Friday, March 23, 2007

Cocoa Leaves and Cocoa Butter Cream with A Touch of Milk and Licorice

A Michel Bras recipe, from Essential Cuisine: Michel Bras. Despite its unusual appearance, it's probably one of the less time-consuming desserts to make from the book, something like this multi-component number being more typical of the section.

With dessert in particular, I tend to eat with my eyes first. But really, looks aside, there were a number of things I found rather exciting about the recipe.

That's cocoa butter cream, as opposed to cocoa buttercream. In other words, the filling uses pure cocoa butter as an ingredient, something that, much like cocoa nibs, has been recently introduced to the home baker's horizons. Chocolatiers have long used it to manipulate the texture and mouthfeel of ganache centers, and increasingly, its uses are being explored in the rest of the pastry kitchen, primarily as a natural thickener for mousses and such like in lieu of gelatine (for the definitive book on the subject, check out Philippe Bertrand & Philippe Marand's L'Eveil des Sens).

And of course, the recipe presented the perfect excuse to go buy a big bunch of long slender metal tube molds, which were of course, absolutely necessary for shaping the pastry leaves. I didn't plan far in advance enough to hunt down the 14mm diameter tubes specified but quite happily settled for the more readily available 25mm ones - in other words, cannoli molds. This resulted in bodacious waves rather than delicate ripples.

Last but not least, it, like several of the other recipes in the book, is a refreshing take on the millefeuille, bringing the classic contrast between crisp and creamy to a heightened level thanks to its ultra-crispness/ultra-creaminess and a brand new cast of flavours.

The trickiest part comes with handling the single-ply phyllo leaves. Each phyllo rectangle is brushed on both sides with melted butter then sprinkled with a sugar flavoured with cocoa, coffee and licorice extract - a certain sense of urgency must inform the proceedings if the phyllo is not to dry out, lose its pliancy, and generally become too brittle to handle. The flavoured phyllo rectangles are modelled by interleaving with the tube molds and baked briefly in a hot oven until the sugar caramelizes. Extricating the "cocoa leaves" intact from the molds takes a bit of practice - while very crisp, they are also very fragile - but the initial broken shards make for excellent cook's perks, so one need not feel too aggrieved.

Just prior to serving, the leaves are lined with the cocoa butter cream (gently whipped cream folded into a liquid mixture of cocoa butter and sugar) and stacked. To finish, milk reduction, cocoa licorice caramel and more of the flavoured sugar.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful,J! Like you said, the contrast of texture of creamy and crisp makes this dessert highly interesting. I have not used cocoa butter before , but I shall keep an eye out for it.

4:40 am, March 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was a beautiful dessert and it tasted as good as it looked! Thanks Joycelyn!


5:43 am, March 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As always, your presentation, photography and kitchen prowess leave me utterly speechless! Great work, and I am so jealous of the people who were lucky enough to partake of this dish :)

10:21 am, March 23, 2007  
Blogger santos. said...

i love any excuse to handle incendiary pastry. excellent per usual.

2:54 pm, March 23, 2007  
Blogger Warda said...

You dessert is so beautiful, it's a work of art.

6:55 pm, March 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dearest Joycelyn - how delicate and beautiful it looks, you did a wonderful job creating such beautiful 'waves' with cannoli moulds! The cocoa butter cream sounds really intriguing too - I've been hunting for cocoa butter without success but I'll make sure I'll try this recipe when I get some ;)

Thank you for being an inspiration, as always.

7:33 pm, March 23, 2007  
Blogger Kajal@aapplemint said...

Hello Joycelyn , what a beautiful post.Its always a treat for my eyes when i visit your blog.U are so talented in both cooking and photography.Love this dessert u have made.So gourmet !

9:33 pm, March 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How did you manage to do this between all your cupcake classes!? I can just imagine biting thru the light crispiness of the pastry contrasting with the smooth creaminess of the cocoa butter cream. Yumz...!

4:04 am, March 24, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This looks absolutely gorgeous...definitely too good to eat! How you could've made it into such lovely wafer-thin ripples amazes clumsy ol' me! =)

2:56 pm, March 24, 2007  
Blogger Anita said...

hi J,
It's like a perfect piece of sculpture - too lovely to eat! I love seeing what directions your creativity takes you!

7:08 am, March 25, 2007  
Blogger obachan said...

It's a work of art. What else?!
Great work, J, as always.

10:13 pm, March 26, 2007  
Blogger Joe said...

Joyce I think your blog has to be my favorite recipe blog to visit. You take the best pictures I've ever seen too. My wife and I recently created our own recipe blog at and we're giving away a $300 gift certificate to any place of your choice if you win. I suggest sending over a few of your best recipes, I think you could really win it. Keep up the good work with your recipes!

2:31 am, March 27, 2007  
Blogger Monika Korngut said...

Wow, this looks amazing, very well done. I would be afraid to eat... ruin this master-piece.

9:47 pm, March 27, 2007  
Blogger monica said...

i always find myself in complete awe of your website and your work. your photography is beautiful, words are eloquent, and talent amazing. very envious of your cookbook collection!

10:52 pm, March 27, 2007  
Blogger Chubbypanda said...

I love that description. Bodacious waves indeed.

4:46 am, March 28, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So beautiful as usual! Eating dessert at your home must be a amazing experience! :)

6:28 pm, March 28, 2007  
Blogger Linda said...

wow - very impressive presentation. you're just bursting with talent over there. i wonder if i have the patience for something like this... i'd like to find out!

11:32 pm, March 28, 2007  
Blogger Freya said...

This is my first visit to your blog and all I can say is wow! This is a work of art! Thanks for sharing!

2:03 am, March 29, 2007  
Blogger nini said...

uauu, très beau!

2:28 am, March 29, 2007  
Blogger Julie said...

What an amazing dessert it's not only beautiful but the combination of flavors are unique and intriguing.

5:56 am, March 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just been told about your blog and wanted to congratulate you on your amazing culinary talent and gorgeous photos!


6:51 pm, March 30, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Single-ply phyllo leaf? Working with that has got to be quite a challenge... Very impressive Joycelyn. It looks perfect.

5:38 pm, April 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

C'est superbe! j'adore!


4:30 am, April 09, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog is an inspiration. Beautiful presentation. Great work! Looking forward to see more. =)
Regards, Chris

1:15 pm, May 27, 2007  

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