I haven’t had a complete cooking failure in quite awhile which means one of two things:
1) I’m actually becoming a competent cook.
2) I’m not trying enough new stuff.
It’s probably a bit of both, but I did get the urge to try a completely new (and difficult) recipe a few weeks ago.
In this clip, they take him out to this ice shack in the middle of no where and serve him a crazy meal that ended with a French dessert called marjolaine, which is a specific kind of dacquoise pastry.
I’d never heard of it before, but figured I would try to tackle it on my own.
And so began a two week experiment that eventually ended in something edible, but mostly involved a lot of expletives.
For one of the first times in recent history, the Internet failed me in researching this dessert. There were very few versions of it that I could find (that looked reliable), but here’s all I figured I needed to know to try to make this:
- It involves Dacquoise cake which I’ve made before and isn’t super hard on it’s own. The cake is normally very light, made with egg whites and folded in ground nuts (usually hazelnuts).
- It involves layers of chocolate ganache.
- It involves layers of various flavors of pastry cream.
- It’s beautiful if done correctly.
- Approximately zero people make this anymore because it’s too damn hard.
Even though I had a rough idea of the layers I needed here, I relied on two sources to guide me. The first was an old New York Times recipe from 1987 and the second was from a great pastry blog I love called Joe Pastry.
None of the cookbooks I have mention it, although I possibly could’ve pieced together the needed bits from Bouchon Bakery.
In any event, I thought I had a good feel for what I needed to make this happen so I jumped right in.
What I Did Right
This is a fairly short list. Most of things I did on this first attempt were riddled with mistakes.
One thing I did correctly was part of the recipe that involves a praline powder.
Just to try to convey the steps involved in this sucker, this is the craziness that is this one step which is only one part of one layer of the finished dessert.
– You have to make a perfect caramel sauce that isn’t burned but hardens completely.
– You have to pour that over roasted nuts making a delicious praline. Most people would stop here.
– You then grind that hard work into a powder.
– You mix that powder into a perfect pastry cream.
I made it to the last step.
See my beautiful praline!
I wanted to just eat it like this.
This was the first thing I made for the recipe and was brimming with confidence.
Unfortunately, I had issues with the pastry cream. More on that later.
The only other thing I did right was the actual dacquise cake and it was a half success at best.
The cake actually turned out fine, but I didn’t have the right baking sheet for it so I used two different ones and figured I could just cut them down to the same size.
The cake turned out great, but I ended up with four fairly small cake slices.
Oh boy. The mistakes I made were many.
For starters, I made the chocolate ganache and pastry cream a day before I assembled the cake.
The Times recipe said you could make the ganache in advance and reheat it but I had zero luck getting it the same consistency. It was perfect on day one but super-grainy and gross on day two.
I knew I was in trouble when I spread on this layer.
But it got worse.
For some reason instead of thickening over night, my pastry cream turned into a soup. I just plain screwed it up but as soon as I spread it onto my cake, it just drowned the whole thing.
I tried to salvage it and keep layering, but it just got worse and worse.
It’s a good thing that blog posts don’t have audio because at this point this post would turn into a cursing fit.
A dozen eggs, 12 ounces of expensive chocolate, 1 pound of creme fraiche, a few cups of expensive nuts, and a few other ingredients later, I had this finished situation.
Here’s the only thing that gave me hope: Even though it looked like some sort of French culinary student nightmare, it actually tasted delicious. You kind of had to eat it like a soup, but it was seriously good.
So, I promised to pick my pride out of the gutter and try again the next week.
Check back in tomorrow to see that version!