The Nobleman’s Dessert Box
Gale O’Malley’s desserts are never simple, but the stunning presentations are worth the effort. For his Dessert Box he nestles a shiny Chinese Hat and sorbets in a lacquer box, then provides a lid of decorated chocolate. The mounds of chestnut pastry cream and ganache are a treat, even without the box. Start this dessert by selecting your boxes carefully; the lids will be made to match. Even if you don’t plan to make this for dinner next week, it is interesting to read how the professional pastry chef creates such a masterpiece.
- Dessert Box Lid
- White Chocolate - 2 oz, chopped
- Bittersweet Chocolate - 4 oz, chopped
- Pastillage flowers - 12 (alt. piped flowers) - optional)
- Mandarin Orange Sauce
- Mandarin orange slices - 1/2 cup (alt. 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier)
- Creme anglaise - 1 cup
- Chinese Hats - 4
- Mango sorbet - 4 small scoops
- Pineapple sorbet - 4 small scoops
- Lilikoi - 4 small scoops (alt. orange sorbet)
- Pastillage fansa - 4
- Raspberries - 12 fresh
- Mint - 4 fresh sprigs
To make the lids: Select four 6-inch-by-1-1/2-inch-deep lacquer boxes to hold the desserts. Lay a piece of heavy flexible plastic on a large baking sheet. In a double boiler over simmering water, melt the white chocolate and heat it to 100 F. Let it cool to 90 F. Pour the chocolate out on the plastic, spreading it thin. Using a wood-graining tool (available at home painting centers), “walk” the tool across the chocolate, spreading it into a wood-grain pattern. Place the plastic in the refrigerator to chill and set the chocolate.
In a double boiler over simmering water, melt the bittersweet chocolate and heat it to 100 F. Let it cool to 90 F. Remove the chocolate from the refrigerator. Pour the dark chocolate at one end of the wood-grain pattern. With a long thin spatula, quickly spread the dark chocolate in a strip across the wood-grain design, being careful not to disturb the design. Spread more dark chocolate beside the first strip, continuing until you have a piece of chocolate large enough to make 4 lids for the boxes. Build up the chocolate until it is slightly thicker than 1/8 inch. Return to the refrigerator to chill and set. Using the box as a pattern, outline four box lids on the chocolate. With a sharp knife, cut out the shape of the box lids. Pull away the extra chocolate from around the lids. Place a second piece of plastic over the cut-out lids. Holding the two plastic pieces together with your hands, flip them over. Peel the plastic from the lids, revealing the wood-grain design. If using the pastillage flowers, spoon or pipe three dots of warm chocolate on each lid and press a flower on each. (Icing flowers may also be used, piped directly on the lids.) Place the lids in the freezer.
Put the leftover chocolate back in a double boiler and remelt over barely simmering water. Place in a pastry bag fitted with a fine tip and pipe 3 large free-form closed loops in the bottom of each of the lacquer boxes. Place in the freezer to set.
To make the sauce: Finely dice the mandarin orange slices and stir into the creme anglaise. Set aside. Or, add the Grand Marnier to the creme anglaise and stir until smooth. Set aside.
To serve: Remove the lacquer boxes from the freezer. Using a spoon, carefully fill in the chocolate loops with orange sauce. Place one Chinese Hat in one end of each lacquer box. Place 1 small scoop of each sorbet to one side of the center of the boxes. Affix the pastillage fans if using, to the sorbets, leaning them against the sides of the boxes. Scatter raspberries in the boxes and garnish with mint sprigs.
To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line the bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Warm a deep bowl: fill the bowl with warm water, empty it, and dry thoroughly. In the warmed bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until the mixture thickens and a ribbon forms when a spoonful is drizzled on the surface. Fold the cocoa powder into the egg yolk mixture. Gradually fold the salt and two thirds of the flour into the egg yolk mixture. Blend a large spoonful of the mixture into the butter, then gently fold the butter and the remaining one third of the flour into the mixture. Pour into the prepared pans and bake 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the pan cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack. You will have two 1/2-inch-thick cakes.
To make the pastry cream: In a heavy medium pan, scald the milk over medium heat, add the sugar, and whisk gently until the sugar dissolves. In a medium bowl, mix the eggs, corn starch, flour, sugar, and the chestnut puree together. The mixture will be gray in color. Pour one half of the milk mixture slowly into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Place the remaining milk mixture over medium heat and stir the egg mixture into it. Heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the rum. Place the pan in a bowl of ice water and let cool, stirring occasionally. When the pastry cream is thoroughly chilled, beat the heavy cream in a deep bowl until soft peaks form. Fold a large spoonful of the mixture into the pastry cream to lighten it. Gently fold the remaining whipped cream into the pastry cream. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
To make the ganache: In a heavy pan, bring the cream to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and add the chocolate. Let stand for 30 seconds, then gently stir to blend. Let cool completely; the ganache will stiffen.
To assemble: Place the sponge cake circles on a work surface and cut each into four 4-inch circles (reserve leftover pieces for other uses). Spread 4 circles of cake with a thin layer of raspberry jam and a thin layer of ganache. Top each with a second circle of cake. Place in the freezer to set, 2 to 3 hours.
In a double boiler over barely simmering water, gently warm the ganache to pouring consistency. Remove the cakes from the freezer and place them on a wire rack. Mound the chestnut pastry cream into a smooth cone on top of each cake stack. Set the rack over a baking pan lined with waxed paper and pour the ganache over the cones to completely cover. Chop one ounce of chocolate very fine and press the pieces around the bottoms of the Chinese Hats. Place in the refrigerator until the ganache has set, 2 to 3 hours.
Chop the remaining 2 ounces of chocolate. In a double boiler over barely simmering water, melt the chocolate. Put the chocolate in a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip, or in a sturdy plastic bag. If using a plastic bag, make a tiny snip in one corner. Pipe the chocolate in narrow loops from the center of each cone down over the sides. Place a dot of warm chocolate on the peak and press a candied violet into the chocolate. Refrigerate until firm, about 5 minutes.