Progression comes from practice. My phone and camera are sticky with meringue. There’s chocolate under my fingernails. And my refrigerator is full of temptation: left over pastry cream, left over meringue, and bite-sized chocolate cups heaping with the two.
I’m back again practicing my pastry skills, getting the hang of Italian meringue, trying to fill the pastry bag without making a mess and forming little rosettes one after another and as similar as possible.
But there’s only so much I can do on a baking sheet or dinner plate. It was time to move on to the mignardise like the ones I’ve been working on almost every afternoon of my internship.
A mignardise is a tiny dessert. Think of it as an amuse-bouche that comes at the end of the meal. Often they’re served with coffee; occasionally before the main dessert to get you warmed up. When I say small, they really are small – just a bite. But they can be as rich and as creative as the dessert itself.
I decided to make my own chocolate cups so that I could practice not only filling the cups properly, but also working with chocolate.
Chocolate cups are simple to do if you have a nice mold, but takes an eagle eye, a steady hand, and patience. The best tool to use in order to coat the mold with melted chocolate is a small paintbrush, but as I didn’t have one, I used the thick end of chopstick.
Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes and coat again. Another 15 or 20 minutes in the fridge and then very carefully remove from the mold.
Then I got to the fun part: deciding what to put inside.
Meringue as I said before, uses only egg whites. Continuing my pastry practice I made some crème patissier or pastry cream with the yolks. A thick, rich cream that is often used in mille-feuille, as pie fillings, or as a cream layer in cakes. It’s a basic in the pastry world, but rather tricky to do.
Then meringue. Today with one of the pastry chefs, I discovered that Italian meringue cannot be left in the fridge or it starts to fall, so these were not as pretty as I would have liked, but the movement is what I was practicing. It’s all good.
A little amateur, yes, and not quite as creative as some of the mignardise I’ve seen, but my practicing is paying off – today I dressed these babies all by myself, even helping the pastry chef with the chocolate mousse that is underneath.
Chocolate mousse, whipped cream flavored with tonka beans and topped with little swirls of praline-milk chocolate. My first ça me plaît* from the chef. One day I may work up to a très bien.
*literally: “It pleases me.” or more colloquially: “It’s not bad.”
- 2 egg whites
- 120 g sugar
- 32 g water
- Put the egg whites in a large, heat-proof mixing bowl. Set up your bowl and electric mixer so that you can start beating the eggs as soon as the sugar is ready.
- In a small sauce pan cook the water and sugar to 120°C or 248°C. If you don’t have a candy thermometer you can try this without it, but you want the sugar-water mixture to be very hot, past boiling and almost clear.
- As soon as the sugar is ready start whipping the egg whites with the beater on medium. With the other hand turn off the stove and in a slow, steady stream add the sugar-water mixture to the egg whites. Beat the mixture on medium for at least 30 minutes until the meringue is completely cool and is thick and sticky.
- Use immediately. (As a mousse, a topping for cakes and tarts, often Italian meringue is used for Pavlova.)