A mom's journal of the sweet things in her life...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

The June 2010 Daring Bakers' Challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.
This month's challenge was right up my alley. Chocolate and mascarpone cheese are two of my favorite things. There were three elements to this dessert.  A chocolate pavlova base (something I had never made but was happy for the opportunity), rich chocolate mascarpone mousse, and a mascarpone cream drizzled atop. I practically did a happy dance when I read that this was what we were making for June. It was definitely a labor-intensive dessert but upon deconstructing all the different components and tackling each individually, it was not at all daunting.
The chocolate pavlovas...having never made them before and, in fact, having never even eaten one, I wasn't sure what to expect.  I've seen them made on TV a lot lately, and I was definitely eager to give these a try. They were essentially whipped egg whites, lots of sugar, and then cocoa powder and icing sugar folded in. They are then piped onto parchment lined baking sheets.
The recipe says to bake them at 200 degrees for 2 to 3 hours.  That detail was the only part that made me a little nervous. That is a rather large window of time, leaving plenty of time for disaster, which meant it was up to me, a virtual pavlova virgin, to know when to take them out. I knew from all my reading that they were supposed to be crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. Mine came out after an hour and 15 minutes and they were perfect, if I do say so myself. 
Next up, chocolate mascarpone mousse. Having read other members' comments, I knew that a lot people were finding the mousse to be grainy. The recipe says to heat the cream with the lemon zest until warm. Then add the chocolate and stir till smooth. Here's what mine looked like:
Not exactly encouraging. So I threw it in the microwave for 30 seconds on 50% power and then whisked it until my arm felt like it was going to fall off.  It was well worth the effort because eventually it looked like this:
Feeling much better, I proceeded with adding the mascarpone and am happy to report that my mousse was not at all grainy.
However, upon tasting the mousse, I was worried. First of all, I have never been a fan of citrus mixed with chocolate. I thought about omitting the lemon zest altogether, but then I decided to stay true to the recipe in the spirit of the challenge. That was a mistake.  I found the lemon over-powering for my taste. I also found that the mousse wasn't sweet enough. In fact, I found it wasn't sweet at all and I wrestled over whether I should add some confectioner's sugar. Thankfully, before I took this liberty with the recipe, I tasted the pavlovas which were really, really sweet. It was then that I had one of Oprah's "Aha moments". I see where this is going now. While the pavlovas were too sweet to be enjoyed on their own, the 'unsweet' mousse balanced it off. Right. 
Moving right along, the final component was the mascarpone cream which consisted of making a creme anglaise and then whisking in mascarpone cheese and whipped cream. I made my creme anglaise a couple days before, and then finished it just before serving. As far as I'm concerned, this was the best part of the recipe. I will definitely be incorporating this into my recipe arsenal and serving it with fresh berries. It was the one component that was delicious on its own. 
For serving, I added a handful of fresh raspberries. Initially, this was purely for esthetics, I knew it would need some color. But again, the raspberries acidity also provided a perfect balance for this very rich, chocolate dessert.

I served this dessert last night to my husband and our friends Lisa and John who had come over for a long over-due visit. It just so happened that they were the perfect audience for the debut of this dessert because, like us, they have an appreciation for food and were happy to be my official 'tasters' and give honest feedback. After the first bite, we were all on the fence about the strong lemon flavor in the mousse. But after a few more bites, it was decided by at least two of us that the citrus flavor did in fact have its place. This dessert really had a lot to offer in the way of textures and flavor. A sweet, crispy base with a chewy interior, a rich and decadent chocolate mousse, a light and silky vanilla sauce, topped with fresh, sweet berries. Lisa, a true foodie, talented gourmet chef, though not by trade, with a propensity for telling it like it is said it was wonderful, she wouldn't change a thing and she would order it at a restaurant. Now that's high praise. I'll call this one a success.   Definitely my favorite challenge so far!


  1. Your pavlova base is perfect! Even the swirling made perfect discs. Glad the mousse turned out well for you, looks creamily delicious (<--does that make sense?)LOL. Great job on the challenge!

  2. Oh wow your pavlova looks so good, I love how youve topped it with raspberries as well, looks delicious! Great job on this challenge :D

  3. It looks wonderful! I love the photos of the meringue-in-progress! I skipped the lemon in the mousse, as wasn't convinced it would be a good addition. I loved the sauce too, though I didn't add the cream. I used Amaretto and will definitely be making it again!

  4. Those look great! Your pavlova looks perfect. I also had trouble with my mousse but it came through in the end (although still a bit grainy). It was definitely interesting to taste all the subtle flavors that had been added and I think I'd stick with including the orange and lemon next time as well. Nice job on the challenge!

  5. Your pavlova looks delicious! You are right, all the components balance each other, the raspberries make your pavlova even prettier :)

  6. Your pavlova looks perfect to me. Those meringue bases really are the best.

  7. Hi! ur pav looks great :) all the components really do go well together though i skipped the lemon in the mousse,, great work :)

  8. That's a gorgeous pav. Beautiful plating and whimsical look! WOW ... well done on the challenge! {I think I overlooked the lemon zest in the recipe in a hurry to get mine going!}

  9. Beautiful job! I'm glad you didn't give up on the mouse it turned out very nice.

  10. I should have piped mine like yours! Then they would not have stuck. :) Yours looks fabulous!


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