and stir until the mixture resembles the texture of wet sand. Press a thick layer of the cookie mixture into the bottom and sides of each muffin cup.
  2. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes, being sure to rotate the muffin pan halfway through the cooking time. Cool 20 minutes in the muffin pan before removing.
  3. With mixer on medium-high, whip 8 ounces of heavy cream to stiff peaks. Set aside. In mixer, beat peanut butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until creamy and smooth. Gently fold in the whipped cream.
  4. Microwave the chocolate and remaining 5.5 ounces of cream for about 1 minute. Make sure to stir occasionally (to prevent scorching) until the chocolate is melted smooth. Pour a dollop of the prepared chocolate ganache into the bottom of each sugar cookie cup. Fill each cookie cup by piping the peanut butter mousse into a large rosette/swirl formation.
  5. Drizzle the remaining chocolate ganache evenly over the peanut butter mousse in personal preferred design.  Refrigerate the peanut butter mousse cookie cups until firm, at least 1 hour. 
  6. The Peanut Butter Mousse Cookie Cups can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Special Thanks to: My wonderful boyfriend Peter for the photography and Susan Bazan

All content © Honeybee’s Patisserie 2011