Spectacular swirls and sheets of hardened sugar, like tinted glass, rise from dessert plates around a layered dessert made of chocolate biscotti, two kinds of ganache, and chocolate mousse. A scoop of chocolate-cherry sorbet in a lacy sugar cup completes the plate. The sugar decorations, while outstanding, are one of the more difficult parts of the dish; if you’d like to keep it simple, prepare only the layered dessert itself. If you’re making the sorbet, start early; it takes at more than a day to make.
- Chocolate-Cherry Sorbet
- Water - 1/2 cup
- Cacao beans - 2 ounces, finely ground
- Sugar - 1/4 cup
- Fresh cherries - 4 ounces, pitted and sliced in half
- Chocolate Biscotti
- Egg Whites - 8
- Sugar - 3/4 cup
- Caribbean 75% chocolate - 9 ounces, chopped
- Unsalted Butter - 1/4 pound (1 stick)
- Egg Yolks - 4
- Cacao beans - 3-1/2 ounces, roasted, crushed
- Cream Base
- Milk - 1/2 cup
- Pinch of salt
- Egg Yolks - 2
- Sugar - 1 teaspoon
- Heavy (whipping) cream - 1-1/4 cups
- 75% chocolate - 8 ounces, chopped
- Ginger Ganache
- 75% chocolate, - 3 ounces, chopped
- Cream base (above) - 5-1/4 ounces
- Sugar - 1 tablespoon
- Gingerroot - 3/4 ounce, minced
- Chocolate-Raspberry Mousse
- Fresh Raspberries - 4 ounces
- Sugar - 1 tablespoon
- Water - 1 tablespoon
- Bittersweet Chocolate - 4 ounces, chopped
- Heavy (whipping) cream - 6 ounces, beaten to firm peaks
- Sugar Decorations
- Sugar - hot water
- Hot Water - 1 cup
- Cream of Tartar - 1/4 teaspoon
To make the sorbet: Combine the water, cacao beans, and sugar in a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 5 hours to create an infusion. Set aside off the heat and let infuse for 24 hours, then strain through a fine-meshed sieve lined with a coffee filter. Put the cherries in a saucepan and add 2 tablespoons of water. Simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, or until the cherries lose their shape; add a little water during the cooking time if necessary. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Stir the cherry juice (coulis) into the chocolate infusion. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Pack into a freezer container, seal, and freeze until ready to use.
To make the biscotti: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat the egg whites until foamy. Continue beating on high speed, gradually adding the sugar. Beat to firm peaks. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water. Stir in the butter. The mixture should be 88 F; warm or cool to this temperature. Rapidly stir in the egg yolks with a whisk. Fold the chocolate mixture into the beaten egg whites in three additions, being careful to preserve the volume of the mixture. Fold in the crushed cacao beans. Spread the mixture about 1/4-inch-thick on the prepared baking sheet and bake 10 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside to cool.
To make the cream base: Put the milk and a pinch of salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Combine the egg yolk and sugar. Take the milk off the heat and whisk in the egg-sugar mixture. Return the mixture to the heat and cook, stirring gently, until it reaches 175 F; the mixture will thicken slightly. Remove from heat and let cool; press plastic wrap on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
To make the plain ganache: Bring the cream to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate. Continue stirring until the mixture is smooth. Set aside.
To make the ginger ganache: Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water and heat to 111 F. Remove from heat and stir in the cream base with a whisk. Squeeze the juice from the minced gingerroot into the sugar in a small bowl, then stir the mixture into the ganache until the sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside.
To prepare the mousse: Put the raspberries, sugar, and water in a heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Puree the berries, then pass through a fine-meshed sieve. Discard the solids; reserve the juice (coulis). Heat the chocolate to 111 F in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water. Stir in the raspberry coulis. Let cool, then gently fold a large spoonful of whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Gently fold the chocolate mixture into the remaining cream in three additions, being careful to preserve the volume. Chill.
To assemble the desserts: Cut the biscotti with a rotary pasta or pizza cutter into sixteen 2-inch squares. Place a square mold on a baking sheet. Press a piece of biscotti into the bottom. Place a layer of the plain ganache, then press another square of biscotti over it. Top with a layer of the ginger ganache, then top with a layer of mousse. Smooth with the back of a knife. Repeat to make 8 desserts. Chill at least 4 hours in the refrigerator. Warm the molds by wrapping a hot towel around them, one at a time, until they release the dessert, then lifting. Smooth the sides if necessary, letting the layers show. Chill until ready to use.
To make the spun sugar decorations: A balloon whisk which has had the wires cut off at the curve to leave many straight, equal-length wires attached to the handle is a useful tool for making spun sugar; if you wish, prepare such a whisk before starting the recipe.
In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, hot water, and cream of tartar. Insert a candy thermometer into the syrup and heat until the mixture reaches 310°F, or it just begins to turn an amber color. Turn off the heat and let the sugar cool for a few minutes.
Spray 3 heavy baking sheets with vegetable spray, then wipe the baking sheets with a paper towel to remove excess. Very lightly oil the outsides of 8 small bowls or cups (without handles) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place the bowls or cups, inverted, on the sheet. Bring the pan with the sugar syrup over to your work area.
Dip into the hot sugar mixture with the cut-off whisk or a fork and drizzle lines of sugar over an inverted bowl or cup; dip again and criss-cross with more lines, leaving the design lacy. Set aside to cool.
Tint the hot sugar mixture pale green with food coloring. Working quickly with a small spoon, dip into the hot sugar and drizzle a curving trace of hot sugar over the baking sheet, drawing out strands about 10 inches. The syrup will begin hardening almost immediately. Make 16 long swirled strands, using two of the oiled sheets; set aside to cool. Whisk the sugar mixture until bubbles form. Spoon 8 free-form pools of bubbly sugar mixture on the final oiled sheet and set aside to cool.
When the sugar items have cooled, lift them from the bowls or cups and from the pans; set aside in a dry, cool place.
To serve: Place a tiered dessert on each chilled individual dessert plates. Using a small kitchen torch, heat the thickest end of a sugar swirl until molten, then stand it on a plate, holding it until it cools enough to stand on its own. Place two of these swirls close together on each plate. Heat one edge of a piece of bubbly free-form sugar and stand it on edge on a plate, again holding until it stands on its own. Place a sugar basket on each plate and fill each with a scoop of chocolate-cherry sorbet. The chef suggests serving this dessert with small cups of espresso.