Thursday, September 8, 2011
Take one bite, and you'll be transported to a European bakery.
This is no American dessert. The flavor is sophisticated, refined, elegant, and... how else can I say it? European.
It's rich but not overly sweet. It's quite possibly (and I know I'm prone to say this about a lot of recipes, but I really mean it this time) one of the three most delicious desserts I've ever had in my life.
32 layers of chocolate crêpes.
Filled with chocolate hazelnut meringue buttercream filling.
More than a pound of butter, a dozen eggs, a pint of cream, a pound of chocolate... and 2 days in the making...
This was one of the most challenging but one of the most rewarding culinary confections I've ever tackled. I'd never made crêpes nor meringue before, but I'd call this an unqualified success.
In fact it was so good, I couldn't photograph this slice of it without first having taken a bite. As a perfectionist, that's saying a lot.
I'll give it to you straight. It's tricky, it's time consuming, it's expensive, it's MIND-NUMBINGLY DELICIOUS! Please bookmark this page and when you've got some time on your hands and are feeling up for a challenge, make this show-stopper.
Showstopping Chocolate Hazelnut Crêpe Cake
For the Crêpes
makes about 30-40 crepes (I got 36)
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup (6 ounces / 1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
8 ounces semisweet chocolate (bars NOT chips), finely chopped
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder (or instant coffee granules)
2 1/2 cups whole milk at room temperature
6 extra large eggs
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
For the Filling
makes about 8 cups
2/3 cup heavy cream
6 extra large egg whites
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces / 3 1/2 sticks) softened unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Frangelico (optional)
1/3 cup Nutella
Pinch of salt
For the Ganache / Frosting
makes about 2 cups
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
Pinch of kosher salt
10 ounces semisweet chocolate (bars not chips), finely chopped
Topping / Garnish
handful of chopped hazelnuts
For the Crêpes
In a medium sauce pan, bring the water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Add the butter one piece at a time, whisking to combine after each addition. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir until completely smooth; set aside.
In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and espresso powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and vanilla. Gradually add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, whisking until smooth. Gradually add the chocolate mixture, whisking until smooth.
Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight. Once rested, pour and press through a fine-mesh sieve; discard any lumps.
Lightly coat an 8-inch crepe pan or 10-inch non-stick skillet with melted butter and heat over medium heat; wipe out excess. Pour about 3 tablespoons of batter into the pan, swirling to coat bottom. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the crêpe, flipping once until edges are golden and center is set, about 30-45 seconds per side. Transfer crêpe (I invert the pan with a whack on the counter) to a sheet of waxed paper. Continue with remaining batter (no butter needed for non-stick skillet), placing a sheet of waxed paper between each crêpe. Crêpes can be made and refrigerated for up to one day.
For the Filling
In a medium bowl using a wire whisk or a hand held mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form, about 3-5 minutes. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Whisk egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture registers 160º F on a candy thermometer, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and place the bowl on the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high until slightly cooled and stiff (not dry) peaks form, about 5 minutes.
Switch the whisk attachment for the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter, a few pieces at a time, mixing well after each addition (meringue will deflate slightly as butter is added). Add vanilla, Frangelico, Nutella, and salt; beat until the mixture comes together, about 1-2 minutes. (Mixture may separate at first. If the mixture looks grainy, place in the refrigerator to cool. Then beat again until smooth and fluffy). Using a rubber spatuala, fold in the refrigerated whipped cream; use immediately.
Place an 8-inch round of parchment paper over a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet (I used a cardboard cake circle cut down to the size of my crêpes). Place a crêpe on top of the parchment (or cardboard). Evenly spread about 3 tablespoons of filling on top of the crêpe. Top with another crêpe. Continue layering with filling and crepes, using about 32 crêpes and ending with a crêpe on top. Refrigerate until firm, at least one hour.
Heat the cream over medium heat until almost boiling (stir frequently to prevent scorching). Add in pinch of salt and corn syrup, remove from heat and add chopped chocolate. Let sit for about a minute and then stir until smooth, rich, silky, creamy, chocolate amazingness.
Slowly spoon about 1/2 of the warm ganache on top of the cake, letting it run off the sides (evenly) and spreading it around the sides with an offset spatula. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, then briefly rewarm the remaining ganache (about 30 seconds on medium heat over the stove) and repeat the pouring/spreading. Top with chopped hazelnuts. Refrigerate until ganache is firm and set, about 30 minutes.
Cake can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living (January 2006), via The Galley Gourmet