They say, dessert, being the last course of the meal, can be of a crucial significance: a bad one ruins the whole dining experience while a good one transforms even an average meal into a memorable one. No wonder, when I was preparing the menu for the farewell party that we organized for our collegues, I paid a special attention to the dessert.
I didn’t want to use a recipe from a cookbook; instead, I felt like creating something new that would reflect both my attitude towards Kolkata and the experience (mainly – the culinary one) that I’d gained there. An idea of a multi-layered gateau came by. Indeed, I started to make such sophisticated desserts only about a year ago (thanks to the influence of Adriano Zumbo and other pastry chefs – professional and amateur ones) and it was a time to demonstrate what I’d learnt. When I thought of the flavours, I decided upon chocolate as the main one, with a hint of vanilla (can you do without it in a good dessert?). Then I choose strawberries – simply because they were still in season and I wanted to include a fresh, juicy, a bit sour element in the cake. Hazelnuts was not a very obvious choice since they are way too difficult to find in Kolkata; ironically, that was the reason why I bothered to take them as well: I wanted to create a flavour profile that would be a bit surprising and not so conventional for the people who had been living in the place for a long time.
I was very happy with the result (and so, it seems, were our colleagues). There was only one question left: how I should call this chocolate and hazelnut gateau with strawberry jelly and crème brulee? At this point I remembered the conversation I had with one of my Indian friends about a year ago:
– Are you going away from the city this summer? – I asked her.
– No, – she replied. I have exams till the end of May. But in June I’m planning to travel abroad.
The thing is, I have forgotten that in India the seasons are different; you have summer from March to May, and monsoon from June to August. It is very unusual for a European!
My gateau was very unusual as well (you have fresh, not imported, strawberries there and hazelnuts which, as I mentioned, are not so readily available in Kolkata) that’s why I decided to name it Summer in March. I guess, each time I will be looking at the photo of it, I will feel the warmth of that days and the amazing time I had during my stay in that country!
Chocolate Angel Food Cake
6 egg whites
¼ cup + 2 tbsp flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
40 gm chocolate, melted
30 gm Noisette syrup
30 gm Vanilla syrup
Wafer Crisp Insert
100 gm dark chocolate
60 gm wafers with hazelnut cream, crushed
30 gm butter, melted
15 gm hazelnuts, chopped
15 gm Kellog Special K cereals, crushed
Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Cremaux
260 gm milk chocolate, chopped
40 gm hazelnuts, chopped
4 egg yolks
120 ml milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp sugar
15 gm gelatine
75 gm cold water
300 gm cream, whipped
Creme Brulee Insert
6 egg yolks
110 gm castor sugar
480 ml cream
1 vanilla bean
280 gm strawberry puree, sieved
50 gm castor sugar
5 gelatine leaves
Milk Chocolate Ganache
180 gm milk chocolate, chopped
150 gm heavy cream
50 gm butter, cut into cubes
50 gm water
90 gm caster sugar
25 gm liquid glucose
75 ml heavy cream
50 gm cocoa powder
10 gm gelatine
60 gm cold water
90 gm neutral glaze
a few pieces ofhocolate decorations
1. For chocolate angel food cake, preheat the oven to 180C. Line and grease a 20cm square tin. Beat the egg whites with salt till soft peaks are formed, gradually add the sugar, increase the speed and beat till firm peaks. Sift the flour and the cocoa powder over the egg whites; and then fold them in, together with vanilla essence. Transfer the batter to the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes or until the toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
2. Use a sharp knife or a special pastry equipment to cut the cooled angel food cake horizontally into two. Cover one of the parts with melted chocolate and allow it to set completely. Line a 20cm tin with acetate sheet or a foil and place that half of the cake (with the chocolate covered side down) at the bottom of the tin. Moisten it with Noisette syrup.
3. For wafer crisp insert, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, add the crushed wafers and cereals, together with the melted butter. While the mixture is warm, spread it in a thin layer over the chocolate cake that you’ve placed in the tin.
4. For milk chocolate cremeaux, soak the gelatine in cold water. Prepare a rich cream anglaise: heat the milk with vanilla essence until it almost starts to boil; whisk the egg yolks with sugar till light and creamy; and then gradually add the hot milk. Return the mixture to a pan and cook, stirring, over low heat, until it is thick enough to cover the back of the wooden spoon. Strain through a sieve and, while it is still hot, pour it over the milk chocolate. Set aside for a few minutes, then stir till the chocolate melts. Heat the gelatine over low heat till it dissolves; and then add it to the chocolate mixture. Stir in the chopped hazelnuts. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, then fold in the whipped cream. Transfer it to the tin where you have started to assemble the cake. Cover it with the remaining half of the chocolate cake, moistened with vanilla syrup.
5. For crème brulee insert, preheat the oven to 160C. Line a 20cm square tin. Put the cream in a saucepan with the vanilla bean and the scraped seeds and bring to a boil over medium heat. Put the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and stir to combine. Discard the vanilla bean; pour in the hot cream gradually, while constantly whisking. Strain the mixture, pour it into the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool, and then freeze. When frozen through, place it in the tin where you assemble the cake, on top of the second half of the chocolate cake.
6. For strawberry jelly, line a 20 cm square tin with foil. Soak the gelatine in small amount of cold water. Put 1/3 of the strawberry puree in a saucepan with sugar and stir over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, remove from heat and stir in the gelatine and any soaking liquid. Mix in the remaining puree. Pour in the prepared container and put in the freezer until set. When frozen through, place it on top of crème brulee.
7. For milk chocolate ganache, bring the cream to a boil over medium heat, pour it over the chocolate and set aside for a minute. Stir until the mixture is smooth, then whisk in the butter. Allow to cool, and then spread it over the strawberry jelly. Place the cake in the freezer till ganache sets.
8. For chocolate glaze, soak the gelatine in cold water. Put the remaining water, sugar, glucose, cream and cocoa in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, them mix in the gelatine and any soaking liquid. Add the neutral glaze and blitz with a mixer until combined. Allow to cool completely. Take the cake out of the freezer and remove it from the tin. Pour the glaze over it, and then return it to the freezer till the glaze sets.
9. Remove the cake from the freezer. Use a sharp knife dipped into hot water to trim about 1cm from each side of the cake; and then to cut it into 16 pieces. Refrigerate for a few hours to defrost. Place some chocolate decorations on top of each piece before serving.
1. Start with making the elements that need to be frozen through – the strawberry jelly and the crème brulee.
2. You can store this cake in the freezer for up to 1 month.