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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Culinary School - Session 106: Chocolate Mousse, Panna Cotta and Semifreddo

Culinary School: Session 106 (05.04.15)

Chocolate Mousse, Panna Cotta and Semifreddo

I scream, you scream, we all scream for...

... nope. Not Ice Cream! Sorry for the fake out. But the theme of the day is cream - specifically, cream-centric, composed desserts.

This may seem a little redundant. Aren't almost all desserts edible homages to cream and sugar? While that is probably true, there are several categories of desserts that highlight the wonders of cream in their purest form: Mousse, Panna Cotta and Semifreddo.

Chocolate Mousse with Amaretto Custard Foam and Raspberry Fruit Gel

Practice makes perfect pastry...

While Creamy desserts were front and center for the day, there was also some time to get ready for the upcoming Restaurant Day project. At this early stage, prepping means recipe testing. And while I'll be keeping the full menu a secret for a few more days, I will say that initial attempts at Pate a Choux Waffles and Rosemary Pine Nut Cracker Jacks were very successful.

There will be more on Restaurant Day over the next few weeks.

Pate a Choux Waffle Test

Caramel Popcorn Mise en Place

Toasted Pine Nuts

Rosemary and Pine Nut Caramel Popcorn "Cracker Jacks"

- Ingredients Running Tally -

Ingredients used to date (05.04.15):
  • Flour: 25,720g
  • Eggs: 17,550g (351x)
  • Sugar: 37,695g
  • Butter: 18,390g
  • Milk/Cream: 18,745g
  • Chocolate: 9,125g (since 01.12.15)

    - Recipes -


    Chocolate Mousse

    How soon we forget.

    Didn't we just complete two sessions on the importance of textural contrast in well-composed desserts?

    This Chocolate Mousse-centric plate certainly is tasty. The Pate a Bombe Chocolate Mousse is extremely smooth and perfectly illustrates a solid option when it comes to creamy desserts. However, the other components fail to pull the dish together.

    Amaretto Custard Foam, Raspberry Fluid Gel and a quenelle of Crème Chantilly: none of these pieces provides the necessary textural contrast to the Chocolate Mousse. It's smooth on smooth on smooth. It's also a decidedly first-world problem.

    Chocolate Mousse with Amaretto Custard Foam and Raspberry Fruit Gel


    Panna Cotta

    Literally "cooked cream", Panna Cotta is a tricky dessert when it comes to achieving a perfect, creamy texture. Traditional recipes closely resemble Crème Anglaise, but with egg whites. Cream, eggs and honey are carefully heated until the mixture thickens. The cream becomes even firmer as it cools, and it is served chilled. However, most modern recipes add gelatin to the mix in an attempt to fool-proof the setting process and hopefully make the cream more stable for service. The problem with many gelatin-based Panna Cotta recipes is that they become too firm resulting in an unappetizing texture.

    This particular Buttermilk Panna Cotta remains sufficiently soft when it cools, maintaining a satisfyingly smooth mouth-feel. It is so soft, however, that it must be served in a glass or bowl as it cannot be easily unmolded.

    Cherry Granite, Lemon Foam and Tea Gelee round out the flavor profile, balancing sweet with tart and acidic, while Pomegranate Seeds and a Hippen Tuile complete the plate with some much needed textural contrast.

    Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Tea Gelee, Cherry Compote, Lemon Foam and Hippen Tuile

    Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Tea Gelee, Cherry Compote, Lemon Foam and Hippen Tuile



    Not so much a single dessert as it is an entire class of desserts, Semifreddo (literally "semi-frozen"), has become a bit of a catch-all term for any cold, creamy dessert and is certainly more than just Ice Cream. A Semifreddo may begin with a Crème Anglaise, a Mousse or even a very loose Ganache.

    By serving a Semifreddo warmer than you would Ice Cream, the flavors are better able to shine (cold dampens flavor, particularly sweetness). However, and not surprisingly, serving a 'semi-frozen' dessert in a warm dining room can be a bit of a challenge. As a result, much like Panna Cotta, many modern recipes will include stabilizers such as Gelatin or Agar Agar. Again, if they are added with a heavy hand, the result can be a dessert with an extremely unappetizing texture.

    This Honey and Amaretto Semifreddo was served well-tempered to room temperature, so the flavors were prominent. Texture came from crumbled Nougatine in the actual Semifreddo as well as garnishes of Baked Meringues. And the dominantly sweet overtones from Honey and Amaretto were balanced with tart Rhubarb and a Rhubarb Champagne "Soup".

    Honey Semifreddo with Baked Meringues and Rhubarb Compote

    Honey Semifreddo with Baked Meringues and Rhubarb Compote

    Next - Session 107: Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Mousse Plate and Coconut-Olive Oil Plate

    Previous - Session 105: Baba au Rhum, Contemporary Tiramisu, Financier Plate and Lemon Pudding Cake

    Take a look at the full syllabus

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