I couldn't think of a better way to get back into the blogging saddle than to take part in this months Irish Foodies Cookalong chocolate challenge. This particular cookalong gave me the opportunity to get reacquainted with my kitchen last Friday and start creatively baking again. The following recipe I've named Chocolate Cascade, due to the nature of how it looks when it's all put together. It's a time consuming recipe, but is really worth baking if you like your chocolate. As I use the North American cup measurement - please go to my 'Cups For Cooking' page for conversions.
3 - 4 egg whites (depends what size of meringue you want to bake)
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 - 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder
Sweetened Cream Filling:
1 cup whipping cream
Icing sugar, sifted
Créme de menthe or peppermint essence (optional)
Decadent Chocolate Sauce:
1/2 cup of light corn syrup (Note: do not use golden syrup - it's too heavy and doesn't suit this recipe)
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup water
3 1/2 ounces of bitter chocolate (Note: 70% and up, the darker the better. If you use a sweeter chocolate - the sauce ends up being too sweet and not palatable)
1/2 cup of cream (Note: Don't use double cream as it will make the sauce too heavy.)
Decorative Chocolate Leaves (optional):
A few mint leaves, freshly picked
1 or 2 chunks of semi-sweet chocolate, melted
- Preheat the oven to 135 degrees C and place an oven rack on the centre shelf of the oven.
- Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper and set aside.
- Seperate your eggs and beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until foamy, using a hand held beater or kitchenaid. In the case of making meringues, I prefer to use the hand held beater as I feel I have more control in how quickly the egg whites are combined.
- Gradually add the caster sugar while beating continuously.
- Beat the egg white mixture until they become stiff and the egg whites appear glossy.
- Add the cocoa powder to the egg white mixture and beat until blended.
- Using a piping bag attach either a large star tip or preferred tip end to the bag and fill it with the egg white mix.
- Pipe the egg white mixture onto the parchment paper, dividing them evenly across the baking trays. Do not worry about making them perfect. It doesn't matter if they are awkwardly shaped or end up being baked with holes or cracks in them. This is the joy with this recipe - Imperfections welcome!
Note: A piping bag is not necessary in creating these meringues, I just find it handy to use instead of spoons, as I then tend not to make such a mess on the parchment paper when creating them. If you would prefer to just dollop the egg white mixture onto your baking sheets, I say go for it! I just like to use the piping bag for ease of distribution and to get some level of consistency for each meringue. It's purely down to what you're most comfortable with.
- This recipe makes roughly 2 dozen small to medium sized meringues.
- Place the baking tray into the oven and bake for around 30 minutes.
- Turn off the oven and keep the oven door closed. Do not remove the meringues until the oven is fully cooled down, this will ensure a lovely crisp outside and chewy centre for the meringues. Then place the meringues on a cooling rack and leave aside to make the cream filling.
Note: If you're in a rush and can't afford to let the meringues rest for the time your oven needs to cool entirely, you can leave them for around an hour and a quarter in the oven. I wouldn't remove them any earlier, as they won't set properly. I have to thank my mother for giving me the tip to let the meringue set in the oven before removing. She was the one who taught me all the neat trivia I know about baking that you don't necessarily get or learn from a recipe book.
- Get a medium sized bowl and pour your cream in. Beat the cream using a hand held beater or kitchenaid until it starts to thicken. I then add pre-sieved icing sugar (as much or as little as you like) to the cream and mix it until it starts forming soft peaks. I am quite fond of pairing mint with chocolate, so if you like, feel free to add either some peppermint essence to taste, or for a more adult affair, a couple of teaspoons of créme de menthe to the cream just as you are adding the icing sugar. This gives the cream a lovely underlying minty finish that I find appealing and when I bake this recipe, I always add the mint. Nom.
- When mixed, put the cream in the fridge and start preparing the 'decadent chocolate sauce'.
- This sauce is the business and I'm quite proud of it. In a pot combine the corn syrup, sugar and water. Cooking over a medium heat, stirring using a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved.
- Bring the mix to a boil in the pot until it reaches 116 degrees C on a candy thermometer. Better known as the 'soft ball' stage. Remove immediately from the heat.
- Break up pieces of your bitter chocolate and add to the sauce. Stir until combined.
- Using a whisk, pour in the cream, stirring constantly (keep a quick a pace, to prevent the cream from separating) until it is well blended.
- Cool to room temperature. Any leftover sauce should be stored in the fridge. (I use this sauce on everything, seriously - cake, brownies, ice-cream, as a fondue - you name it!)
Now for the finishing touch!
Now for the finishing touch!
- In the top of a double boiler, (a bowl or pot over simmering water will work fine just make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl or pot) melt the few pieces of semi-sweet chocolate.
- Once melted, using a silicome brush (or pastry brush, if you don't have one), paint the backs of the mint leaves and leave on a plate, chocolate side up, in the fridge to cool.
- When cold, very carefully peel the leaf right off the chocolate and voila! Little chocolate leaf masterpieces. I'd love to lay claim to the chocolate leaf decor, but alas, I remember reading about these in a recipe book a long time ago.
Now to put it all together!
- Take a good dollop of the whipped cream and use it to stick the flat sides of two meringues together. Do this for all the meringues. As much cream as you want. This dessert is all about indulgence, so go for it! Place them on a large plate or cake stand if you have one.
- Give the chocolate sauce a good stir and pour over all the assembled meringues and cream.
- Place the chocolate leaves around the dessert to add a little luxury.
- Serve and enjoy!
This dessert will never fail to impress and is great for parties, birthdays, or simply for your own enjoyment. It may take a little effort to make, but it's worth it. Keep all leftovers in the fridge.
Seeing as this is all about chocolate, I thought to include one of my favourite indulgences using chocolate - my take on a Bailey's Chocolate Martini. I know, not technically baking, but it sure goes well with the above dessert.
(Makes one serving)
Créme de Cacao
Vanilla Vodka (I use Absolut)
One crushed chocolate meringue (taken from main recipe above)
Dipping bowl of Decadent Chocolate Sauce (taken from recipe above)
- Finely crush a meringue on a plate.
- Take a cocktail glass and holding it upside down, gently lower into the dipping bowl with chocolate sauce until only the rim of the glass is coated. Do not coat with too much sauce as it will run down the outside of the glass.
- Place upside down cocktail glass in the crushed meringue on the plate and ensure entire rim of glass is nicely frosted with crushed meringue.
- Get a cocktail shaker and 3/4 fill with ice.
- Pour in 1 part Bailey's (2 parts Bailey's, if you're really fond of it), 1 part Créme de Cacao and one part Vanilla Vodka into the shaker. Seal shaker and shake well.
- Remove lid and strain carefully into your prepared cocktail glass.