I wish I were cool enough to pick a random word and use that as the title of my new flavor combination. It can’t be something too mundane, it probably shouldn’t be in English, and it has to be vague enough that allows for it to represent several flavors and an entirely new idea of dessert.
But alas, I am a relatively boring person who lacks creativity in the naming department. So this little “cakelette” or small cake is just named for the main flavors it carries–dark chocolate and jasmine. It also features raspberry and tonka seed, though those are a bit more subtle, and are present to enhance and deepen the flavors of chocolate and jasmine in the rest of the dessert.
The idea for this dessert came to me while I was on the train from Agde to Paris last weekend as I was traveling to London. Though I should have been studying French, I was instead doodling in my sketchbook, thinking up new ideas and jotting down thoughts I’ve had on previous desserts.
Chef introduced me to Tonka Beans about a week ago–I had never even known of their existence before that–and now I am completely obsessed. I’m not kidding. I think they might be the most amazing thing that has ever come in bean form.
Simultaneously to daydreaming about my new favorite ingredient, I was thinking about how my mom had promised to bring me some good quality Jasmine tea from back home, and as I pondered what might pair well with tonka besides chocolate, I thought, why not pair my favorite new spice with my favorite tea?
As always seems to happen in my minuscule kitchen here in Agde, when I actually set about to make the recipe I had to revert to Plan C.
This time it was because I couldn’t manage to find baking powder or baking soda in any of the three grocery stores I visited (and just so you know, I’m pretty sure this is my own fault, and I just don’t know what or where to look in French grocery stores. I’m sure baking powder exists–maybe in every single store I went to).
So instead of using Miette’s Hot Milk Cake as a base like I wanted to, I searched online until I found a doable sponge cake recipe.
This might be a good time to tell you that at this point I had used my oven only once and it was for bread pudding (which you really can’t screw up), and I only have one 9″ pan, two bowls, and one whisk in my apartment as far as baking tools go. No kitchenaid, no 6″ pans, no spatula, no measuring cups or spoons….not much of anything. So in addition to going with Plan C for my recipe–that wasn’t even based off of a real recipe anyway–I was also about to do everything by hand.
Why on earth did I decide to make a sponge cake?! I have the upper body strength of a two-year-old!
But I did it. I whisked my four egg whites BY HAND with a small whisk for…well, you don’t need to know how long it took me to get the egg whites to stiff peaks. Lets just say, please use a kitchenaid or handheld mixer if you try this recipe at home.
I incorporated the sponge cake by steeping the milk in jasmine tea for several minutes, and also adding about a tablespoon of crushed/ground jasmine tea leaves for extra flavor and color into the batter. I then decided that wasn’t enough, so I steeped some heavy cream with jasmine tea to make a whipped cream with, and I also simmered some frozen raspberries with some jasmine tea leaves, water, sugar and lemon zest in order to add both extra flavor and color to the dish.
The chocolate mousse was basically the only thing that went as planned, and it is amazingly delicious. I could eat it as a meal. But I won’t. Probably.
I grated up one tonka bean into some milk and simmered that for a few minutes to let the flavor really infuse into the milk before pouring it over 70% dark chocolate to make a ganache, and then whipping that (again, by hand) with some heavy cream in order to make the ganache into a mousse.
This dessert could probably be made as a regular sized layer cake, but I like the idea of having individual portions and being able to readily see all of the components and flavors that are about to be eaten. I’m not always a fan of “naked” cakes when they are on a larger scale, but I think it works when the cakes are miniaturized.
In the end (considering how many things went strangely and especially since I made this around 10pm on a Saturday night while I was half exhausted and half extremely caffeinated from drinking an entire pot of jasmine tea by myself) everything turned out quite well. Does it look like the picture I originally sketched out? No. Would it if I were back in my own kitchen in the US and had access to all the tools and ingredients I wanted in the first place? I’d like to think the answer is yes.
The main goal of this recipe was to practice some things I’ve learned in the kitchen and to continue to learn more and to push my own boundaries, so at least in that sense it was 100% successful.
After sharing these cakelettes with friends from my program here at Gastronomicom (and thus, picking apart my methods and how it could be done differently for nearly an hour) I discovered a few things that I think I would do differently next time. However, it was overall very well received by everyone–and it was a fairly good panel of age, gender and cultural backgrounds so I think you can trust our collective opinion!
Jasmine Sponge Cake Recipe
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons jasmine tea + 2 teaspoons jasmine tea crushed/powdered
2 tablespoons oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 egg whites at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
1) In a small bowl, heat the heavy cream in the microwave then add the tea and set aside for 10 minutes.
2) In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, strained cream, oil, vanilla, and 2 teaspoons of crushed jasmine. Whisk in the flour. Set aside.
3) In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add in the salt and sugar, and continue to whisk until stiff peaks form. If you are doing this by hand like I did…good luck to you.
4) Meanwhile, heat your oven to 150 degrees Celsius, and grease and flour a baking pan–I used a 9″ circle pan because that was my only option.
5) Whisk about 1/4 of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture to lighten the egg yolks, then whisk in about half of the remaining whites carefully. Finish by whisking in the remaining egg whites, then pour into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes.
6) Remove from the oven, turn out of the pan, and cool completely on a wire rack before covering with plastic wrap and putting in the refrigerator.
**For this recipe, I cut the cake into two layers, then used a circle cutter to cut 4″ circles out of the cake–and used three circles per portion.
Dark Chocolate Tonka Whipped Ganache
2 cups heavy cream, separated
1 tablespoon brown rice syrup
1 tonka bean, grated completely
8 oz 70% dark chocolate, chopped
1) In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm 1 cup of heavy cream, the brown rice syrup and the grated tonka bean. Make sure the cream is hot but NOT at a boil.
2) Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl and pour the hot cream over the top of it. Whisk slowly but constantly until all of the chocolate has melted and a ganache has formed. Set the bowl aside for about 10 minutes, allowing the ganache to cool down closer to room temperature.
3) Pour the remaining one cup of heavy cream into the ganache and whisk vigorously until the ganache lightens and forms soft peaks.
**I covered the ganache with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight before using it, but I think it would be fine to use after letting it chill for even just 30 minutes or so.
Raspberry Jasmine Jam
1-2 cups frozen raspberries
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons jasmine tea
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon gelatin powder, softened in 1 tablespoon of water
1) Place the frozen raspberries, water, tea, zest and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir the mixture and mash the raspberries to help the mixture break down and form a sauce.
2) Once the mixture comes to a simmer, turn off the heat and strain the mixture through a fine sieve to remove both the tea and the seeds.
3) Place the sauce back in the pan and place over medium heat. Add in the gelatin and heat, stirring constantly, until it heats just to a simmer. Transfer the liquid to a plastic bag or container and keep it in the refrigerator until ready to use.
**If you would like to pour or spread the jam more like a sauce for your plating, heat up a few tablespoons in the microwave just when you are ready to use. Otherwise just break up the jam with your fingers or a fork in order to get a pliable jelly consistency.
Jasmine Scented Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons jasmine tea
1 tablespoon sugar
1) Heat the heavy cream in the microwave or in a small saucepan until hot but not simmering. Add the jasmine tea and let it steep for about 10 minutes.
2) Strain the cream into a container, cover and refrigerate overnight or until completely cold.
3) When you are ready to use the whipped cream, transfer the scented cream to a bowl and whisk until frothy. Add in the sugar and continue whisking until you have at least soft peaks. Continue whisking until you have reached the consistency you are looking for (or, as in my case, your arm gets tired and you want to be done whisking).