ROOT ROOT ROOT FOR THE HOME TEAM
Europe is all a-flutter with the World Cup. Day in and day out, television sets, radios and computer screens everywhere are tuned in, news hours are devoted solely and completely to this grandest, loudest of all sports events. From the first coin toss and that first kick heard round the world, every European sits, watches, listens with bated breath, hands clasped, heart pounding. Prayers are interspersed with groans, grunts and choice expletives, the sweet taste of hope mingled with the jarring pungency of despair. Even Wimbledon, that most sacred and royal of tennis tournaments, has been forgotten, washed out, left in the dust of so many free kicks.
Of course we are speaking of the World Cup as in football. No, not American football, rather what Americans refer to as soccer. Now as my family and friends know, we are rugby people. Yes, we prefer rugby to soccer, the Gentlemen’s Sport over the Street Sport. And who doesn’t love watching those muscular men with the great thighs in skin-tight shorts and jerseys running around, clutching each other in wild embrace, hair swinging, weaving in and out as graceful as dancers with the final, beautiful dive chest first onto the green. Whew. Sorry, I sometimes get carried away.
So, where was I? Ah, the World Cup. This rare event has been punctuated by an even rarer event in our household, a visit from a friend who has come to stay. Clare and I sit side by side, day after day watching match after match, eating bowl after bowl of popcorn, sipping birch sap champagne (Sweden’s finest!) and root…root…rooting for the home team.
She would root just like any man,
Told the (referee) he was wrong,
All along, good and strong.
When the score was just two to two,
Nelly Kelly knew what to do,
Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song.
"Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don't care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, (yellow cards and) you're out,
At the old ball game."
(slight changes Life’s a Feast)
Truly caught up in the excitement of all of the drama, whipped up into a frenzy of patriotic fervor, Clare and I have spent every single day of her visit dashing between kitchen and living room, baking furiously and shouting at the players, shaking our fists, slapping hands to foreheads. But both she and I have one saving grace when it comes to the World Cup, our double lives: Clare is English and lives in Scandinavia while I am American living in France. We each have a choice of home teams, are swayed by such varied attachments that if one of our teams loses or gets sent home in disgrace we can simply switch our allegiance and still be loyal to a home team. The hullabaloo surrounding the French national football team has been making headlines and the repercussions of a continuous losing streak have been making waves throughout the country for so many years that supporting the Americans has been easy, especially after having watched how less thuggish the USA team has been playing in this World Cup, near perfect examples of sportsmanship and elegant football. Clare, on the other hand, has been vacillating between the English and any Scandinavian team who can gather together eleven blond men in shorts who can kick a ball. Watching England play has been a hair-pulling experience, yet they have indeed pulled through. We each heaved a huge sigh of relief as that first England-USA game ended in a draw, I can tell you that! No girl fighting necessary!
So while we are root…root…rooting for whichever home team feels the most like home (or has the better chance of winning) at the moment, we have been cooking and baking – poor Clare is suffering from food blog syndrome contagion: every waking moment is spent either at the market, the supermarket or in the kitchen cooking and baking when one is not sitting in front of a computer blogging said cooking and baking. In between the bouts of gorging on salty popcorn and nibbling on Swedish Dinkel crackers, we have been craving sweets. It started the day she arrived with a chocolate layer birthday cake (for son Clément) layered with whipped cream and raspberries and topped with chocolate buttercream, and was followed shortly after with luscious, amazing, perfect lemon ice cream (recipes will soon be revealed on Life’s a Feast). And then that time of the month rolled around, the Daring Bakers’ challenge, a multi-layered confection of chocolate, heavy cream, mascarpone and everything sweet.
The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard. I wanted to make a lighter flavored pavlova to offset the rich chocolate flavor of the mousse, so I chose a simple white pavlova in which I folded deep jade green pistachio nuts and added a dash of vanilla. I added cornstarch and vinegar to the meringue recipe as I usually do which gives the meringue a dry, crispy outer shell and a light, airy, marshmellow-like center. The pistachio meringue was perfect; just crispy on the outside without being crumbly or powdery, soft on the inside with the perfect marshmallow center, just chewy without being sticky and it truly melted on the tongue, leaving behind a wonderful delicate nutty taste. The chocolate mousse was creamy, smooth and very rich with an intense, not-too-sweet semisweet chocolate flavor. The Vanilla Sauce, made by folding crème anglaise, mascarpone and lightly whipped cream together, with a splash of nutty, warm Amaretto, was beautiful and the perfect balance with the chocolate mousse.
Thanks to Dawn, Lis and Ivonne for this wonderful event and delicious dessert!
PISTACHIO PAVLOVA with CHOCOLATE MASCARPONE MOUSSE
And a Crème Anglaise Vanilla Sauce
3 large egg whites
¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
3/4 tsp vinegar (I used cider vinegar though you can use white wine vinegar)
½ tsp vanilla
1 ¾ oz (50 g) shelled pistachio nuts
Grind the pistachio nuts finely but with some small chunks.
Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Line one large baking sheet with parchment or oven paper.
In a clean large bowl (I prefer plastic), beat the egg whites on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase mixer speed to high and continue beating until foamy. Gradually add the sugar to the whites as you continue to whip the whites until very stiff peaks hold and the meringue is glossy and moist.
Blend the cornstarch, the vinegar and the vanilla until the cornstarch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Pour this liquid over the whites and fold together. Add all of the ground pistachios except two tablespoons and fold into the meringue.
To make one large pavlova, trace an 8- or 9-inch (20- to 22 ½ cm) circle onto the parchment and scrape all of the meringue out into the center of the drawn circle. Using the back of a spoon or a metal spatula gently spread the meringue out until you have an even disc. You can make a slight well in the center if you like. For individual pavlovas, draw six or eight 4-inch (10-cm) circles on the parchment and divide the meringue evenly among the circles then gently spread the meringue until even and level. Again, make a slight well in the center of each meringue to hold the mousse. Do not overwork the meringue or it may deflate. Bear in mind the pavlovas spread and puff up a bit so leave a couple of inches between each shell.
If you like, you can hold back some of the meringue and, using a pastry bag and a star tip, pipe stars out onto your lined baking sheet to serve as cookies alongside the mousse.
Sprinkle the remaining chopped or ground pistachios on the surface of the pavlovas.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 250°F (120°C) and bake the pavlovas until the outside is dry and crisp. It should also be dry and crisp on the underside. Do not overcook if you want the pavlovas to be marshmallow-like on the inside as a pavlova should be! If the pavlovas begin to brown too quickly simply cover them loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil. Remove them from the oven to cool on cooling racks.
This is half of the recipe suggested by the Daring Bakers but I found it quite enough
¾ cup (190 ml) heavy cream, chilled
4 ½ oz (125 g) semisweet chocolate (Lindt 70%), chopped
6.6 fluid ounces (195 ml) mascarpone
Pinch ground nutmeg
1 Tbs Amaretto (can be replaced by 1 tsp vanilla)
Place ¼ cup (65 ml) of the heavy cream in a sauce over medium heat. When warm, add the chopped chocolate and stir until the chocolate is just melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. It will thicken slightly.
Place the mascarpone and the remaining cream in a large bowl. Add the nutmeg. Whip on low speed until the mascarpone is loose and smooth. Add the Amaretto and continue to beat on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. Do not overbeat or the mascarpone will break.
Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten, then beat in the remainder until well incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
CRÈME ANGLAISE (for use in the Vanilla Sauce)
This is half the recipe suggested by the Daring Bakers, but again, I found it to be quite enough
½ cup (120 ml) whole milk
½ cup (120 ml) heavy cream
½ Tsp vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
3 Tbs (38 g) sugar
Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until they turn pale yellow. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over a medium high heat, bringing the mixture to the boil. Remove from the heat.
Pour about ¼ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly so that you do not end up with scrambled eggs.
Pour the yolk mixture back into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on low.* Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until it is thick enough to lightly cover the back of the spoon. Do not overcook.
Remove the mixture from the heat and strain into a bowl through a fine mesh sieve. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, 2 hours or overnight.
* If the cream curdles – which may happen if the heat is too high and the cream gets too hot – simply remove the pan from the heat and whisk in a few tablespoons of cold heavy cream. Whisk for a few minutes until it smooths and thickens a bit and then push through the sieve. Chill in the refrigerator over night. It will be thick and smooth enough to use in the Vanilla Sauce.
VANILLA SAUCE (Mascarpone Cream)
Again, this is half the recipe suggested by the Daring Bakers.
1 recipe Crème Anglaise (above)
¼ cup (65 ml) mascarpone
1 Tbs Amaretto (or 1 tsp vanilla)
¼ cup (65 ml) heavy cream
Slowly whip the mascarpone and the Amaretto into the chilled Crème Anglaise until thick and creamy. Put the cream in a bowl (preferably chilled) and beat with an electric mixer until very soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture.
Take a bigger bite ...