When last weekend I opened this blog I started thinking what would be the best “brand-new” item to post. The first two posts are about past baking, and in the future you will see more “retrospective” items, but the little baking-fairy inside my brain doesn’t like to be idle too long, so this weekend was the right time for a new project.
One small disclaimer to start. This dessert contains Pistacchio, not Pistachio, not Pistascio or Pistacho (I have seen so many aberrations in the past!). Pistacchio is an Italian word it should be pronounced as if it was written “Pistakkio”, and this is how will always call it or write it.
To help me in this choice, perfectly in keeping with my OCD, I began by making a list of sweets that sounded interesting and I never made. This dessert, or at least the foundation of it, stood out immediately. I chose pistacchio bavarois because it embodies perfectly all that I love about baking.
It’s varied and never boring. You can make cakes or cookies, tarts or choux pastry, and this is only scraping the surface. You can fill them with fruit, whipped crème, buttercream or million types of crèmes patissières, jams or jellies and I could go on for a little while… Then you can use chocolate and make mousses, ganaches, sauces, fondant, marquise etc…It’s really a never ending story. And it always amazes me how starting from a basic mix of 4-5 ingredients, just by changing their proportions and the way to put them together or cook them, you end up with completely different looking and (tasting!) results. And this dessert is no exception. Apart from the flavouring ingredients I have used a basis of 5 ingredients that went in different combinations in the 5 components: chocolate genoise sponge (in Italy we call it “Pan di Spagna”), pistachio bavarois (or Bavarian cream if you are tired of French word. After all who do you think they are? Is not like they invented patisserie or anything! 🙂 ), hazelnuts dacquoise (a thin and crispy hazelnut meringue), hazelnuts pralines and dark/white chocolate ganache.
It’s challenging. I have learned that if one is brave (or silly, sometimes) enough to go with new recipes that include strange techniques or complex processes, then baking is bound to reward them at some point. I have learned that I shouldn’t get discouraged at the first hurdle, because the great thing about baking is that I can try and try again and with enough practice (and the right recipe!) I will almost always get a great result. Then I can go on and try something a bit more difficult, master it and the look backward and see how much I have improved. I always try to bear in mind, though, that, especially the first time, there’s always a chance to mess something up, even if I follow the recipe step by step. I believe that, apart from a few exceptions, cooking books do not tell you everything that is necessary for a perfect results, they might give you all the right ingredients, in the right amount and proportion, but they might fail to acknowledge some little tricks that, especially in bakery, are essential. So I just practice more and learn from my mistakes. Plus, the more one practices the more one gets to taste what they bake! This dessert is the perfect example of that, never made genoise from scratch nor praline or a bavarois, and probably next time I will do them in a slightly different way. But I hope, as first attempt, it will be appreciated.
It allows you to experiment. It’s true, in baking it’s highly advisable to stick to the recipe and follow it literally. However I think this should apply only to the individual components. When it comes to put them together there should not be limit to one’s imagination. And here’s where the little mad scientist inside of me takes over. There are so many ingredients to play with, so many combinations of techniques, textures and flavours. Although this bavarois is built on the classic and super-tested flavour couple of chocolate and pistachio, I played a bit on the textures of the components. The soft genoise, the creamy bavarois, the crispy dacquoise, the crunchy praline and the chocolate on top to end it, because an end is not a proper end without a bit of chocolate. They are so different but still they complement each other, and not only on the texture level. The use of egg whites in the dacquoise pairs perfectly with the need of egg yolks in the bavarois, avoiding any waste. Those who regularly make meringue and end up throwing away good egg yolks or vice-versa make custard and don’t know what to do with all those egg whites left will understand perfectly how important that is!
It’s very rewarding. To accomplish something relatively complicated gives great satisfaction and when you manage to create something that look beautiful and taste delicious, that’s one great place to be as home baker. But there’s one aspect about baking that I love even more and it’s the fact that baking (especially at home) is very forgiving. You can mess it up big time, with your technique, your execution or decoration, but if the flavours go well together is almost impossible to make a true disaster. For example, like my friend Elaine says, you might have a bad time in the kitchen, let’s say with your chocolate cake recipe; but after all, even if you think you failed completely, when you put together chocolate, eggs, butter and sugar, no matter how ugly it looks, it is still going to taste delicious. Of course provided that you don’t burn everything; that is about the only baking sin from which you will really struggle to repent. I will let you to decide whether I should be regretful or pleased for this.
Recipe as usual follows after the pictures ;).
For the chocolate genoise:
120g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
90g plain flour
25g butter, melted
30g cocoa powder
A pinch of salt
For the dacquoise:
125 g ground almonds
150 g icing sugar
25 g chopped hazelnuts
150 g egg whites (4 medium egg whites)
For the bavarois:
400ml whole milk + 4tbs for dissolving the gelatine
120g pistachio paste 120
7 egg yolks from medium eggs
80g caster sugar
4 tsp of gelatine powder
500 g whipping cream
For the Praline:
120g hazelnuts chopped or whole
150g caster sugar
For the Chocolate decoration:
50gr 70% dark chocolate
50gr white chocolate
Prepare first the genoise sponge. Heat the oven between 200C and 220C. Mix the eggs and the sugar in a metal bowl. Place the bowl on a bain marie and whisk for about 10 minutes until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture starts becoming frothy. Move the eggs and sugar in an electric whisker and mix at maximum speed until obtaining a light foamy and very pale mixture. Meanwhile line a 24cm cake tin on the bottom with baking paper and on the side brush a little melted butter. Mix the dry ingredient and add them to the eggs and sugar by passing them through a sieve. Mix the batter very gently, with movement from the bottom to the top to mix the flour but without losing too much air, the mixture will deflate a bit and lose volume, but you should not lose more than half of the starting volume. When the flour will be almost completely incorporated add gently the melted butter and finish incorporating all the ingredients. Gently move the batter into the cake tin, level homogeneously and place into the oven. Reduce the temperature to 180C and bake for about 25’. Remove from the tin and gently peel the baking paper off. Replace in the same cake tin cleaned and let cool down completely.
Proceed then with the dacquoise. Mix the hazelnuts with half of the icing sugar and mix them at highest speed in a blade food processor. Whisk the egg whites to a soft peak then incorporate slowly the sugar until completely dissolved. Gently fold into the hazelnuts and sugar mixture and spoon into a piping bag. Pipe the mixture onto a baking sheet into a disc that is slightly smaller than the cake tin. Bake in the oven at 150C-170C for 10-15 minutes, or until golden-brown. Set aside to cool.
To make the bavarois heat the milk in a heavy-based saucepan until nearly boiling, then whisk in the pistachio paste. In the meantime whisk the egg yolks in a bowl with the sugar and sprinkle the gelatine over the 4 tbs of milk in a small pot to let it hydrate. When the milk and pistachio are almost boiling (remember to keep stirring every now and then) remove from heat and pour a bit of it in the eggs and sugar mixture, keep stirring and repeat until all the liquid is incorporated. Return the mixture in the pan and heat at a very gentle heat by stirring continuously until the liquid start to thicken slightly. Remove from heat and pour the gelatine mixed with the little milk and stir to until all the gelatine is dissolved. Set aside to cool completely, to speed up the process you can move the mixture in a plastic bowl and place that in a bigger container with some cold water, just be careful to not get the water in you mixture. When the mixture is cooled down completely whip the cream and fold it gently into the pistachio custard.
Spoon half of the bavarois into the tin on top of the chocolate genoise. Place the dacquois disc on top, then spoon over the remaining mousse. Place in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
In the meantime prepare the praline and the chocolate decoration. For the praline toast the hazelnuts in a oven or in a pan and place on a tray over a layer of baking paper. Then prepare the caramel by melting the sugar, be careful to not overheat or get a too dark colour otherwise the caramel will burn. Caramel should have a nice dark golden colour and just a hint of bitterness. When the caramel is ready pour it on top of the hazelnuts. When the caramel has cooled down and turned hard and brittle, brake it into pieces and reduce into small grains in a food processor. If you have any left after the decoration it can be stored in a tight container at room temperature for several weeks. Melt the two chocolates in two pots with half of the cream each. You can use the classic bain marie or the quicker and easier microwave, which I think it is handier for small amount of chocolate. Heat in the microwave only for 10 second every time and mixing after every round of heating and until all the chocolate is dissolved.
Take the bavarois from the fridge, pass a sharp knife around the edges of the tin to release the bavarois and use the chocolates and the praline for decoration to your taste.