Sunday, October 5, 2008

Velouté of Bittersweet Chocolate with Cinnamon Stick Ice Cream

It's no coincidence that I saved this as the next-to-last dish to make. Why? Because I'm incredibly bittersweet about this project coming to its inevitable conclusion, so this dish seemed fitting to hold until near the end. And, I also have to confess that it's taken me ages to write this post, because as excited as I am about starting on the Alinea Cookbook, I'm more than a little melancholy about this particular project coming to an end... so I've been procrastinating on putting this up.

My apologies to those of you who've emailed over the past few days with, "Um, Carol? Are you, like, dead or something?" No, I am not injured, dead, or ignoring you. I'm just spending more and more time with every last dish and every last post, because this has been such an incredible project, and I want to savor every last bit of it. And because, let's be honest, procrastination is in my freakin' DNA.

Alright, alright, I'll save all the mushiness for a future post. Let's get our velouté on.

In the intro to this dish, The French Laundry Cookbook reads: "Here, a seductive disk of molten chocolate sits atop a frozen platform of cinnamon ice cream -- for that hot-cold surprise -- in a pool of chocolate sauce."

If I had written the intro, it would've gone something like this: "Holy $(%#$(%, people; you will NOT want this dessert to end. Mother$(%*#$(%&$."

See why Michael Ruhlman is the writer, and not yours truly?

Thought so.

I did this dish over two days, and I think for the best results, you've got to do it that way. Or else, start reeeeealllllyyyy early in the morning to serve it that night. I reeeeealllllyyyy hate early mornings, so I spaced it out over two days. It worked perfectly. The first thing I did was make the chocolate velouté. Here's the mise en place:

I made the meringue by putting the egg whites and some of the sugar into a mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water. I whisked it until the sugar had dissolved and it had gotten a little foamy, then set the mixing bowl on my mixer stand. I whipped it with my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer (man, I love that thing) for a little over 5 minutes -- by then, the meringue had cooled, had soft peaks, and was light and fluffy.

During the five minutes it took to whip, I prepared the chocolate part of the equation. I poured the milk into a saucepan, then sifted in sugar, cocoa powder, flour, and salt and whisked it to combine everything. Then, I whisked in the egg yolks. Over medium heat, I kept whisking it until it had gotten to the consistency of pudding or custard. Then, I kept cooking it and whisking it, until it had gotten a nice sheen to it and had thickened even more.

I'd had a gelatin sheet soaking in water, so I squeezed out the water and dropped the gelatin into the mixture -- still whisking -- then removed the pan from the heat. Then, I stirred in the chopped bittersweet chocolate and stirred it until it melted completely.

I transferred this mixture to a mixing bowl, where I whisked in one spoonful of the meringue.

When that had combined, I folded in the rest of it.

I put this chocolatey goodness into a ziploc bag, cut off the tip, then filled the ring molds with the mixture:

I covered the tray of ring molds with aluminum foil and put it in the freezer overnight.

Before going to bed, I also made the custard for the cinnamon ice cream, because that needed to cool overnight.

I combined cream, milk, and a cinnamon stick in a sauce pan, brought it to a simmer, then covered it and turned off the flame so it could steep for 30 minutes.

I removed the cinnamon stick and added some sugar, then brought it back up to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

In a separate bowl, I whisked the rest of the sugar with the egg yolks:

Then, as with any ice cream custard, I tempered the eggs with some of the warm cinnamon-milk-cream mixture, then poured the tempered yolks into the saucepan and continued heating and stirring until the custard thickened and coated the wooden spoon I'd been stirring it with.

I poured the custard into a bowl, set that bowl in a bowl of ice, and stirred it every now and then until it had cooled to room temperature. I strained the cooled custard into a separate bowl which I put in the fridge overnight to cool completely.

I woke up early the next morning, because I wanted to get the ice cream moving along so it would be done in enough time to serve this dessert later that afternoon. It was the weekend, and what better time to serve dessert before dinner, right?

I removed the bowl of custard from the refrigerator and put it in my ice cream maker for about 35 minutes. Then, I slathered the nearly frozen ice cream onto a plastic wrap-lined sheet pan and spread it into a 3/4" layer. I covered it with foil and put it in the freezer for a few hours to harden.

When the ice cream had hardened, I cut out six disks (2" in diameter) and returned those to the freezer until I was ready to plate:

Next up? The cookies. They don't get any billing in the dish's title, but they were instrumental in pulling this dish together and were actually quite tasty.

In a bowl, I whisked together regular all-purpose and pastry flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In my mixing bowl (using the paddle attachment), I beat together butter, sugar, brown sugar, and honey.

When they had combined, I slowly added in the dry ingredients and kept mixing it until everything was incorporated.

Then, I put the cookie dough onto a Silpat. The dough was kind of crumbly, so I smushed it together as best I could.

I covered it with a piece of parchment paper and rolled the dough into a 1/8" thick layer.

I put the Silpat -- with the dough still on it -- onto a baking sheet and put that in the freezer for an hour. After the hour was up (during which time I got a TON of work done... and by work, I mean Twittering, natch), I took the dough out of the freezer, removed the parchment, and placed the mat o' dough onto a baking sheet and baked it at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.

At the 8-minute mark, I used a 2" round cutter to cut out disks...

... then returned the pan to the oven to bake another 3 minutes. When they were done, they looked like this:

I let the cookies cool for a few minutes, lifted them off the mat with an offset spatula, and stored them in a container until it was time to plate.

The last thing I had to do before finishing the dish and plating it was to make the chocolate sauce. Witness, my bittersweet chocolate:

I chopped it:

Then, poured some warm cream over it:

Then, after a minute or two, stirred it:

I don't know why the hell anyone would buy that nasty-ass ready-made chocolate sauce at the grocery store when you can make something this good so easily.

Just before my friends were due to arrive (okay, walk 30 feet from their front door to mine), I baked les veloutés. I put the cookies on a baking sheet, then gently pressed out the frozen chocolate veloutés from their ring molds, placed one atop each cookie, and baked them in a 400-degree oven for 12 minutes.

In the final plating shot, you'll see what they looked like when they were done baking.

To plate, I poured a small pool of the chocolate sauce into the dish, then centered an ice cream disk, which I topped with a baked velouté... and dusted the whole shebang with some powdered sugar:

Doesn't that look like if someone served it to you, you might actually say, "Holy $(%#$(%, people; I do NOT want this dessert to end. Mother$(%*#$(%&$."?????? Thought so.

So, how did it taste?

Let's refer to the photographic evidence:

That's my neighbor kid, "C," who finished this dish in record time.

He loved it. I loved it. We all loved it. And, I wish I had made more. It was rich and creamy, and we all could've had seconds and then fallen asleep from the massive sugar rush that would've ensued.

The velouté was hot and creamy inside... the ice cream was cold and the cinnamon with the chocolate was so fantastic... and the chocolate sauce? Alone, it's worth the cost of buying this book. I mean it.

The hot-cold combo is especially fantastic when the ingredients are this good. I remember, as a kid, going to Bob's Big Boy after a band concert or other elementary school parental torture device, and ordering the hot fudge cake with the ice cream layer inside, drenched in chocolate sauce. When I was nine years old, I used to dream about that cake (and mashed potatoes with succotash mixed in, but that's a story for another blog) -- the warm chocolate cake, the cold vanilla ice cream, the hot fudge sauce oozing down the sides of the dessert... and now, I've figured out how to not only bring back that glorious dessert memory, but make it a kabillion times better.

And you know what? It's not hard to make. AT ALL. Nothing was troubling, puzzling, or made me feel like I was about to experience a big, fat, colossal FAIL. It was incredibly straightforward, and without a doubt, one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth.

But there were five other people at the table. Did they all love it as much as I did?

Well, imagine this, times six.

I think you have your answer.

Up Next: "Cornets" -- Salmon Tartare with Sweet Red Onion Crème Fraîche

Eggs from Smith Meadows Farm
Domino sugar, confectioners' sugar, and brown sugar
Organic Valley milk and cream
Ghirardelli cocoa
King Arthur flour and gelatin sheet
Noi Sirius bittersweet chocolate
Cinnamon from TPSS Co-op
Savannah Bee Company sourwood honey

Music to Cook By: Heart; Greatest Hits. Because I needed to sing "Magic Man" and "Barracuda" at the top of my lungs. It was just one of those weeks.

Read My Previous Post: Baby Lamb: Five Cuts Served with Provençal Vegetables, Braised Cipollini Onions, and Thyme Oil (Part 2)


Christine said...

Mother$(%*#$(%&$, indeed.

And how appropriate for you to end at the beginning with the cornets. Clever girl!

Victoria said...

Oh no. Next to last post? That means the next post is the last. I will follow along with Alinea - we all will - but I will miss TFL and you.


chefholland said...

I just discovered your blog. Great work. I feel like I'm watching someone enjoy themself. And I'm enjoying it. French laundry is one of my top five favorite cookbooks of all time. Have you fallen in love with "Bouchon" Yet?

Anonymous said...

Carol - from where you started with desserts to where you are now, I couldn't be more proud of someone who I've never met, but who obviously gets "it" when it comes to great food in general and sweet stuff in particular.

Bravo on this final sweet plate, bravo on the near completion of this outstanding project, and continued cheers to you as I follow you now into the Alinea strat-o-sphere!

Anonymous said...

I am sad that this blog is ending. It has been wonderful. This dish and the next are for me the most sentimental of the book.
Congratulations for all of your effort and excellent good humour and for cutting the faces off live crabs!

Anonymous said...

Oh my god, Yum. I'm sorry I discovered you right at the end of your cooking odyssey, but have no doubt I'll be following the next one with relish!

Anonymous said...

You crack me up. You have got to be the only person on the face of this earth that, today, has compare a dessert from the French Laundry to a dessert from Bob's Big Boy. Awesome! I bet Msr. Keller is hella proud! ;-) That said, I bet that dessert would have taken me to new stratospheres of happy swearing. I much prefer happy swearing to angry swearing!

Anonymous said...

When we didn't hear from you IN OVER A WEEK, I went back and re-read everything, knowing this was coming to an end. Pulled out Alinea in the book store this weekend in anticipation of the new project. Thanks for entertaining me and inspiring me to buy TFL and try a few things that I wouldn't have before!!

Rosie Hawthorne said...

"I put this chocolatey goodness into a ziploc bag, cut off the tip, ..."

I always knew you were the smartest thing on the block!

Anonymous said...

Yum. Can I have some please? Oh, you don't ship? I guess I'll have to make it myself.

Just as I hoped, my copy of the Alinea cookbook arrived Saturday, and I spent the weekend exploring it. You're in for an adventure, doing Alinea at home! I'm looking forward to it.

Anonymous said...

Reading your adventures with TFL cookbook was like watching a Sarah Palin debate. I anticipate a train wreck, and am amused with the results. You and Sarah disappointed me with preparation and interesting results. Hopefully, the Alinea project will prove to be your "Peter Principle" and the resulting carnage will satisfy your readers' morbid curiosity.
As melancholy as we may get, seeing this project end, the new one should be quite tasty. Your financial investment for equipment for the new project should be killer. Enjoy, and keep us posted and entertained.

Rhonda said...

Oh, Carol... Outstanding!

Anonymous said...

Your intro? Waaaaaaaaaay better than Rhulman's.

Anonymous said...

*sigh* After succeeding with the Iles Flottantes (with the last minute help of my restaurant-working cousin as Kitchen Bitch) I thought I could rest on my laurels for a while, but now I see I shall have to go onward and upward. Damn, that looks good. And FINALLY you're tackling the cornets! I've been waiting impatiently for you to go first because I've already dreamed up variations on them, but just need the courage. Carry on, fearless leader!

Hannah Denman said...

Mmmm . . . I've made this one. It is $%#*in' delicious, I couldn't agree more. The baked chibouste/cookie/ice cream combo is kill-me-now good. Congrats!

The Italian Dish said...

Another home run.

Unknown said...

Looks great as usual. Awesome post!

Unknown said...

Carol, did you see our TK interview????
*Sigh* There is so much more of the evening to write about.

Anonymous said...

Carol, you are my hero. I am amazed but not surprised at this whole adventure. Awesome, awesome.

Jesse said...

Thank gaaawd for the new post -I couldn't stand the dead lamb picture everytime I checked for updates ;) Seriously - I'm just glad to read more... and I'm so glad your project is extending beyond this book. You're doing an amazing job.

Unknown said...

As much as I have loved the journey as much as everyone else, I have to interrupt with a question about the recipe...

So the les veloutés are placed on top of the cookies and then in the final plating they are shown... so do they just kinda collapse and cook down around the cookies, leaving a kinda cakey, runny, cookie loveliness?

Carol Blymire said...

Yes, MrsVJW (and hi!): The chocolate veloute melts/bakes down over the cookie a little bit. The cookie actually stays solid and intact -- much like you saw it in the photo where I have them on the baking sheet ready to be topped by the veloutes just out of the freezer.

Lindsey said...

This looks beyond delish.

Anonymous said...

Finally the cornets are coming! (I really wish you had made them last month. Let's just say that when I tried making them, I went with plan B instead!)

And that desert looks great and doable, DH's getting a surprise this weekend. (Get your head out of the gutter, I know you're 12!)

Linda said...

In a troubled world, your blog has been a blissful escape. Reading it, I feel like I've been hanging out in your kitchen, laughing and listening to very cool tunes. Always fun and sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarious. I've made the chocolate veloute, and it is Da Bomb. Looking forward to Alinea.

Kathy said...

Oh I just found you, what a wonderful blog you have here, we live in the Bay Area and love to go to Yountville, I am about to buy TFL cookbook because your blog has inspired me to do so, should I also buy Bouchon too?. Kathy.

Anonymous said...

Looks great, but, srsly?, I'm still recovering from the turtle picture from the lamb series...[shivers]...

Anonymous said...

Carol, I've been reading your blog for some time. I'm in my final year of culinary school, and the food we are serving in our dining room is straight out of Chef Keller's French Laundry and Bouchon cookbooks. While I'm sad to see your adventure with the French Laundry come to a close, I'm excited to continue along with you in the Alinea cookbook. Best of luck - those recipes are like your worst TFL nightmares on super mega crack. Squared.

And ending with the cornets... so clever, and somehow fitting and appropriate.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe how far you've come. You are truly inspirational.

amber said...

OMG! it's like heaven in a bowl!

Rumela said...

This Velouté of bittersweet chocolate with cinnamon stick ice cream looks so beautiful with the colors, I'm sure it'll be a big hit with the kids! Nice colors! Although I'm to a big fan of chocolate, this sure looks yummy! I'm normally the one that will say no to chocolate with cinnamon stick ice cream. thank you for shearing your post.