Orangette turns one
And it would have been a very lonely, bland one without you, dear reader, and your enthusiasm, support, and—most importantly—hunger.
Thank you for coming along with me.
*Jen has yet to decide on an appropriate name for this recipe. She tends to refer to it as “my chocolate dessert,” “that chocolate dessert,” or “something with tons of chocolate and cream.” None of these titles, however, do it justice, and neither does an analogy we invented after a few glasses of wine: It's like Cool Whip! It doesn’t freeze solid! It’s like chocolate Cool Whip! The name I have chosen below is my attempt to strike a happy—and fitting—medium.
Dark Chocolate Mousse Ice Cream
Adapted from Epicurious
If time permits, try to make this mousse a day or so ahead of time, so that it has time to properly set up. When it comes to serving, Jen has presented it in several different ways: in bowls; in little high-ball glasses with a few fresh raspberries on top; and, for a picnic, in tiny paper Dixie cups with a dollop of whipped cream. However you choose to serve it, start with small portions; this is serious stuff. And if you want to gild the lily, a ruby or vintage port, or perhaps a black Muscat dessert wine, makes for a lovely accompaniment.
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla
7 ounces best-quality 70% dark chocolate, finely chopped (for her most recent go, Jen used closer to 9 ounces, with superlative results)
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons water
6 large egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
Bring the milk, cream, and vanilla just to a boil in a small saucepan; then remove from heat and keep warm, covered.
Place the chopped chocolate in a large heatproof bowl.
Stir together ½ cup sugar with water in a medium heavy saucepan, and bring it to a boil over moderate heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved and washing down any sugar crystals on the side of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil the syrup, without stirring, gently swirling the pan and washing down crystals, until mixture is a deep golden caramel, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and carefully whisk in the warm cream mixture (the mixture will steam vigorously, and caramel may harden). Cook over low heat, whisking, until the caramel is dissolved.
Beat the yolks with the salt and the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl, using an electric mixer at high speed, until tripled in volume and thick enough to form a ribbon that takes 2 seconds to dissolve into mixture when the beater is lifted, 3 to 4 minutes in a stand mixer or 6 to 8 with a handheld one.
Add the hot caramel mixture to the yolks in a slow stream, whisking, then transfer the custard to the medium saucepan. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard is slightly thickened and registers 170°F on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Do not allow it to boil.
Press the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl with the chopped chocolate, and let stand 1 minute. Whisk the mixture until smooth.
Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, about half an hour.
Freeze the custard in an ice cream maker; then transfer it to an airtight container and put it in the freezer to harden, at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. The mousse will keep well in the freezer for up to a week. Allow it to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes or so before serving.
Yield: about 1 quart.
And thank goodness there were two of us, because sharing was a necessity if we were to have room for it all, from Aladdin Market and Deli (thank you, Hillel) to Berkeley Bowl, Blue Bottle Coffee Company, Breads of India, Boulangerie, Café Fanny, Ferry Plaza, Las Camelias, La Taqueria, and XOX Truffles; and from pain au levain to sheep's milk ricotta gnocchi, falafel, Okinawan purple sweet potatoes, coffee from Yemen, naan with shredded coconut and fresh dill, cannelés, Belgian sugar tarts, fresh morels and French macarons, agave margaritas, tacos filled with shredded chicken in a tomato and chile sauce, and the tiniest, most sigh-inducing chocolate truffles to ever cross these lips. We flitted here and there in search of this and that, meeting with such success that I believe I might have actually uttered the words, “I’m tired of eating.” But only once or twice.
No amount of food fatigue, however, could keep us from Tartine, a bakery worth a thousand miles. Perched on a street corner in the Mission District, Tartine’s walls are bulging at all hours with an eager cult following of customers lined up for morning pastries or hot, crusty country bread at four in the afternoon, or haggling for tables on the sidewalk outside. Its offerings straddle old-fashioned Americana and French country-chic, from coconut cream tarts to a cake aux olives, each perfectly messy or neat, as the case requires. Brandon flew into a frenzy the moment we stepped up to the counter, overwhelmed by the sight of an open-face croque monsieur with melting slices of summer tomato and a lemon meringue cake the size and shape of a shoebox, covered with burnished spikes. Clearly, one visit would not suffice. There was too much to taste—and to photograph. There were meringues studded with Scharffen Berger nibs, each little mountain-shaped cookie craggy and light, its sweetness delicately balanced by the light bitterness of roasted cacao beans.
And there was the lemon cream tart, a pool of puckery lemon curd in a sweet, crunchy shortbread shell,
and its frumpy stepsister, the the banana cream tart, an über-flaky crust coated with caramel and dark chocolate and filled with vanilla pastry cream and sliced bananas, the whole topped with barely sweetened whipped cream and thick chocolate curls.
We ogled the shortbread, tight-crumbed and buttery 1”-by-4”s,
and the morning buns, knots of flaky dough perfumed with cinnamon and orange. And when it came time to turn the car around, I took a bag of muesli for breakfast on the road and Brandon seared his thighs with a lapful of straight-from-the-oven country bread, possibly the best use of flour I’ve tasted anywhere: thick-crusted, with a moist, chewy crumb full of dime-sized air holes.
The hours fly by when you’re well-fed—whether in a city on the coast or in a car, or later, at a keyboard in Seattle, a crumb-filled plate at your elbow.
*There was also no consistently available Internet connection, so I appreciate your patience, gentle reader.
Rhubarb Meringue Tart
Adapted from Tamasin Day-Lewis’s The Art of the Tart
Day-Lewis credits her friend and colleague Nigella Lawson with the creation of this delicate, unusual tart. It begins with a buttery shell, over which is poured a sheet of unsweetened(!) cooked rhubarb and a layer of a egg-sugar-butter batter. This base is cooked until shiny and golden, and then the tart is capped with meringue and baked until lightly browned. The result is a multi-layered tart in which the rhubarb is mellowed by the buttery crust beneath it and the sugar- and butter-rich batter atop it, and the light, sweet meringue topcoat makes a perfect foil for the puckery compote it blankets. Although the tart is best, texture-wise, about 30 to 60 minutes of the oven, it also keeps nicely and tastes surprisingly wonderful cold, straight from the fridge. Lisa and I made sure to try it both ways, as should you.
½ recipe Martha Stewart’s pâte brisée, made with fresh orange juice rather than water
2 lbs rhubarb, trimmed and chopped into roughly ½-inch chunks
Juice of ½ an orange
2 eggs, separated
2/3 cup plus ½ cup granulated sugar
2 Tbs unbleached all-purpose flour
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
¼ tsp cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Roll out the pâte brisée to fit a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan, and line the pan with the dough. Press a sheet of aluminum foil gently into the lined pan, and fill the well of the pan with pie weights. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet, and bake until the shell is lightly golden and set, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, discard the foil and weights, and allow the tart shell to cool.
Put the rhubarb in a medium saucepan with the orange juice and heat gently until just softened and beginning to fall apart. Remove it from the heat.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with a fork. In a medium bowl, mix 2/3 cup sugar with the flour and melted butter. Add the yolks, and stir briefly. Place a sieve over the mouth of the bowl, and pour the cooked rhubarb into the sieve. Press the rhubarb lightly to drain off its juices, allowing them to trickle into the egg-sugar-butter-flour mixture. You should add enough rhubarb liquid to make the mixture into a smooth, runny paste.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, and continue beating until the whites form soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining ½ cup sugar, beating until the whites are shiny and opaque. Spoon the meringue over the baked tart to completely cover the fruit, sprinkle with a touch more sugar, if you like, and bake for 15 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly bronzed.
Allow to cool for 30 to 60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, sliced into wedges.