This may sound odd coming from a sugarphile, but I don’t usually order dessert when eating out. I eat so many sweets at work and at home as it is, I feel like it has to be really worth it for me to spend my dining-out calories on more dessert.
But when the husband and I were having lunch at Fraiche in Santa Monica this past week, I abandoned my anti-dessert stance and suggested we split a dessert. (By the way, lunch was fantastic and Friache is highly recommended to any fellow Angelenos.) Inspired partially by coconut month, we decided to order the Milk Chocolate Cremeux with Coconut Sorbet, Browned Butter Ganache and Candied Pecans.
I also forgave her for saying “That was fast!” with more than a touch of condescension when she came to clear away our plates. I wanted to say, “Listen lady, I had to share this weensy square of crque-mruouuouo with a man affectionately known around my house as “the ravenous ravenous rhino,” whose arms are twice the length of mine and who possesses an uncanny knack for asking a question just to get me talking while he shovels in as much dessert as he possibly can in the 5-10 seconds I spend answering it. The speed of my eating this dessert is not greed so much as a legitimate concern for self, thank you.” Instead, my snark was mellowed by a belly full of dessert, so I simply said “It was great!” in a fake chirpy voice.
I liked this dessert so much, I decided to recreate it when I got home. The basic elements were: the milk chocolate cremeux, a creamy mousse-like dessert with perhaps a bit more body than your standard mousse. What was special about it was that it really didn’t seem sweet at all–it had a smooth chocolate flavor but none of the cloying sweetness of so many milk chocolate desserts. The coconut sorbet brought the sweetness with a smooth, light texture. I substituted candied walnuts for pecans (what I had on hand) and created a crispy chocolate topping to go with it–Fraiche’s version had slivered chocolate that added some texture and crunch. I omitted the browned butter ganache, which looked like sad spaghetti strands on the plate and which didn’t add much to the dish for my taste.
Success! We thought the recreation tasted very similar to the original, and it reminded us of how awesome this dessert was in the first place. The best part is that everything was really easy to make. The cremeux comes together in about 15 minutes, then just requires a little freezing until it is firm enough to cut and plate. The sorbet is a no-cook recipe that needs a few minutes in an ice cream maker to freeze, and the toppings are literally 5 minutes each. I had it all made and photographed in the space of a morning.
This experience also reminded me how useful it can be to order dessert out sometimes–it gives me new ideas, exposes me to new recipes and flavor combinations, and just recharges the creative batteries. And now we have a great new recipe for our next dinner party–no snooty waitstaff required.
Yields 4-8 servings, depending on size
3/4 tsp powdered gelatin (or 1 gelatin sheet)
159 g milk (I used 1%)
102 g milk chocolate, chopped
24 g dark chocolate (70%), chopped
38 g egg yolks (about 2 large)
15 g granulated sugar, divided use
127 g heavy cream
good pinch of salt
Place 1 tbsp cold water in a very small bowl, and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Set aside to bloom while you continue preparing the recipe.
In a large, heat-proof bowl, combine the milk chocolate and dark chocolate. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and half of the sugar.
In a small saucepan, bring the milk, cream, salt, and remaining sugar to a simmer. As it comes to a simmer, place the gelatin bowl in the microwave and heat for about 15 seconds, just until the gelatin liquefies.
Temper the hot milk into the egg yolks: slowly drizzle a little hot liquid into the yolks, whisking constantly, until about half of the hot liquid has been incorporated. Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan and return it to the heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 182 F.
Remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the liquid gelatin. Pour the hot mixture over the chopped chocolate, and gently stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Do not whisk too vigorously, or you’ll create air bubbles.
Pour the cremeux into your desired molds: bowls, glasses, ring molds, or one large pan to cut later. If you want to use a large pan, I suggest lining it with parchment or foil so you can pull it out later and cut cleanly. Refrigerate to set the cremeux. If you’ll be cutting it, place it in the freezer until it is firm enough to cut and handle cleanly.
2 (14.5 oz) cans coconut milk
1 cup granulated sugar
Whisk together the coconut milk and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Chill well, then freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. You can also add a cup or two of shredded coconut if you want to add some texture.
Crispy Chocolate Topping
45 grams dark chocolate, chopped
45 grams milk chocolate, chopped
50 grams praline paste (optional, adds great flavor)
50 grams cereal (like rice crispies or cornflakes. I used Honey Bunches of Oats!)
10 grams cacao nibs
Melt the chocolates together in the microwave, then mix in the praline paste. Gently stir in the cereal and the cacao nibs. Spread the mixture in a thin layer on a foil-covered baking sheet and refrigerate to set the chocolate, about 20 minutes. Once set, remove from the baking sheet and chop very finely with a large knife. This is also a great ice cream topping.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
Sprinkle sugar evenly on a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Allow sugar to melt without stirring, swirling the pan occasionally once it starts to melt to help the sugar melt evenly. Once entirely melted, it will start to color quickly. I like to let it get a good amount of color–a decent golden brown–before adding the walnuts. Once added, stir until they’re entirely coated with the sugar and cook for a few more minutes, until toasty brown and fragrant. Pour onto a silpat or foil-lined baking sheet spray with nonstick spray. While warm, separate the nuts from each other and from any pooled caramel. Once cool, coarsely chop.