It’s official: I have not only become my oven’s master, I’ve managed to pull an inordinate amount of pastries, I’ve never made before, basically, out of my ass. All in less than a week. There is nothing quite like a party at my place. So yes, all this to say, that my husband’s birthday was a success, that my elaborate plan worked, and my husband did not faint. Although, he did think I was going to have a heart attack several times, when he asked if he could come into the kitchen (how was he to know, I was in the midst of assembling the napoleon). He’s decided that whatever house we move into next will need iron doors to the kitchen, like the iron curtain, for parties.
This is, of course, the other reason why I did not blog last week. I thought I would be able to do the play by play, but I really didn’t have time. Between making hundreds of bite-sized sweets, cakes and other things, I managed to go through 56 eggs, go grocery shopping practically every day, borrow a mixer (thank God!) from a friend, wipe out in front of my building while carrying 16 eggs, double my embarrassment as my glasses flew across the side walk and 2 construction workers came to my rescue, had them joke that I’d be making one less cake, did more dishes than i thought humanly possibly, had a run in with my extremely pleasant and completely non-confrontational 40 year-old neighbor, after which I had to restrain myself from keying her car, and, of course, hosted a party. All in all a good week, but no time for blogging.
So here we are. I’m going to post most of the recipes in separate posts, for readability purposes. And I will post them split up the way that I did them, to give you an idea of what the organization was like. I will tell you honestly, that I could have done all of this only in week nights. So, this is doable for any person who’s up for a challenge, but doesn’t work from home. I did most of this stuff in the evening, as during the day I found myself busy with other responsibilities. I conjecture to say, that due to all the setting, chilling and resting, the sheer amount of baking, and the fact that my oven, despite its capacity, does not bake evenly if you put multiple racks in one on top of another, it would have been hard for me to do this my normal party execution. I would not have been able to do this over a Friday evening and a Saturday. The picture suffices to give you an idea.
Monday, Day 1:
I have to say this recipe was really good. FYI The chocolate crème anglaise that this recipe calls for took way longer than 1 hour to set. I was a little panicked about it, to be honest, when in hour 3 it looked exactly like it did in hour 0. So I left it overnight, and it was perfect (thank God!) in the morning. In reality, I made this recipe over two days, day 1: chocolate crème anglaise; morning day 2: semifreddo. This recipe has been adapted from myrecipes.com. And for the record, those are not firecrackers on the semifreddo, they're polish sparklers. Those are the small size.
Chocolate Crème Anglaise
3 cups whole milk
½ cups whipping cream
½ cup sugar
8 large egg yolks
8 oz/230 grams bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon vanilla
Combine the milk, cream, and sugar in a medium heavy bottom pot over medium heat stirring often, until mixture begins to steam and bubble around edges of pan. You will actually see bubbles forming around the edges and there should be visible steam rising from the mixture. Remove from heat.
Put the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk in about 1/2 cup hot milk mixture to temper, then pour egg mixture back into pan, whisking continuously to blend. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon over medium-low heat until the custard thickens noticeably, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Stir in vanilla.
Pour through a fine strainer set over a bowl. Set the bowl of custard in a larger bowl of ice and water for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until mixture cools. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap pressed against surface of custard. This is important; not doing this will cause a film to form on top of the custard. Chill overnight.
Chocolate Amaretto Semifreddo
1/3 cup amaretto
2 1/2 cups chilled Chocolate Crème Anglaise
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 cup finely chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
3/4 cup raw slivered almonds, toasted
¾ cup roasted hazelnuts
Semisweet chocolate shavings
Stir amaretto into crème anglaise. In a chilled bowl, beat whipping cream until medium peaks form (they should hold their shape, but not be stiff). Gently fold in about a third of crème anglaise mixture until no white streaks remain. Fold in remaining crème anglaise until blended. It’s really important that you fold the crème anglaise into the whipped cream; it will not deflate that way.
I almost always roast nuts in a frying pan, rather than in the oven. I find that it’s much more hassle free, but if you prefer the traditional oven method, by all means, use your oven. In a non-stick frying pan on medium heat, place almonds and hazelnuts, stirring occasionally. Heat until they are golden in colour. You don’t need any oil, the natural oils in the nuts with grease the pan organically.
Line a 9- by 5-in. loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving overhang on all sides. Gently fold chopped chocolate, almonds, and hazelnuts into crème anglaise mixture. Spoon into pan and cover with overhanging plastic wrap. Freeze until firm, at least 7 1/2 hours and up to 1 week.
To shave the chocolate chill a block of bitter-sweet chocolate, and then on a cutting board take a sharp chopping knife and ride down the edges. If you want to use other softer chocolate, I recommend doing curls, which are easily achieved by taking a potato peeler and peeling curls off the chocolate. I did this in advance, and stored the chocolate in an airtight container in my fridge until I needed it.
To serve, invert dessert over a platter and remove pan and plastic wrap. Let stand at least 15 minutes at room temperature to soften. I found that freezing it for so long, made it incredibly hard, and the requisite 15 minutes what really not enough. I froze mine for 5 days, I really would be curious to see the difference if I had frozen if for less time. Smooth top and sides with a warm knife if needed. Garnish with shaved chocolate.
Also, you’ll notice that you will have a bunch of the chocolate crème anglaise left. Don’t worry – it’s delicious. I served it to my husband as a pudding, and he pretty much licked the tupperware container clean, when we ran out. <3