My bookshelf glared at me as if to say 'oh come on, not another book...' yep, sadly my addiction shows no sign of getting better as Quay by Peter Gilmore sits pride of place on my groaning shelves. For fan's of photography this book is pure eye candy. Incredible images of beautiful plates and scenery amongst recipe's of one of the worlds top 50 chefs.
I came across Gilmore through the fantastic Masterchef Australia, on the subject of addiction, this has become a new one. The show seems to last a lifetime in comparison to our poor U.K version. Instead of standing in front of dessert dancing wanker Gregg Wallace and the ever bland Torode (except when guesting on the Australian version) the contestants are scrutinised by respected critic Matt Preston and chef's Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris, two exceptionally talented guys.
The contestants also seem to have far more natural flair for food and borderline obsessive interest in food, sound familiar? Guest chef's have included Marcus Wareing, Marco Pierre White and Heston Blumenthal....U.K version, take note!
Anyway, back to Peter and his book. Quay restaurant, as the name suggests, sits on the Quayside of Sydney harbour boasting one of the most breath taking views of any restaurant in the world. The cuisine of Quay centres on nature's garden with Japanese influences. Light and pretty dishes ideal for tasting menu's for those adventurous enough to attempt them.
I thought I'd start easy and go for a chocolate cake containing eight different layers and textures, how I love a bit of self-torture. The cake's layers include chocolate cake base, chocolate mousse, salted caramel ganache, chocolate praline, chocolate dacquoise, caramel cream, tempered chocolate disc and chocolate sauce. Hope you like chocolate!
The starting point was the mousse, which needs six hours to set in the fridge. I combined melted chocolate (there will be a lot of that over the course of the next few paragraphs) with a sabayon of egg yolks, sugar and vanilla seeds then adding whipped cream and egg whites to form a light mousse.
Placing that into the fridge the next opponent came in the shape of salted caramel ganache made by caramel mixed with whipping cream, added vanilla and sea salt for flavour. Pour over chopped milk chocolate and combine. The last step involved mixing room temperature butter into the ganache, easy enough if your butter has softened enough....mine hadn't. Furious beating sorted that, straight into the fridge.
Caramel cream is quite similar to the ganache. The difference being its just melted chocolate combined with the cream and caramel which is then cooled in the fridge until cold. Add the double cream in and whisk until soft peaks. This tasted delicious, a real interesting contrast between the heavy ganache and the light cream.
Callebaut pellets and 40% chocolate
I haven't tempered chocolate for over three years. The last attempt was a chocolate cylinder and it was a disaster. I don't think I'm alone in this as its a difficult skill to master. Effectively its bringing chocolate up to a high temperature, dropping it to almost cool and then bringing it back up slightly above the cooling temperature. I found out the reason for this is to align the crystals within the chocolate to produce that shine and resistance to blood-temperature heat making it ideal for chocolate sculptures sitting at ambient temperature.....isn't science fun.
I hate thermometers, they are like politicians, always lying to you....well to me anyway. I pulled the chocolate off at 118F as instructed only to find the thermometer deciding to shoot up to a few degrees higher. Nevertheless I persevered with it and completed the process ending up with a shiny result that seemed to harden pretty quickly. I should mention that I used Callebaut 70.5% chocolate for
this throughout the recipe and it really is excellent stuff.
Salted caramel ganache
Slapping my tempered chocolate onto acetate and stencilling out the circles I would use to top the dessert was all left to do for that step....onto the next one. Guess what? Yes we're going to melt some more chocolate! Feeling a bit like Leicestershire's answer to Willy Wonka I began the chocolate cake. Mix dry ingredients into melted chocolate, stir and bake, easy enough.
I was beginning to see how deceptive this recipe is. Looking it through its easy to see the small processes needed for the various elements but after the third time of washing every bowl you own you start to question why the hell you didn't just buy a plane ticket and go taste the damn thing......one day though! Not many processes left now luckily. After tackling the hazelnut chocolate praline (caramelised hazelnuts with chopped chocolate set in the fridge) and breaking your blender in the process(cheers praline!) its just the dacquoise and sauce that stand between you and pudding heaven.
Chopped hazelnuts, ground almonds and cocoa powder added to whipped egg whites form the base for your dacquoise (a meringue biscuit). Baked in the oven for 6-8 minutes it's a delicious looking slab. I wanted to do the dacquoise and the praline at the end to retain crunch before plating,
Word of warning for those attempting this.......plating is a fucking nightmare! Build the cake by putting the cake base down and smoothing on chocolate mousse up the sides of the ring, add the praline followed by the salted caramel sauce and then the dacquoise. Top with the caramel mousse and dig out a hole for the sauce to fall through........this unfortunately is where I fell into a world of problems.
I had forgotton to dig out the hole for the mousse and had already set my chocolate disc on top, stupidly trying to dig a hole out of now running mousse was a disaster. Add to this the disc now had to be replaced and suffered a couple of chips as a result. Keeping the chocolate sauce warm leads to the kitchen becoming warm and when you're working with chocolate that's never a good thing.
It's single handily the worst dessert I've plated. The fall through on the chocolate sauce was minimal, even on the second try with a deeper hole, nothing really positive about that. The cake is so heavy, stupidly heavy. The chocolate flavours and textures are brilliant and they all work together but by spoonful number three you're done. Its hard to write this given the time and effort put into doing it but to be honest I wouldn't attempt it again.