Somehow, coming round in a full circle can be both comforting and disconcerting.
One encounters things familiar, even soothing, yes, but with this familiarity often comes a sense of stagnation, of dejà-vu.
Il faut qu’on se demande pourquoi on y est arrivé encore une fois: par mégarde ou délibérément?
One must ask oneself why one has arrived there yet again: by accident or on purpose?
As I breezed through these photos, tweaking the too-bright exposure and blue tints that were the result of reflections off of the snow the day that I shot them, I had a strange sense of already having edited them.
The coloring, and, in truth, the plating, of this dessert were similar to those of the first one I ever attempted.
I was struck by it.  
I asked myself, is your project becoming prosaic?  Are your desserts becoming less and less distinctive?
(Sounds like I’m doubting myself a lot in these WISE posts, don’t it?)
I realize that the desserts are different; in fact, I cringe looking back on my first dessert.  
Nowadays I can (usually) bear to look through the photos.
I say usually because there are times when I look down at a plate and hate it.
 There are times where I redo said plate, look down, and hate it even more.
There are plates that are messy, cluttered, ugly.
There are ice creams that become soup in the time it takes me to lift up my camera.
There are mousses that don’t set and there are mealy caviar.
There are desserts that are contrived from their very conception.
Before I made the dessert that you see here, I had a failed experiment which involved nearly all of those situations.
The flavors (olive oil, orange, almond, and dark chocolate) paired beautifully, but the ways I chose to present them just didn’t click.
The burnt-orange ice cream recipe, which I got from Gourmet, was quite tasty, but didn’t set when I spun it in my ice cream maker.
It didn’t set when I tried to freeze it solid.
So, I whipped some cream and folded it into the base to make a mousse.
And hey! look! it froze!
And hey! look! it melted upon first contact with ambient temperature!
And hey! look! I made soup!
Needless to say, that dessert was a messy, soupy disaster.
I was unhappy with the photographs and unhappy with the presentation.
I felt I used too many components and didn’t put enough thought into the plating beforehand.
(I had a meltdown… Get it?!)
I set out to make a new dessert, with ideas of clean, simple plating floating around my brain.
In light of the new Argentinian pope, I decided to utilize a very popular Latin American flavor combination: chocolate and passion fruit.  (Also happens to be one of my personal favorite flavor combinations).
(Don’t ask me where these weird ideas come from. There is a small, wizened, and mostly blind old man somewhere in a dusty control room in the back of my brain pushing and prodding on the decidedly wrong buttons and these are the thoughts that result.)
Ah.  Anyways.  Latin American.  Yes.
I decided I wanted to bring some Italian influence into the dessert.
(The pope chose an Italian saint’s name… It all makes sense.)
I had just bought a gigantic bulk bag of hazelnuts, so hazelnuts it was going to be.
(Apparently hazelnuts equate Italian.  I don’t know.)
In using this so-called “Italian” influence, I now get to use fancy names for things… 
Nocciola gelato?  Hazelnut ice cream (with a lower fat content but, whatever, get over it.  Gelato and ice cream are just short of identical when homemade.)
Gianduja? Nutella.
Vive le pape!
gianduja ganache
passion fruit crème
roasted milk and white chocolate mousse
dark chocolate and passion fruit bonbons
nocciola gelato
Why Asisium?  It’s Italian for Assisi, as in St. Francis of Assisi, as in Pope Francis’ namesake. Plus, it sounds grand.  Can’t you just hear Pavarotti singing it in the background?

for the roasted milk and white chocolate mousse:
100 g milk and white chocolate; I went almost exactly halfsies
1 egg yolk
110 g cream
12 g sugar
1/8 tsp gelatin bloomed in 1 teaspoon cream

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Place chopped chocolate in a baking pan and bake, stirring vigorously with a spatula every 15 minutes, until extremely fragrant, about 40 minutes.
The chocolate will have caramelized; you won’t see much of a color change because there is milk chocolate in addition to the white chocolate, but if you taste it, you will notice a distinctly more complex flavor.
Pour into a bowl; you should have about 85 g of chocolate. If you have more, eat it!
Heat cream, yolk, sugar until 175 d F.
Strain over chocolate.
Allow to sit until chocolate is melted.
Stir in bloomed gelatin and pour into molds.
Freeze until use; place on plate to temper at least 5 minutes before service.

for the nocciola gelato:
1/2 cup milk
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch salt
1/4 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts
Heat the milk until simmering. Pour in hazelnuts and steep for at least 2 hours and up to a few days, in the fridge.
Strain and discard the hazelnuts.
Blend all ingredients together with an immersion or regular blender, then pour into a pot and heat gently, stirring constantly, until custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
Let cool completely, then spin in an ice cream maker.

for the dark chocolate bonbons:
adapted from Elizabeth LaBau

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, tempered
1 tablespoon cream
1 teaspoon glucose
1/3 cup passion fruit pulp (find it in the frozen section with other Goya products)
4.5 ounces white chocolate, chopped
Bring passion fruit purée, glucose, and cream to a boil.  
Place the white chocolate in a heat-safe bowl and pour the cream mixture over.  
Allow to sit for 2 minutes without touching, then stir gently until the ganache is smooth and homogeneous.  
Allow to cool.
Coat your molds with the tempered chocolate, then pipe in a little of the ganache.  
Seal with more chocolate and allow to harden.

for the passion fruit crème:
adapted from Milk Bar
65 g passion fruit puree
35 g sugar
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon gelatin
6 tablespoons butter, cold
1 g kosher salt
Blend the puree and the sugar and egg together until the sugar granules have dissolved and the mixture is smooth.  
Pour into a pan; clean the blender.
Bloom the gelatin in 1 tablespoon cold water.
Heat the passion fruit curd over low heat, whisking constantly, until it comes to a boil.  
Remove from heat and add it to the cleaned blender.  
Add the gelatin, butter, and salt, and blend until the mixture is “thick, shiny, and super-smooth.”
Allow to cool completely.

for the gianduja:
roughly 1 2/3 cups hazelnuts
scant 1 1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
big pinch salt
1/3 cup milk powder (or more, to taste)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Prepare a baking sheet with a silpat.
Bring the sugar to a boil in a dry saucepan, and allow to cook until it reaches a golden-amber color.  
Immediately stir in the hazelnuts, working quickly.
Spread out the brittle onto the silpat as thinly and evenly as possible.
Allow to cool completely, then break into chunks.
Pulverize the praline with the grapeseed oil until liquidy and almost entirely smooth.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix to combine.
Taste and adjust for your preferences; I wanted this spread to be a deep, dark, chocolate, so I didn’t add much sugar, but I did add a nice big pinch of salt.
Can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 weeks (But it won’t last that long…)

to assemble:
Plate the gianduja first; use a chilled plate.
Pipe a few dots of passion fruit cream around the plate.
Place the bonbons where you would like, then follow with the mousse.
As soon as the mousse is out of the freezer/mold, work quickly, as it will melt.
Next, quenelle a scoop of the gelato and place in the center of the plate.

One thought on “Asisium

  1. I see you actually did put one of your “failures” in the blog, that’s a positive sign of not being too much of a perfectionist 🙂
    And I love the description of the :blind old man” in your brain causing the problems. As usual, love the photography and the narrative.

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