This is my first Daring Bakers Challenge and I was both exciting and nervous. This dessert had several different components which took quite a long time to prepare. It's also a dessert I've never heard about in my entire life. What's marquise? Well, I was determined to find out. I welcomed the challenge and headed to the kitchen early this morning feeling daring as ever. I prepared the quarter recipe variation since six portions of dessert seemed like a quantity I could easily get rid of rather than the original recipe's 18. The recipe is available on the Daring Kitchen website.
I started with the chocolate base. Instead of using a double boiler to heat the cream, I took the easy route and used the microwave, then I poured it on the chocolate. I stirred it until smooth and then added cayenne, salt, corn syrup, vanilla. cocoa powder, black pepper, butter and rum. I used dark rum instead of tequila because I already had it on hand from when I made Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Besides, I like rum better!
After that I began preparing my meringue. I added the sugar to my egg whites and splash of apple cider vinegar. Then I heated it over a pot of simmering water until the sugar dissolved, stirring it with my favorite utensils, my bare (clean) hands. They said we should use the whisk attachment of the mixer to whisk it until soft peaks appear. My cheap but effective mixer doesn't have a whisk attachment, so I decided that I would do it the way master chefs did. I'd whisk it by hand. After all, Julie Child would've done it that way, it can't be that hard right? WRONG! I whisked and whisked until my arm was sour, and all I had were frothy whites. I decided to try whipping it with the attachments that came with my mixer. They worked just fine, I didn't need the whisk attachment. My right arm was very happy. I tucked my meringue in the fridge while I worked on the caramel.
I got a small saucepan out and added the sugar and water over medium heat. I let it bubble and boil until all the water was evaporated and a strange thing happened. IT got completely hard in the pot. I took the spoon and started digging it from the corners of the pot. I realized that the heat wasn't high enough to keep the sugar liquid and when I turned the heat up, the sugar gradually began to melt again and turn brown. When it was sufficiently dark I stirred the cream in and let it darken a little more before removing it from the fire and leaving it to cool. After it cooled I poured it into one of my handy dandy squeeze bottles. A trick I learned from someone on Food Network, I can't remember who, but I'm tempted to say it's Bobby Flay because he often uses squeeze bottles to drizzle his reductions and sauces unto his plates.
Next step, the spiced almonds. I could't find blanched whole almonds. I don't think I've ever seen them before. So I bought raw whole almonds and hoped they'd work just as well. I whisked up my egg white til it was frothy and added the spices. I then coated the almonds in it and put them on a baking pie plate lined with foil. I baked them for half an hr and allowed them to cool while I put the marquise together.
I took my three egg yolks, which had been sitting on the counter getting to room temperature since I separated them from the whites for the meringue, and using the mixer on high speed, began whisking them. Realizing that it was going to take a long time to get the required pale thick mixture, I enlisted my friend Rachelle to hold the mixer while I went about making the sugar syrup. I boiled the sugar and water together. The recipe uses some devices to tell when the syrup is ready, devices which I did not have, so I decided to just guess when I thought the syrup was syrupy enough, then I added it to the egg mixture and took over the mixing from Rachelle. I then whipped my heavy cream until it had soft peaks and set it aside. I combined the chocolate base and the egg mixture carefully, making sure it was well incorporated without deflating. Then I folded in the cream.
When I first read the quarter recipe, I thought to myself, what size container would I put the marquise in to produce the six 2"x2" blocks. I didn't have a container with the right dimensions but I had a brilliant idea. I'd use a muffin tin instead. I lined the tin with foil and filled all 6 muffin cups with marquise. I topped it with plastic wrap and placed it in the freezer for 5 hours. I took the opportunity to text my friends and let them know, dessert would be ready at 4.
When they arrived, I removed the marquise from the freezer and coated them with the cocoa powder. I don't have a blow torch so I decided to use the broiler to brown the meringue. Now, I know you have to watch things under the broiler VERY carefully because in no time they can go from browned to burnt but sometimes it still happens to me. This time it got a little bit darker than I'd like in a few small areas, but I caught it in time to avert disaster. I used used my handy squeeze bottle to add the caramel and sprinkled a few nuts around it. Then I placed the marquise on top, took a few pics and served it to my friends, fingers crossed.
The reviews were good overall. Some were not a fan of the cocoa, because it was bitter. I thought that perhaps if it was a thinner coating of cocoa it would've been better. One friend suggested using a sieve to lightly dust it instead, I think this is a great suggestion! Everything else was delicious. The marquise tasted like a deep dark chocolate ice cream and the meringue was just like marshmallow. The sweet and spicy almonds and the caramel sauce brought everything together neatly. It was one of those desserts though that makes you immediately serve glasses of water after a tasting. This was mostly due to the sweetness marshmallow-like meringue. The dessert made me wonder though, "instead of going through all that trouble making the marquise, couldn't I have just made a dark chocolate ice cream?" Mmmm dark chocolate ice cream, gotta add that to my to make and eat list.
So I finished my first challenge. I feel a sense of accomplishment. This was no simple cookie, this was a real test, and I met the challenge head on, executed it and it tasted good hehe. I guess I am a daring baker after all!
Update: Since serving my friends, I served the dessert to Anthony. When plating it I made sure to make the cocoa layer very thin by applying it very carefully with my fingers. I kept closer watch on the meringue and got it the perfect golden colour. With those two minor adjustments, the dessert was perfect both in taste and appearance. I would've taken a picture of it and posted it but by the time I thought of that, it was all gone!