Thursday, August 21, 2008

Chocolate Fondant with Coffee Cream and Chocolate Dentelles

I have been putting off doing this dessert for quite a long time because I'd heard rumors that it was difficult. That it was incredibly temperature sensitive. That even though, on the surface, it appeared to be easy to do, it really was one of the most challenging desserts in the book. And I believed those rumors because they came from well-placed sources.

So, before starting this dish, I did some research, contacted some experts, cracked my knuckles for effect, and just did it... hoping and pleading for success because I couldn't face another Great Toilet Paper Wad-Looking Cinnamon Cookies of 2007 fiasco. I just couldn't. I knew that if I failed at this dish, Stephen Durfee and perhaps the entire pastry team from the early TFL days would've booked me a first-class ticket to Whoop-Ass Town. I did not want to disappoint. I've come this far. I've proven that I can master some mighty fine desserts. This one had to work. It HAD TO.

And it did.

This will be a long post, so pour yourself some Courvoisier, crank the Al Green, and let's get goin'...

I did this over two days so that everything had time to chill and set and do what it needed to do. Day One started with making the chocolate fondant -- similar to a mousse, but not exactly. I melted the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water, keeping it warm once it had melted:

You'll see the melty part in a bit, I promise.

While the water was heating up to melt the chocolate, I made the meringue by whipping the hell out of a single egg white and adding sugar as I went:

While this was whisking away, I brewed a small pot of coffee, of which two tablespoons later went into the fondant... the rest of which I drank out of my favorite coffee mug:

Last, but not least, I whipped the butter (by hand) for a few seconds to make it cream-a-licious (it was already very softened at room temp, so that was easy), and whipped some cream (it was really cold and just out of the fridge) so it got to soft peaks:

Now, it was time to combine everything to make the fondant, which would get piped into acetate-lined ring molds and chilled. If you're playing along with the book, you'll see that there are two ingredients in the list of items for the fondant that I excluded: dried currants and finely chopped almonds. I have it on good authority that these two things were not in the original version of this dessert when it was conceived, and I hate fruit and chocolate together (I also hate chocolate with nuts in it), so I decided to deep-six this part of the recipe.

First I added the coffee to the melted chocolate (it was a little warmer than room temperature):

Then, I let the bowl sit on the counter for a minute or so to cool just a tad. Then, I whisked in two room-temperature egg yolks and the already-whisked butter:

Then, I folded in the meringue, then the whipped cream:

I piped this lovely brown loveliness (the texture of which was like a soft, sort of airy pudding, but creamier) into six acetate-lined 2x2" ring molds. The French Laundry Cookbook gives you the option of lining the molds with acetate (which I did, thanks to my already having the acetate on hand -- thanks, Alex!), OR, the home cook could USE A BLOWTORCH to release the fondant from the molds when it's time to plate. As much as that option really, really appealed to me, I opted for the acetate.... because me + fire ÷ πR squared = not exactly the kind of hilarity I needed this week. But that math sure was some hilarity, now wasn't it? See, it just goes to show you young whippersnappers out there that you really will find a use for πR squared as an adult.

So, I lined the ring molds, then piped in the chocolate fondant, and put them in the fridge to cool and set overnight:

Aaaaand, I bet you think that's all I did on Day One, but NO, IT IS NOT! I had batters and doughs and all sorts of other concoctions to whip up. Okay, well maybe not concoctions, but I just love that word and thought I'd throw it in there.

By this time, the coffee I'd been drinking out of my awesome-so-cool-you-wish-you-had-one-don't-you mug had started to kick in, so I flew through these steps with the élan and flair of a culinary Baryshnikof on crack. P.S., the caffeine didn't start to wear off until about 4 a.m., which... good times.

I did the mixture for the chocolate dentelles -- a lace-like cookie -- first. I pulsed some blanched, sliced almonds and unsweetened cocoa powder in the food processor until, as the book suggests, it was gravel-like:

I melted some butter, and added in the corn syrup and sugar, bringing it to a boil and heating it to 220 degrees, after which I turned off the heat and stirred in the nuts and cocoa powder:

I poured half the mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper, covered it with another, and rolled it out as flat as I could. I placed it on a baking sheet and put it in the freezer until the next day.

And this, my bay city rollers, is the end of Day One.

I fell asleep around 4 a.m. (thanks, caffeine), and woke up at 7 (wheeeeee!!!!!!!!) and decided to get started on the dough for the sablé cookies. I only needed a portion of the dough for this particular dish, so the rest of the dough is in the freezer waiting for me to use it.

In my mixer bowl, I creamed 14 TABLESPOONS of butter and the sugar. Yes. "14" and "TABLESPOONS" were not typos. That alone should be a pretty great indicator of how awesome these cookies were going to be. The only thing that might have improved them? Bacon. But I digress...

So, the creaming of the butter and sugar, followed by the addition of an egg yolk, then the flour:

I pulled out about a quarter of the dough, formed it into a ball, plonked it onto a sheet of parchment paper, covered it with another sheet, rolled it out to about 1/16" of an inch thick, then put it on a baking sheet and into the freezer to harden:

While that dough was hardening, I made the chocolate ganache with which to glaze the fondants. I chopped some bittersweet chocolate, heated some cream, poured it over the chocolate, let it sit so it could melt the chocolate, then stirred it to incorporate everything:

I took the fondants out of the refrigerator and spooned on a bit of the ganache atop each one before putting them back in to set:

Next, I made crème anglaise. If you want to see the specific steps of making this, you can use the search function in the top left corner of this blog because it's on here somewhere, I swear. Here's what it looked like just before I added the coffee extract:

The only thing left to do was bake the cookies and the dentelles, which I knew I was going to do an hour before plating, so I went about the rest of my day... working, procrastinating, working, procrastinating some more, and then still more procrastinating. Welcome to my life.

I baked the sablé cookies first. I took the sheet of dough out of the freezer, cut out a dozen or so two-inch rounds, and baked them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet:

Next up -- the dentelles. I removed the top layer of parchment, but kept it on the baking sheet and bottom layer of parchment. After it had baked for about 11 minutes, I removed it from the oven and cut out 2" rounds:

While the baked goods were cooling off, I added the coffee extract to the crème anglaise. The book calls for "1 1/2 teaspoons coffee extract (see page 263), or to taste" -- to which I say, "To taste!?!?!?!?!?! Oh, bring it on! FOURTEEN TABLESPOONS OF COFFEE EXTRACT, PLEASE!!!" But, of course, I settled for 2 teaspoons. Livin' on the edge, man.

To plate, I spooned a bit of the coffee-laden crème anglaise into each plate. I picked up each of the fondants, one-by-one, and placed a sablé cookie on the bottom before gently sliding off the ring mold, then unpeeling the acetate. I placed each one in the center of the dish, and gently placed a dentelle alongside it. Wanna see?

Here's a close-up, so you can really see the small indentation from my thumb as I removed the acetate:

I didn't even notice it until I uploaded the photos to my laptop -- otherwise I would've placed the dentelle there so you wouldn't have seen it. Doy.

Thumbprints aside, sweet children of the corn, it worked!!! And, even better? It was so incredibly good, the table was silent after the first bite... followed by a "whoaaaaa....." and a furious digging of spoon into bowl by all. There were six desserts and nine tasters, and I though a riot was going to break out.

It was creamy and sweet, and just all around one of the best desserts I've ever made in my life. I would totally make this again, and can whole-heartedly suggest that you give it a go. It's not as difficult as I thought it would be. As long as you pay attention to the temperatures of your ingredients for the fondant, you'll be fine.

Think Durfee will be proud? I sure hope so.

Up Next: French Laundry at Home Extra: Q&A with Carol, Part Three

Noi Sirius bittersweet chocolate (56%)

Eggs from Smith Meadows Farm

Domino sugar

Organic Valley heavy cream and milk

Coffee beans from King's Road Cafe in Los Angeles, CA

Almonds from Whole Foods

Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa powder

Karo corn syrup

365 organic butter
King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour

Vanilla bean from the TPSS Co-op

Neilsen-Massey coffee extract

Music to Cook By: Gomez; How We Operate and Phil Collins; Hello, I Must Be Going. "Oh, Carol," I hear you saying with a sigh and a catch in your voice. "Phil Collins... really?" Yes. But did you not also see the Gomez link? Because I'm not totally stuck in the 80s, people. I like new music, too. And I love Gomez, especially their title track to this album. It's really, really good. As for my buddy, Mr. Collins, I just happened to have a particular need to reminisce with one of my oldest friends recently about how in high school listening to Phil Collins at night alone in your room was eveyone's dirty little secret. And really, if you can get through "Don't Let Him Steal Your Heart Away" without choking up, what are you, a freakin' robot?

Read My Previous Post: French Laundry at Home Extra -- Meet Forrest Pritchard of Smith Meadows Farm


Norfolk Dumpling said...

This looks wonderful. My biggest fear would have been adding the coffee to the already-melted chocolate; every time a recipe has asked me to do that, the chocolate has seized and I have wept. I now always melt the chocolate and coffee together, and it works just fine. Kudos!

JordanBaker said...

That looks like one of the few things I can imagine actually being worth all that effort. Wow.

L A said...

Can you come to Sydney, Australia?? Please? Pretty please?

oh so hungry said...

HOT DAMN that looks DIVINE! So totally Durfeelicious. I'm predicting his buttons will pop off his whatever pastry chefs wear that has buttons.


Adrienne said...

That looks AMAZING. And I *love* Gomez, particularly How We Operate.

Anonymous said...

I think I died just reading it...and looking at it.

I wish I could go to YOUR kitchen. : P


Anonymous said...

Book you a first-class ticket to Whoop-Ass Town?! Never!

Victoria said...

I understand what norfolk dumpling means. Every time I tried to add the called-for liqueur to Elizabeth David's recipe for chocolate souffle, the chocolate seized. I just started leaving it out completely, and the recipe works just fine - and is delicious, especially if you add a little extra melted chocolate and whipped cream when you serve it.

This looks sooooooo good, and it's absolutely beautiful. Congratulations on another amazing accomplishment.

I have a sneaky feeling that I might actually have to get a television - or get someone to Tivo for me and invite me over - to follow your next project. Just thinkin.

Anonymous said...

You are certifiably my new hero! Simply amazing!

Anonymous said...

"Let me say that since, baby,
Since we've been together..."

Oh Carol; it may be time for the ol' pastry chef to retire his silpat, cookie sheets, cake pans, pastry bags, and just send all my dessert/cake requests directly to you (I will keep the Elmo cake pan here; still have a two-year old, y'know...).

A BEAUTIFUL PLATE!!! Worthy of a spot in Chocolatier magazine. Congratulations!

PsychoBunny95 said...

It’s George! I have the same mug and I can confirm that it's undoubtedly an awesome-so-cool-you-wish-you-had-one-don't-you mug. It garners lots of admiration at our staff meetings.

This dessert looks so lovely and delicious. That trip to Whoop-Ass town will have to be postponed indefinitely.

Orri said...

Looks good, haven't tried that one. But it's on my list.

The main surprise was the chocolate you are using. I looked at the picture and thougt: "Hang on, I know this chocolate" and sure enough, it is Nói Síríus. How come you are using icelandic chocolate?

Anonymous said...

The dessert does indeed look delicious but more importantly, you also drink coffee out of the George Michael mug from the 25 Live tour! Fantastic!

Alexis Wright

Anonymous said...


Maybe it was the Al Green reference, but as I read I couldn't help but thinking about $240 worth of vanilla pudding. Ohhh yeeaaaah.

Anonymous said...

1. I so want your mug!
2. I so want your mug!
3. I am going to order myself one very special mug today!

So I thought about coming up with some witty comment about this week's post, but I just can't! All that I can think about is OH MY FREAKIN' GOD DOES THAT LOOK SO GOOD! So there you have it.

Did you invite Grant over as a taster to make up for the lobster jelly?

Anonymous said...

oh yum. Yum Yum. I've been trying to find TFL here and there, but now I just might need to get a little more proactive! Yum!

Juliet said...

That dessert looks goregous. I think I need to make that right away. Congrats!

Anonymous said...

Hah! "Don't Let Him Steal Your Heart Away"! Boy, did I wallow in that song...I had totally forgotten. Which is kinda surprising, seeing as the highlight of my summer so far has been seeing REO Speedwagon open for Def Leppard...

Oh yeah, the dessert looks awesome, too! I might have to try that one.

preppy little dress AKA "PLD" said...

wow, step-by-step instructions - you make it look so easy! looks yummy, thanks for posting!

Anonymous said...

Oh, yum. I want some.

Is there a house for sale on your street? I really need to become your meighbor so I can attend your tastings...

Rich said...

Okay - yum, looks great, nice writeup, etc.

Now that that's out of the way... I can't believe you left out the currants and almonds!!! And not just because "the book" says to do so, but come on - that sounds so good, I might add them even if it doesn't spell that out. I have no benefit of insider knowledge, but I bet those two components put this dish way, way over the top - into untouchable territory.

You REALLY don't like chocolate with fruit or nuts in it???

***Heart siezing up***

How is life worth living for you?

Well, there's always bacon, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Yea! Yea! Yea! This looks GREAT Carol. I am excited to see it, but more excited to let you know that I have finally, after reading your blog in bits and pieces, have just finished going to the very beginning and working my way completely to the latest!

I may celebrate by cooking my way through some cookbook, too, but need to find something that fits my talents a little closer though, and my budget too. What about the one that I got forty-five years ago when I was a freshman in college, A Campbell Cookbook: Cooking with Soup? And I WON'T tell anyone that you are my cousin and NOT Sandra Lee's.

Anonymous said...

Icelandic chocolate? as a chocolate professional, I must say that is a new one on me. technically a semi-sweet(under 60%) it had rich, dark, warm and wonderful tones. I cant wait to try some- where did your purchase this bar?

Anonymous said...

Those look truly amazing!!! Absolutely perfect and had you not said anything... I NEVER would have noticed a thumbprint. Gorgeous.

Jessica said...

Man, that entry alone makes me glad I'm cooking through The Joy of Cooking and not French Laundry :) I must say ::hangs head:: I've never had fondant that wasn't on a wedding cake.

la terroir said...

I am so glad to have discovered your highly original and entertaining blog through my friend Richard Laermer's. Better late than never, I suppose. In getting caught up, I couldn't help but be drawn to your recitation last year of making Oysters + Pearls, which has become a highly-demanded dinner party staple at my house since I first made it way back when. I do wish, however, that story could have been told through the eyes of a true oyster lover...your reluctance made for good reading, but for those of us who relish the attributes of a great oyster, this is one dish that must be tasted! By the way, I should mention that the caviar on that dish really does add quite a lot, the little salty pearls meshing with the larger, creamy ones. And, as I'm sure you know, you can get great domestic + imported farmed caviar these days at reasonable prices that rivals the now-practically-exinct Caspian varieties -- check out and Finally, I thought you might be interested in a 2006 review on my long-dormant [sad for me] blog, Le Terroir, of my first visit to the Laundry -- Meatime, keep up the great work on this compelling and imaginative blog. You have my bookmark!

Far From Perfect said...

OMG...this was wonderful-I am afraid of attempting desserts-this gives me hope.

vanillasugarblog said...

you are very talented to take on this book. I'm new to your blogworld and I love all that you have done.
Who gets to eat all these creations? I sure hope someone appreciative.

The Blonde Duck said...

That's a lot of work! I wouldn't have had the patience to try that!

Carol Blymire said...

Re: the chocolate -- I bought it at Whole Foods. I like to buy different kinds of dark chocolate, because I often have a few squares of it for dessert. Or lunch. Or my elevenses. So, I've probably sampled nearly every commercially available kind of chocolate in my local Whole Foods, Balducci's and other shops, and for some reason, the Noi Sirius stood out from the rest, both for cooking, and just plain eating. I bought it at Whole Foods, and they have a few different varieties of Noi Sirius available, so if you're up for it, give it a shot.

amber said...

holy mother of chocolate! that looks fabulous!

Ingrid_3Bs said...

HOLY COW!!!! That looks awesome! You go....

Ingrid_3Bs said...

Being in AWE of your drool-icious masterpiece I forgot to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your post! My co-workers kept wondering what the chuckles were all about
~ingrid :-)