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. (Recipe HERE.)
This dessert has four components to it -- the chocolate marquise, the caramel sauce, the spiced/candied nuts and the meringue. I made each of the ingredients on a different day.
The chocolate marquise is actually a frozen mousse. But when it's time to plate and serve the dessert, the frozen marquise is cut into serving sizes and rolled in powdered Dutch cocoa. After placing the frozen, dusted marquise on top of the meringue, drizzling with caramel sauce and decorating with a few spiced nuts, the dessert is left out so that the frozen marquise can thaw. It turns into a soft, creamy mouse, but holds its shape.
The caramel sauce was supposed to be flavored with tequila, but I omitted that and added extra vanilla.
And now for my "true confessions." It took me three tries to succeed in preparing the spiced nuts. The original recipe called for almonds, but I opted for pecans.
Attempt #1 went into the trash after the nuts and the coating burned to a puffy black mass in far less time than the recipe called for. I decided that the problem occurred because I left too much of the sticky batter on the nuts.
No problem! For attempt #2 I drained the nuts after dipping them in the egg white/sugar/spice combination, and kept them well-separated from each other. I also lowered the oven temperature. They looked perfect as I placed the pan into the oven. As they began to roast, I started putting away the ingredients -- sugar, eggs, nutmeg, salt, and . . . WHAT? CHINESE FIVE SPICE!!!??? That was supposed to be CINNAMON! I knew better than to taste the nuts coated with this bizarre combination, so batch #2 promptly joined batch #1 in the trash. (Do you know how much pecans cost?!)
I didn't have it in me to try batch #3 that same day, so waited until the weekend. I even pulled a new recipe from the internet, and prepared my few remaining pecans for roasting in the oven. They turned out beautiful and delicious. At last. I guess it's true, what they say about the third try being a charm.
The meringue was made a bit differently from any I've made before. The egg whites and sugar were cooked over a double boiler, just until all of the sugar was dissolved and the egg whites began to thicken. How did you know that all of the sugar was dissolved, you may ask. Easy . . . the recipe requires that you continuously stir the mixture with your fingers, feeling for grains of sugar! I was afraid I might burn myself, but came out unscathed. This hot egg white mixture is then beaten, like regular meringue. It makes a silkier, smoother, and, I think, lighter version of meringue. The meringue was supposed to be lightly browned using a kitchen torch, but I don't have one, so simply used a long-handled fireplace lighter.
Our neighbors and their grown son, who had joined them for dinner that evening, came over to sample the completed dessert. I was the only one who couldn't eat the entire serving. It was just too rich for me. And the chocolate was too intense. But Dan and our neighbors all raved over it, so I'm calling it as a success.