January 27, 2011

Daring Baker's Challenge 2: Jaconde Imprime/Entremet

This was not so much a recipe as a project.  The kind that involves file folders, spreadsheets, hours of research, and weeks of planning.  I have admitted before that I'm not much of a recipe gal. So when I saw that this month's challenge involved 5 pages of instruction, and that that was just a fraction of the final product, my first thought was to bow out.  I don't even have a real sweet tooth.  I don't actually care if my food looks good.  But then I remembered that the reason I joined this group was to challenge myself.  And taking a sick day on the second challenge seemed kind of weak.  So I steeled myself, took a deep breath, and said "Challenge Accepted." [Insert Dartagnon-like glove slap here]

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.
Before we start, I want to confess something.  I've had a really bad case of Alex Trebek Syndrome as I've been writing this.  ATS (sometimes referred to Giada-Ricotta Disorder) occurs when you are speaking in your native tongue (in my case, English) and pronounce foreign words (in this case, French) with a painfully exaggerated and annoying accent.  I am confessing my affliction so that you can feel at ease if you find this happening to you.  And if it starts to get really bad, just go watch Joe Dirt.  

So what exactly is an entremet?  According to my Encyclopedia Britannica Wikipedia, it was originally a small dish served in between courses.  They could be sweet or savory, and generally were accompanied by some form visual entertainment.  I would have loved a challenge that forced me to act out a skit in full costume while serving it, but these days days, entremet refers to :

"...a sweet course or a pastry, traditionally served after the cheese course near the end of the meal. In this sense, an entremet is a multi-layered mousse cake featuring a variety of textures and flavors. It is still intended to delight both the palate and the eye and to be a form of novelty and amusement as well as food."

For this challenge, a jaconde imprime, or sponge cake, layer is set into a mold to create the outer shape, then the fillings are layered in (like a trifle with a wrapping). It's then refrigerated to let the fillings set, and served (sans costume, to everyone's dismay).  

I'm a list-maker and a planner, so I spent the first two weeks after reading the challenge plotting my strategy and organizing myself.  And then making it more complicated.  By the time I was ready to actually make the thing, I had 7 additional pages of recipes and lists so that I could make the fillings.  For two of these.  Yeah, that's right.  Two.  I thought this was a really complicated dish so I doubled it.  But wait, not just twice the amount of ONE recipe, but TWO DIFFERENT recipes.  One of which was going to be EXCLUSIVELY for the dogs- the dogs who are happy to eat the onion peels and shoes that we carelessly leave about, the dogs who couldn't care less if the things they put in their mouths actually taste good as long as they get to work their jaws.  I have no idea what I was thinking.  Perhaps I was just overly ambitious.  (Probably not, I'm actually kind of lazy.)  Or perhaps it was an elaborate plan to force further procrastination of thesis-writing?  Ah yes, that's definitely it... and I've known it all along but still couldn't stop myself.  

So here's the composition for the human entremet:

Espresso shortbread crust 
Chocolate pudding
Layer of crushed toasted hazelnuts and shortbread crumbs
Espresso Bavarian cream
Caramel and dark chocolate sauces, more crushed hazelnuts
Hazelnut dacquoise garnish
(all surrounded by the jaconde imprime)
It tasted AMAZING.  It looked.... like a 4-year-old came into my kitchen and got Freya to help her make a cake.  But as I mentioned before, I don't need my food to look great.  And did I mention how tasty it was? Not only was everything good together, but the individual components made delightful desserts in and of themselves. The first problem was that the jaconde imprime got overcooked (to be honest, I was warned by the Daring Bakers that this could happen but I forgot about it until I smelled the edges getting black).  This made it tough to create a continuous ring around the mold.  Second problem was the Bavarian cream.  I made it two days in advance, trusting blindly in my recipe.  By the time I went to pipe it onto my cake, it had lost its buoyant, soft texture and become gelatinized in areas.  Really quite disgusting- except that it still tasted good.  So I put it on there.  But if you're wondering why the top of the cake looks all craggy and weird, blame the Bavarian. (It also refused to stay put when cut into a slice, as you can see above.)  By the time I had been disappointed by both my jaconde imprime and Bavarian cream, my patience had worn thin. I sort of slapped the slice onto a plate, rushed to drip some chocolate sauce on (because I forgot that until the last minute), took one picture and declared my foray into French finery finis! I made several mistakes, but I learned from them.  And I feel confident that next time I could do it much, much better.  I have some ideas for a tropical and fruity entremet- maybe you'll get lucky and we can all get a bad case of French-Caribbean ATS this spring... 

I'm not going to give you the recipes for the individual components and then tell you how to put them together- but it's not because I don't think should give entremet a try.  It's because I'm still a little bitter...  But if you are interested in setting aside an entire Saturday to make this, or one of the components sounds good, let me know and I'd be happy to send you the recipe and tell you everything I learned.   

Instead, I'm going to give you quick notes on the different parts:
  • The espresso shortbread would be a lovely dessert, and it keeps for ages.  It was also incredibly good after the chocolate pudding had soaked in.  
  • The hazelnuts- I spent the better part of two episodes of Law & Order blanching and peeling these little buggers (not that I'm complaining, it is the BEST show in the world).  I wouldn't recommend doing this to anyone, except that they are quite necessary for....
  • The Hazelnut Dacquoise- I never knew I could love a sweet so much.  It is chewy, crunchy, light and airy, just sweet enough, and easy as pie to make.  Dacquoise is just a meringue with finely ground nuts folded in.  Trust me on this- it's phenomenal. I used this recipe, and subbed hazelnuts for almonds.

[Oh, and in case you're wondering....here's the composition for the doggie entremet:

Cheddar cornmeal crust
Chicken gelee
Potato mousse
Whipped carrots

Had a few technical difficulties with this one- the main one being the gelee which did not set entirely and kind oozed instead. It probably tasted undersalted, since I don't want to give my dogs a blood pressure problem (because that's a concern- not their insane lady owner who actually plans elaborate meals for them....).  But they ate it up like it was their first meal in weeks, which I took as a grand compliment.  If you want to make this, say, to prank a birthday pal, or to overexert yourself for a creature that licks its own rear end, just let me know and I'll send you the recipes and tips so that you don't repeat my mistakes. ]


  1. I'm speechless. This is amazing. You've got mad concentration skills. I would have lasted for maybe a half hour before crackin a beer and throwing it down for Lil'E to finish off. Way to go!

    Guess I'm not speechless, afterall.

  2. Not sure I would make that second one, but I would like slice(?) of the first one.

  3. Your fillings for the human one sound amazing. My dog would be all over the second one though