Friday, May 27, 2011

chocolate marquise with hazelnut garnishes

Now this is why I joined the Daring Bakers.

I was eagerly awaiting news on the challenge on the first day of the month, and after I finished reading it that afternoon, I just shook my head. So much to take in. And I read it again. Then I had to research it, because I couldn't wrap my mind around this dessert.

The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle. The girls flavored their chocolate marquise with cayenne, tequila and black pepper, nestled it into a torched meringue nest, drizzled on a tequila caramel and sprinkled on some cayenne almonds and cacao nibs. Wow!

Sounded great, I mean what's not to love: some kind of frozen chocolate concoction on top of a toasted meringue, with some crispy garnishes and a sauce... that sounds good to me! Although we were free to play around with the flavorings, we had to make the chocolate marquise and the meringue. The garnishes were optional.

I knew right away that I was going to have to change the flavoring if anybody but me was going to eat this dessert. The flavor combo the girls picked sounds interesting, and I would gladly taste it, but I'm not going to make 18+ servings of a spicy/boozy chocolate dessert that people are going to be afraid to try. The people I feed are not very adventurous eaters.

So here goes the possibilities I considered:
  • Chocolate and Coffee Marquise, Toasted Meringue, Espresso Caramel, Crushed Chocolate covered Coffee Beans
  • Chocolate Marquise, Toasted Meringue, Blackberry/Rasperry coulis, fresh fruit
  • Chocolate Marquise, Toasted Meringue, Dulce de Leche drizzle, Toasted Graham Cracker bits
I finally went with a Chocolate Marquise resting on a cloud of toasted hazelnut flavored Meringue sitting on a schmear of Nutella, sprinkled with candied hazelnuts and drizzled with Frangelico caramel.

Chocolate Marquise

Servings: 18 2"x2" cubes

Chocolate Base
12 oz ( 1½ cups) bittersweet chocolate (about 70% cocoa), chopped finely
1½ cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1 oz (2 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened

Place the chocolate in a small mixing bowl.

In a double-boiler, warm the cream until it is hot to the touch (but is not boiling). Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate.
Allow it to sit for a minute or two before stirring. Stir until the chocolate is melted completely and is smooth throughout.
Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
Set aside until cooled to room temperature. Do not refrigerate, as the base needs to be soft when added to the marquise mixture. If you make it the day before, you may need to warm it slightly. Whisk it until it is smooth again before using it in the marquise recipe.

I made this component first, because I could let it cool while making the egg mixture. It's basically a ganache, so pretty easy to make. I was worried because mine had little lumps of cocoa that I couldn't fully incorporate to get my chocolate base smooth, but it didn't affect the final result of the dish. I let it sit on the counter for a couple of hours, and had to warm it briefly in the microwave before I could use it. (Maybe that took care of my cocoa problem?) I used half power for about 30 seconds, so I wouldn't burn it. I used a mixture of 70% chocolate, and 72 % chocolate, and it was delicious, with a strong chocolate taste.


11 large egg yolks at room temperature
4 large whole eggs
2/3 cup ( 4 oz.) sugar
1/3 cup water
2 cups (16 fluid oz./ 500 ml.) heavy cream

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg yolks and whole eggs. Whip on high speed until very thick and pale, about 10 - 15 minutes.

When the eggs are getting close to finishing, make a sugar syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring the syrup to a boil and then cook to softball stage (235F/115C).

With the mixer running on low speed, drizzle the sugar syrup into the fluffy eggs, trying to hit that magic spot between the mixing bowl and the whisk.

When all of the syrup has been added (do it fairly quickly), turn the mixer back on high and whip until the bowl is cool to the touch. This will take at least 10 minutes.

In a separate mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Set aside.

Prepare two square 8-inch pans by lining them with parchment paper. I used one 8-inch square, and one loaf pan.

When the egg mixture has cooled, add the chocolate base to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Try to get it as consistent as possible without losing all of the air you've whipped into the eggs. I poured the chocolate base into the eggs while the stand mixer was running on low speed.

Fold 1/3 of the reserved whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to loosen it, and then fold in the remaining whipped cream.

Pour into the prepared pans and cover with plastic wrap (directly touching the mixture so it doesn't allow in any air).

Freeze until very firm, at least 2 - 4 hours (preferably 6 – 8 hours).

Now this was the main part of making the marquise. It's pretty straightforward if you follow the steps in order. My simple syrup was a bit hotter than soft ball stage ( I could hear lazy bubbles pop at the surface while I was busy taking pictures, and removed it from the heat promptly when my thermometer hit 235. I know it would of climbed much higher than that, based on the hard as rock sugar I had to scrub off surfaces where it had dripped.) I don't think it affected the final product. Also, when I added the syrup to the eggs, the mixture didn't get very hot, and it didn't take 10 minutes to cool back down.

After reading a suggestion by a Daring Baker in the private forums, in addition to the square pan and the loaf pan, I used 3 baby food cubes, to see if they could be unmolded easily instead of cut into cubes. - They can.

While the marquise was in the freezer, I worked on the garnishes.

Frangelico Caramel

Servings: Makes about 1 cup of caramel

1 cup (8 oz.) sugar
1/2 cup (4 fluid oz./ 120 ml.) water
1 cup (8 fluid oz./ 240 ml.) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Frangelico

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water on medium-high heat. Boil until the water completely evaporates and the sugar caramelizes to a dark mahogany color.

Working quickly, add the cream to the darkened caramel. It will bubble and pop vigorously, so add only as much cream as you can without overflowing the pot.

Return the pot to the stove on low heat and whisk gently to break up any hardened sugar. Add any remaining cream and continue stirring. Gradually, the hard sugar will dissolve and the caramel sauce will continue to darken. When the caramel has darkened to the point you want it, remove it from the heat. Add the salt and Frangelico and stir to combine. Set aside until ready to serve.

This caramel is sooooo good. I was a good girl and had the leftovers with some granny smith apples, but my parents had some with ice cream and raved about it. (Yeah, I gave half my batch away, so I wouldn't be tempted to drink the stuff!) Absolutely delicious. And very easy to make. Just make sure to use a large enough pot, and there won't be any problems. I was expecting a thicker caramel, but it's quite thin, even when chilled for a few hours. Perfect for drizzling or dipping.

Caramel-Dipped Hazelnuts
recipe source: Martha Stewart
24 hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup water

Gently insert pointed end of a long wooden skewer into the side of each hazelnut. Place a cutting board along the edge of a countertop; place newspaper on the floor, directly under cutting board.

Prepare an ice-water bath. Heat sugar and the water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and syrup is clear. Stop stirring; cook until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals from forming. Continue to boil, gently swirling occasionally, until medium amber. Plunge pan into ice bath to stop the cooking; let stand until thickened, about 10 minutes. (To test: Dip a skewer in caramel and lift a few inches; if a thick drip slowly forms and holds a string, the caramel is ready.)

Dip a skewered hazelnut into caramel, letting excess drip back into pan. When dripping syrup becomes a thin string, secure opposite end of skewer under cutting board. Repeat with remaining hazelnuts. (If caramel hardens before all hazelnuts have been dipped, rewarm it over low heat.) Let stand until caramel string has hardened, about 5 minutes; break each string to desired length. Carefully remove skewers. Candied hazelnuts should be used the same day; store, uncovered, at room temperature until ready to serve cupcakes.

Oh how I messed up this component! Sure, it looks great, but one lick of the caramel, and you'll know that I badly burnt it. See, Martha says to prepare an ice bath to stop the cooking. And I was lazy, so I just poured the caramel in a cold bowl, thinking it wouldn't be in the hot pan, and wouldn't keep cooking. Right. In the picture below, the light caramel is the color it was when I stopped cooking it. The dark caramel is the color it was, 10 minutes after I poured it into a bowl to let it "cool".

Even if it was burnt, I was still able to dip the hazelnuts so I didn't bother redoing the caramel. I was doing it more for fun and plating than anything else anyway. I was also happy to see that the dripping caramel had a nice spun sugar thing going on. I've been really curious about spun sugar, and this little experiment makes me want to try it even more now that I see it's really not that complicated, if it can happen "by mistake".

Torched Meringue

Servings: This recipe is half of the original (original yield: 4 - 5 cups) to make enough meringue servings for 1 x 8” square pan of the frozen chocolate marquise.

5 large egg whites
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp (6 oz.) sugar
Splash of apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp Frangelico

Combine the egg whites, sugar and vinegar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using your (clean, washed) hand, reach in the bowl and stir the three together, making sure the sugar is moistened evenly by the egg whites and they make a homogeneous liquid.

Over a saucepan of simmering water, warm the egg white mixture. Use one hand to stir the mixture continuously, feeling for grains of sugar in the egg whites. As the liquid heats up, the sugar will slowly dissolve and the egg whites will thicken. This step is complete when you don't feel any more sugar crystals in the liquid and it is uniformly warm, nearly hot.

Remove the mixing bowl from the saucepan and return it to the stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Whisk until you reach soft peaks. In the last 10 seconds of mixing, add the frangelico to the meringue and mix thoroughly.

When you're ready to plate the dessert, spoon the meringue onto a plate (or use a piping bag) and use a blowtorch to broil.

My last step before plating was to make the meringue. I think I might have used that method once to make buttercream frosting, but still, swirling egg whites and sugar with your hands is pretty... gross. It does make a beautiful meringue though. I just spooned some onto a plate, and used my blowtorch to lightly toast it.


Dutch process cocoa powder
Torched meringue
Frangelico Caramel
Candied Hazelnuts
Caramel Dipped Hazelnuts

When you're ready to plate, remove the marquise from the freezer at least 15 minutes before serving. While it's still hard, remove it from the pan by pulling on the parchment 'handles' or by flipping it over onto another piece of parchment.

Cut it into cubes and roll the cubes in cocoa powder. Or sift cocoa powder over the cubes.

Plate with the torched meringue and drizzled hazelnut sauce, and toss candied hazelnuts around for garnish. You want to handle the cubes as little as possible because they get messy quickly and are difficult to move. However, you want to wait to serve them until they've softened completely. The soft pillows of chocolate are what make this dessert so unusual and when combined with the other elements.

I've had the opportunity to serve (and eat) this dessert a few times since I made it earlier this month. First my daughter and I shared the serving I had plated to photograph. We we both eating as fast as we could so the other wouldn't eat it all. We fought over the last bite. It was that good. I gave my mother the other "pratice" serving, with untoasted meringue and marquise without cocoa, and all I could get out of her were yumm, mmmm, um... yum.

I served it again for a mother's day dinner for my in-laws. I used the leftover meringue that I had frozen, and unfortunately, the meringue wept badly. It still tasted very good, and toasted beautifully, but I know for next time to make it fresh. Now my mother in law is a very classy lady, but that didn't keep her from scraping her plate. Her reaction was genuine. She loved this dessert.

My parents, my brother and his wife also had some the next day for mother's day. The biggest surprise was my meringue hating, mousse fearing husband. He's had this dessert twice so far, and ate it all.

I've been sneaking squares of the marquise from the freezer, eating it plain, or with caramel, or with whipped cream or with ice cream... It's freaking awesome. Much better when fully soft and not half frozen, but I'm not always that patient.

I'm really glad it makes a lot, and that you can store it for up to 6 months in the freezer. I'll be serving it again and again. And then, I'll be making it again. Although the entire dessert had many components and is time consuming, it's not difficult. And the Daring Bakers had many great plating ideas that I will be stealing. Head over to the Daring Kitchen and have a look at all the wonderful creations!


  1. Your completed challenge photo was what convinced me to take up the challenge! I love your plating and photo! And now that I read your post I love the flavours you used. I used the original flavours and although pleased with that I think I would prefer more conventional flavours like yours! YUM! Thanks for your kind comments!

    your pictures and the whole dessert look like they came off the menu if some fancy restaurant!
    You did a brilliant job and I will have to try out thoe caramel nuts soon

  3. WOW! Je suis estomaquer de voir ta créativitée et tes talents. Tes photos son magnifique, nous pouvont savourer tes chef-d'oeuvres. Merci de partager avec nous. Continue de nous émerveiller.

  4. Your marquise is inspiring! You are very talented. This dessert looks fancy even in the simplest presentation, but yours looks professional, like the ones in the best cookbooks. Congrats!

  5. Stunning! I have to remember the trick for the candied hazelnuts, they are too beautiful not to try my hand at making my own :D

  6. Professional presentation and creative variations that you introduced. I'll definitely try the caramel hazelnuts. :)

  7. Absolutely stunning! I still cannot get over how creative you were with the hazelnuts and caramel. Awe inspiring!

  8. We've been eating our leftovers with whipped cream and/or caramel or just plain, too - SO yummy. Yours looks and sounds OUTSTANDING. Love the hazelnut twist on the recipe, and your candied hazelnuts are simply awesome. You really went all out, and you did an amazing job on this challenge.

  9. j'ai adoré ton dessert et sa présentation pleine de classe et d'élégance!! j'ai aussi appris avec toi à faire les noisette caramélisées! merci pour ce partage!! bises!

  10. Wow, this look awesome and I love the hazlenuts!

  11. Beautiful presentation! I love the Martha Stewart hazelnuts. I still have that issue with that recipe earmarked. It sounds like you had a lot of fun this month. Best, Sandie

  12. Beautiful job on this challenge! Your candied hazelnuts look fabulous - "mistake" carame and all! Thank you for sharing your flavor considerations - they give me something to think about should I make this again...! Great work!

  13. Beautiful!!, your marquise is so perfect, I love the candied hazelnuts, I am going to try them soon.

  14. WOW, this truly is a piece of art. I love everything you did with this challenge, your plating is so creative and your marquise looks delicious. :)

  15. Great plating and photography! I love the caramelized hazelnuts and your spin on the flavours sounds delicious!

  16. WOW we can see how inspired you were! Your interpretation of the challenge is stunning! The plating is out of this world! Congrats on an extremely successful challenge!

    I know I used an exclamation point at the end of each sentence, and I meant every one of them :)

  17. Wow again great job and enjoyed the blog!!! I'm posting mine a little late but better late then never! good job!

  18. I am so glad to see you here... I just joined too! Your photos are post are wonderful as usual :) See you at Sunday Morning Baked!

  19. Such beautiful plating! Sorry your caramel didn't taste so good... it sure looks pretty though! Awesome job

  20. Gorgeous photos and technique on the nuts - i'll definitely keep that process in mind for the future! Beautiful plating too - restaurant quality :)

  21. Your plating is my favorite, hands-down! Not only is it gorgeous, it's so creative with the brush strokes and those hazelnuts. I love how they became "Bourbonnatrix hazelnuts" in the challenge thread! The flavors sound amazing, too! Looking forward to see what you do with future challenges. :)

  22. LOVE the plating--just gorgeous . . . and the flavors are inspired as well.
    I agree with Jessica . . . favorite plating so far.

  23. Beautifully done! The coated hazelnuts are such a nice touch.

  24. Your plating was so gorgeous, that it inspired me to get off my butt and make this dessert! Love those hazelnuts, and will have to try them when the humidity goes away around here. October, maybe? I often make spun sugar by mistake too.
    Love your flavour combination and the clever way you got Nutella on the plate. Can't wait to see what next month brings us!

  25. What a gorgeous plate of chocolate marquise! I love all of your garnishes and decorations, plus the marquise itself looks amazingly yummy. Great job on this challenge!

  26. This is pure chocolate and hazelnut heaven! Hehe I've also been enjoying the remaining portions of marquise. Absolutely loved it.

  27. Hats off, you really super-duper aced this challenge. Your plating skills are fantastic! I love the challenge too, and have been sneaking bits of chocolate mousse from the freezer when no one's looking :)

  28. When I saw your photo on the forum, I was literally blown away. I think you inspired a lot of people to up the ante on the presentation of this dessert! I love that you used Nutella - can't really go wrong there. Congratulations on a superb execution of this challenge!

  29. Beautiful pictures, and such an inspiration, yours was one of my favourites this month.:)

  30. Oh WOW!! Looks amazing and those hazelnuts are AWESOME!


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