[Chocolate Vanilla Petit Pot, Caramel Petit Beurre Ribbon]
This is the dessert I served to end Saturday night's dinner. The idea came to me during the same bus ride through Paris that brought us the goat cheese mousse. I don't know what was in the air that day, but ideas just kept bubbling up, a swarm of dishes taking shape and morphing in my mind, which I kept writing down furiously. Stepping out of the bus, I even had to sit down on a bench to finish writing what I had in mind. Euphoria is the closest word I can find to describe the feeling.
And this is the brainchild of such a bout. A small, transparent glass. On the bottom, a layer of chocolate cookie crumbs. Then a thick layer of crème à la vanille. On top, a layer of ganache, studded with toasted pecan fragments. On the side, a strip of shiny caramel, encrusted with bits of crispy butter cookies.
I used our Duralex glasses which I like so much, bought at the Madeleine Résonances store. Duralex is the name of a heavy duty unbreakable glass material, but their particular charm stems from the fact that they are the typical glass you get at school cafeterias in France. They also happen to be a very important vector of social structure among kids : each glass has a number engraved at the bottom, and the one you get leads to endless interpretations and conclusions. Whoever has the smallest/largest number has to give away his dessert, or has to go fill the water jug (and during this absence anything can happen to your food and/or your popularity), or maybe this number is the age at which you'll get married, or the number of millions you'll make, the number of kids you'll have, or even the age at which you'll die. Wasn't school just sheer fun?
Petit Pot Chocolat Vanille, Ruban de Caramel au Petit Beurre
For the Petit Pot
- 4 chocolate butter cookies (I used the new Chocolate Roues d'Or by St-Michel)
- 10 g butter (optional)
Vanilla Cream :
- 40 cl whipping cream
- 10 cl milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 50 g sugar
- 1 TBSP vanilla extract
- 100 g dark chocolate
- 10 g butter
- 10 cl whipping cream
- about 12 pecan pieces, toasted and cut into smallish bits
For the Ruban
- 100 g white sugar
- four Petits Beurres, the classic crispy cookies made by LU
- a silicon baking mat
The crust. In your food processor, reduce the chocolate butter cookies to crumbs. If they don't seem to adhere to themselves much, add a little butter until you get the desired consistency. Spoon the crumbs into the four glasses and press them into a packed layer.
The vanilla cream. Preheat your oven to 160°C (350°F). In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, vanilla and egg yolks, then add the whipping cream and milk, whisking until well blended. Pour the cream mixture into the glasses, set out the glasses in a gratin dish filled with hot water to half the height of the glasses. Put this in the oven to bake for 30 to 45 minutes, keeping an eye on them, until the cream is set. Leave on the counter to cool, then put them in the fridge for a couple of hours to set completely.
The ganache. Dice the butter and set aside. Break the chocolate into small pieces in a medium bowl. Bring the whipping cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Watch it closely for heaven's sake when will you finally learn that this boils over in no time at all if you're not paying attention and doing four things at the same time. Pour the hot cream onto the chocolate, stirring with a fork until the chocolate is thoroughly melted. Add the butter and keep stirring until no lump remains. Beautiful. I know I've said this before, but ganache has to be my favorite thing to make. Even the word sounds luscious. Ganache. Luscious. So go ahead and spoon luscious ganache in an even layer onto each glass. Sprinkle pecan bits on top, and return the glasses to the fridge for at least an hour.
The thickness of the ganache layer is your call. I advise you to make it on the thin side, as the richness of ganache should not be underestimated. The measurements I gave here will get you more ganache than you need, but ganache is not a thing that works well in teeny batches, and the leftovers can be put to good use in yummy truffles the next day (stay tuned for the recipe in the days to come).
The caramel ribbon. Break up the Petits Beurres into small neat pieces, trying not to lose too much in crumbs. Arrange the pieces in four lines on a silicon baking mat. Put the sugar in a small thick-bottomed saucepan, and cook, covered, over low heat. After about ten minutes, the sugar will start to melt. It's a beautiful phenomenon to watch, the dry white center being slowly overcome by the brown and liquid sides. When it's all nice and melted, drizzle the caramel slowly over the lines of Petits Beurres, trapping the pieces in and trying to make the overall shape pretty. Leave the caramel ribbons out to dry and harden, which should take about an hour.
Plating. Take the glasses out of the fridge about 30 minutes before serving. Put each glass on a small dessert plate, balancing a caramel ribbon next to it. I didn't think of it at the time, but drizzling a little chocolate sauce around the plate would be a good idea.
This turned out really well, and was very much appreciated. The layered presentation is excellent, the caramel ribbon has a huge wow factor, and the flavors and textures are great together. I mean, chocolate and vanilla and caramel, what could go wrong? As with all experimentations though, I thought it could bear improvement, so the recipe I gave you here is not the recipe I followed exactly, but the one I will use next time : my version was a little too rich (especially considering what had come before) and the ganache was a little too hard, so I have made the ganache creamier, included the thickness advice, and upped the amount of vanilla cream. Also, it would be nice if the caramel ribbon didn't stick to your fingers, though I'm not sure how this can be helped.
Still, overall, an invention I'm pretty pleased with...
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