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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.

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Wait, what??  That’s exactly the reaction I had.  We didn’t learn those words in my year of French in college.  An entremet is basically a layered dessert (think trifle) and the biscuit joconde imprime is in this case the part that contains it (edible sponge cake bowl, anyone?).

This is my third month as a Daring Baker, and the first challenge that has really made me shake in my boots, so to speak.   (Note: This Texan is bootless, unfortch.)  As with crostata and Stollen, I had never made an entremet, much less a sponge or even a rolled cake.  That didn’t stop my visions from being lofty, though.  Oh, the ideas I had for the joconde and the top of the entremet…

What actually did happen isn’t bad, especially for the mini/almost disasters that occurred.

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Here is how my experience went. 

First of all, I used my recently-acquired scale which, by the way, has turned me into an even more detail-obsessed baker.   I haven’t touched a measuring cup since!  This also means less dishes get dirtied which makes the dishwashers my hands rejoice.   Yet another perk of this lovely gadget is that it makes reducing/increasing recipes a snap! …well if you do your math correctly. This is where things first went awry.

In the DB private forum, people kept remarking on how much decor paste the recipe made.  Since it involved 14 tablespoons of butter (!) and 7 egg whites (!), I decided to make 2/7 of it.  Did you know that despite having a masters degree, I have not had a math class since high school (almost 11 years ago…)?  Music conservatories provide such a well-rounded education. :P   Anyway, I made a silly miscalculation and didn’t use enough butter.  The result?  Soup.  I figured out my mistake right away though, and all was right with the world.

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I ended up making the cocoa paste variation that Astheroshe provided and piped various-sized polka dots all over my silpat. Then I placed the sheet in the freezer while I tackled the next part: the sponge.

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This is where I felt really unsure about things.   We had to combine the dry ingredients (almond flour, powdered sugar, cake flour) and eggs, then fold in whipped egg whites.  I wasn’t sure if the egg whites were whipped enough or too much, but when I was spooning them into the almond mixture, there were some runny bits at the bottom which gave me an answer.  Then I almost forgot to add the melted butter…

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Next I poured the sponge batter over the paste and spread it out evenly.  In a 475F oven lined with foil, I baked it for about 8 minutes while keeping an eye on it.  My sponge looked a little thinner than I had imagined, but at least it seemed to have turned out okay otherwise.   The next almost disaster occurred after I flipped it after cooling for a little bit.  I thought it had crumpled up into a heap, but then it turned out to be okay.   Only a little part stuck to the silpat.

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After I cut out a circle for the base and strips for the sides out of the joconde, I assembled the entremet.   Using a 7″ springform ring, I placed it over parchment and plastic wrap and lined the inside with more parchment.  I put the base down, then cut the sides to fit.   The first filling that went in was chocolate pastry cream whipped with whipped cream.  Then I layered thin ginger cookies and matcha mousse and repeated, finishing with honey-sweetened whipped cream.

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For the complete recipe and assembly instructions provided by Astheroshe, click here.

Light Chocolate Pastry Cream
from Joy of Baking

No, this isn’t light in a lowfat way – this is light in a chocolate mousse kind of way. SUPER yum.

3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
Scant 3 tablespoons (20 grams) cornstarch
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, lightly whipped

Mix together the egg yolks and sugar in a medium metal mixing bowl. Sift the flour with the cornstarch, then mix into the egg mixture and set aside. In a small saucepan, heat the milk with the vanilla bean over medium heat until boiling. Remove from heat, add chocolate, and stir once melted. Slowly pour into the egg mixture while whisking to avoid curdling. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the egg mixture. Transfer the egg mixture to the saucepan and whisk constantly over medium heat until boiling. Continue whisking until mixture becomes thick, about 30-60 seconds. Remove from heat, and cover the surface with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until needed. Before serving, fold with the lightly whipped cream.

Matcha Mousse
adapted from Tess’s Japanese Kitchen

I’ve been wanting to work with both matcha and agar agar for quite some time, so was excited that this recipe was the first hit when I searched for matcha mousse recipes.   The recipe calls for kanten in stick form, but I used the powder since that is what I could find.  I found mine at a few stores with bulk food sections.  If you don’t know what kanten/agar agar is, click on the link to the original recipe because she has a nice explanation.  It’s a great alternative for those who would like to avoid using gelatin.

1 teaspoon agar agar powder
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup milk
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon matcha, mixed with 1 teaspoon boiling water
1/2 cup heavy cream, lightly whipped

In a small saucepan, stir together the agar agar and water over medium heat until it comes to a boil and the agar agar dissolves.  Stir in 1/2 tablespoon of the sugar, then add the milk and return to almost boiling.  Set aside, but make sure the mixture doesn’t set.  Beat the egg yolks and 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar together in a metal mixing bowl.  Place the mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water (low heat), and stir until thick.  Add the matcha/water paste and mix thoroughly.  Add the agar agar mixture to the egg mixture slowly while whisking constantly.  Fold in the lightly whipped cream.   Transfer the mousse to dessert cups (or layer in an entremet), cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

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Overall, the fillings were really delicious together.  I wasn’t sure how they’d all be together, but it turned out to be a nice combination.  I let the entremet sit in the fridge overnight to help set all the layers, which also made the ginger cookies soft as I expected.

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The joconde was more like a crepe than sponge cake, though, and perhaps that has something to do with how I beat the eggs.  It still tasted good, and at least held up despite its bulge (it was really thin!).

Thanks to Astheroshe for this challenge!  This is something that I probably wouldn’t have ever tried on my own, especially since I didn’t know what it was in the first place.  As with every DB challenge, I have learned so much from the other DBs and the experience itself.

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