I’m one of those who believe you need to be both obssesive-compulsive and bored to tackle a Pierre Hermé recipe. It’s the precision and attention to details that would drive many people crazy, it’s the whole aesthetic thing . I also believe that if you can pull it off – not only you’ll come to realize the true meaning of the word sublime – but you’ll be one step closer from having hordes of Japanese groupies waiting at your front door, just like Monsieur Hermé does. THAT’s what i call real success, damned!
In essence, the concept for this ‘Meringue d’automne’ is very simple. A few disks of a meringue masked with chocolate mousse and covered with a dark chocolate glaze which – to quote one of my dear friend – should be as shiny as John Travolta’s hair in Saturday Night fever. That’s when you tell yourself with confidence: I can do this too! (the cake, not the hair)… Mass-hysteria, here i cooome!
Not so fast!
For the meringue:
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the mousse:
- 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 6 1/2 oz Valrhona Noir Gastronomie and 2 1/2 oz Valrhona Guanaja), finely chopped
- 6 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 3 tablespoons chocolate sauce (see below)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
For the chocolate sauce:
- 4 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably Valrhona Guanaja), finely chopped
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup creme fraiche, or heavy cream
- 1/3 cup sugar
For the chocolate glaze:
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably Valrhona Guanaja), very finely chopped
- 4 teaspoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, softened
- 7 tablespoons chocolate sauce, warm or room temperature
For the meringue disks:
- Preheat the oven to 250’F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Pencil the outline of a three 9-inch disks on the parchment papers. Fit a pastry bag with a plain 1/2-inch tip.
- In a dry, clean mixer bowl with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on high speed until they turn opaque and form soft peaks. Still whipping on high, gradually add half of the sugar and continue to beat until the whites are glossy and hold firm peaks. Beat in the vanilla.
- Working with a large rubber spatula, gradually fold in the remaining sugar. Work as quickly and delicately as you can to incorporate the sugar without deflating the whites.
- Fill the pastry bag with the meringue and begin piping the batter at the center of a circle. Work your way in a spiral and pipe with light, consistent pressure and try to keep the disks thin – they shouldn’t be more than 1/3 inch high. Pipe the remaining disks.
- Place the baking sheets in the oven and insert a wooden spoon into the oven to keep the door slightly ajar. Bake the disks for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until firm and very lightly caramel color, rotating the pans as necessary. Turn off the oven and continue to dry the meringues for another 8 hours (or overnight) with the door closed.
For the chocolate sauce:
- Place all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens very slightly and coats the back of a spoon. This can take about 10 to 15 minutes and shouldn’t be rushed.
For the chocolate mousse:
- Melt the chocolate in a metal bowl over, but not touching, simmering water. Set the chocolate aside to cool to 104’F, as measured on an instant-read thermometer.
- Put the butter in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high speed until it is light and fluffy. Lower the speed and add the chocolate in three additions, increasing the speed and beating well after each addition. You want to beat as much air as possible into this butter-chocolate mixture. Whisk the yolks together with the chocolate sauce and add this mixture to the bowl, beating it in well.
- In a clean dry bowl, start whipping the egg whites, then add the sugar and whip until the whites hold soft peaks. Working with a large flexible spatula, fold a quarter of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then, working with a light hand, fold in the rest of the whites. The mousse is now ready to use.
For the chocolate glaze:
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and, little by little, add the chocolate, stirring the mixture gently with a spatula. Start at the center of the pan and stir gently in a circular fashion, gradually increasing the size of the circle. Measure the temperature of the mixture and warm it over simmering water until it reach 140’F.
- Stirring gently, blend in the butter and the chocolate sauce. To get the best coverage, the glaze should be about 114’F. Warm over simmering water until it reaches that temperature before glazing the cake.
- Place one meringue disk, flat side down, on a cardboard circle. Spread 2/5 of the mousse evenly over the disk. Cover with the second disk, then another 2/5 of the mousse. Spread the rest of the mousse over the top and the sides of the cake, striving for an even coating but not fussing too much – it will be covered by the glaze.
- Place the cake on a cooling rack and put a sheet of wax paper underneath to catch the drips. Pour the glaze over the top of the cake, letting it run down the sides. Using a flexible metal, smooth the glaze. You can serve the cake now or allow the glaze to set in the refrigerator. Best enjoyed at room temperature.