24 August 2007

The Concorde

The Concorde is a classic cake that's more than 40 years old, created by Paris pastry chef Gaston Lenôtre. I picked up the recipe from Pierre Hermé's book, not knowing what to expect since I haven't tasted the original, and not even the version of Sugarhouse. The cake is simply 3 chocolate meringue discs sandwiched with chocolate mousse and decorated with chocolate meringue rods; Sugarhouse replaced the chocolate meringue discs with vanilla sponge cake. The resulting cake, though not at all that pretty (the yield for the meringue was much, much lower-- a problem with the size of the eggs or underwhipping?), tasted excellent and you could really appreciate the mingling of textures. (Recipe follows)
The Concorde
Preheat the oven to 120°C (250°F). Whip 4 egg whites at room temperature on high speed until they form soft peaks. Add 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar, beat to stiff, glossy peaks and beat in 1/4 cup more sugar at low speed. Fold in 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Valrhona) and 1/2 cup (100g) confectioner's sugar (the original recipe called for 1 cup). Using a 1.5cm (1/2") plain round tip, pipe out 3-22cm (8-1/2") circles onto 2 large baking sheets lined and greased, then use the rest of the meringue to pipe out as many long rods using a 7mm (1/4") plain round tip. Place into the oven and keep the door slightly ajar with the handle of a wooden spoon (I used disposable chopsticks). Bake for 2 hours, rotating the pans 2-3 times during this time to keep the cooking even. The discs should be firm but not colored. Close the door, turn off the oven, and dry the meringue discs overnight.

To make the mousse, melt 250g (8-3/4oz) bittersweet chocolate in the microwave, then let cool. Beat 2 sticks + 1-1/2 tbsp (250g) unsalted butter until very smooth, then beat in the cooled chocolate until well-blended. In a separate bowl, whip 6 large egg whites at room temperature with 1 tbsp sugar until they hold stiff, glossy peaks. Beat in 3 large egg yolks and whip for 30 more seconds. Stir in 1/4 of the egg mixture into the chocolate, then fold in the rest of the egg mixture.

Sandwich the discs with mousse and use the mousse the cover the top and sides. Freeze for 2 hours. Cut up the meringue rods into 1.5cm (1/2") pieces. Take out the cake, heat the surface slightly with a hot hair dryer, then stick the meringue rods on the top and sides. As you can see, I barely came up with any rods, so I decided too smooth the sides as much as I could and just pile the few rods I had on top.

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