I’ll be the first to admit it; the last few days have been quite rough. Life has become a series of stops and starts. Really good things will happen and then a moment later an avalanche of disparity occurs. I’ve managed to get into a bit of a depressive funk about butter and brioche too and developed quite a stagnate posting and cooking rut, which has led to a fair deal of reflection on blogging and why I continue to do it.
I had become completely uncommitted to everything I did… too swept up in the apparent picture perfect worlds of my fellow bloggers, food photographers, stylists and writers – comparing the work that makes me unique to the work I deem flawless of others. I also managed to take to heart a fair deal of anonymous criticism, opinion and negative public comment, too – which really made me question my blog, and worse off… myself.
So, this past week, morning till night, I haphazardly tested, baked, styled and photographed recipes – in order to prove myself. I made countless post idea lists, wrote numerous drafts, edited images, abandoned them and then subsequently deleted them all. The problem wasn’t that my ideas weren’t turning out as envisioned; it was that I had gotten into this posting-for-the-sake of posting headspace. I was trying to be someone I’m not… and was solely focusing in on the flaws of my work. I had forgotten the true joy and reason of why I started blogging – and momentarily lost sight of who I am.
They say that artists are their own worst critic and I am inclined to agree. I hold myself to such an impossibly high standard with this blog, pushing myself to make each post slightly better than the last. I definitely have evolved from the baker and person I was since I first started blogging less than a year ago… and am proud to admit that I still have miles to go. Blogging is a journey and not a destination – and it is all too easy to lose sight of this notion. So, thank you, to all the kind people who helped me come to this realisation and continue to support me on my way – you never make me forget all the reasons I love blogging.
All of which, brings me to this dessert – which thankfully arose from my plethora of recent failures. Within minutes of seeing the recipe for Dark Chocolate Cremeux in my new copy of Baking Chez Moi, I knew I had to make it…a luscious dark chocolate French custard with red wine poached cherries? What could get any better? I also opted to top my deconstructed dessert with a Momofuku Milk Bar inspired chocolate crumb, for a little texture and extra decadence.
Right now, I don’t know what or when I’ll be posting next – but what I am certain of is that it will be something I am proud to share with you, flaws and all.
- 5 oz. / 142 g bittersweet dark chocolate, finely chopped
- ¾ cup whole milk
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tbsp. caster sugar
- 1 gelatin leaf, softened in ice cold water
- 1 cup red wine
- 4 tbsp. caster sugar
- 1 strip of orange peel
- 1 tbsp. star anise
- 8 oz. / 227 g cherries, pitted
- ⅔ cup plain flour
- 1 tsp. corn starch
- ½ cup caster sugar
- ⅔ cup dutch processed cocoa powder
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 6 tbsp. butter, melted
- Put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Heat the milk and cream in a small saucepan until bubbles form around the edges of the pan.
- Meanwhile, put the yolks in another bowl, add the sugar and immediately begin to whisk until the mixture thickens and is light in colour. Still whisking, quickly drizzle in a bit of the hot liquid so that the yolks acclimatize to the heat. When the mixture is combined, whisk in the rest of the liquid in a steady stream.
- Pour this mixture back into the saucepan set over medium low heat and using a heatproof spatula, stir it without stopping. Cook the custard until it just starts to thicken – a bubble will pop at the surface and if you run your finger down the center of the spatula, the custard won’t run into the track you’ve created. Give the custard a good final stir before pouring it over the chopped chocolate. Allow it to sit for 30 seconds before stirring. Once combined, gently stir in the softened gelatin.
- Set the cremeux bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice and cold water. Stir now and then until it has cooled – it will set softly and begin to form swirls and mounds. Once slightly set, cover tightly and chill the cremeux until needed. Serve the chilled cremeux with the cherries, drizzled syrup and chocolate crumbs.
- To make the poached cherries, put a sieve over a large bowl. Bring the red wine, sugar, orange peel and star anise to a boil in a medium saucepan. Boil for a minute, then add the cherries and boil for a further minute. Turn the cherries into the sieve then pour the liquid back into the pan and boil for 10 to 15 more minutes, or until reduced and syrupy. You should have about ½ cup syrup remaining. Discard the orange peel and star anise and cool the cherries and syrup separately.
- Pre-heat the oven to 300 F / 150 C. Combine the flour, corn starch, sugar, cocoa and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Add the melted butter and mix until the mixture starts to come together in clusters. Spread the clusters on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, breaking them up occasionally - the crumbs will be moist to the touch but will dry and harden as they cool. Let the crumbs cool completely before using. They can be stored in an airtight container for 1 week at room temperature, or 1 month in the fridge or freezer.