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Published: Saturday, 5/14/2005

Silky Chocolate Cream Pie

It never failed to amuse Chef Mesnier when U.S. Presidents and heads of state went crazy for this simple chocolate pudding pie. This was a perennial favorite at casual White House affairs and it would be right at home at a family Sunday supper.

6 table-

spoons granulated

sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

8 large egg yolks

1 quart whole OR

2 percent milk

8 ounces

semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

4 table-

spoons unsalted

butter, cut into small

pieces

1 prebaked

9-inch pie shell

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled

2 table-

spoons powdered

sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Chocolate shavings

Whisk granulated sugar and cornstarch together in bowl of an electric mixer. Add egg yolks and beat on high speed until thick and pale, about 4 minutes.

Place milk in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking frequently to make sure bottom isn't burning. Whisk about 1/3 of hot milk into egg mixture and return egg mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until mixture reaches a full boil, 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and whisk in chocolate and butter until melted. Scrape pudding into pie shell and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 1 day.

Two to three hours before serving, combine cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla in bowl of an electric mixer and whip until cream holds stiff peaks. Smooth whipped cream over pudding. Scatter chocolate shavings over whipped cream and serve.

Yield: 10 servings

Source: Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier

Serve this cake for afternoon teas or for dessert alongside fruit compote or chocolate mousse. This recipe calls for less butter than traditional pound cake recipes, but it makes up in richness with the addition of creme fraiche. For the lightest cake, do not over-mix the ingredients. Beating the batter too much will make the cake greasy and heavy.

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

2 large eggs, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1/2 cup creme fraiche OR sour cream, at room temperature

Grease an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom and longer sides with parchment paper.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest. Stir until well-combined, but do not over-mix. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture. Then stir in butter and creme fraiche.

Turn batter into prepared pan. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven until cake begins to form a crust on top, about 15 minutes. Carefully remove from oven and make a 1/2-inch-deep cut down center of cake to allow it to rise without cracking.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees, return cake to oven, and bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 45 minutes.

Invert cake onto a wire rack and unmold it. Then re-invert it onto another wire rack so it's right side up. Let cake cool slightly, then remove parchment. Serve slices warm or at room temperature. Lemon Pound Cake will keep, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature 2 to 3 days.

Yield: 8 servings

Source: Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier

Although there are only three ingredients in this recipe, you must handle them carefully for the best results. The chocolate should be a little warm to the touch; otherwise it may set before you have a chance to fold it into the whipped cream, resulting in a grainy mousse. For the same reason, let the cream come to room temperature before you whip it. If it is too cold, it might cause the chocolate to harden too quickly.

4 ounces semisweet OR bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 cup heavy whipping cream, at room temperature

2 teaspoons finely chopped crystallized ginger

6 chocolate cups (optional)

Pour 2 inches of water into a medium saucepan and bring to a bare simmer. Place chocolate in a stainless steel bowl that is big enough to rest on top of the saucepan, and place it over the simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn't touch the water. Heat, whisking occasionally, until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat and let cool until chocolate is just warm to the touch, between 95 and 100 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Whip cream with an electric mixer until it holds soft peaks. Add whipped cream and ginger to chocolate all at once, and quickly whisk together. Scrape mousse into a serving bowl or individual goblets, or pipe it into chocolate cups, if desired. Serve immediately, or refrigerate up to 1 day before serving.

Yield: 6 servings

Source: Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier

SUNFLOWER TART

1 recipe Pate Sucree (recipe follows), chilled

2 cups Pastry Cream (recipe follows), chilled

2 large ripe mangoes, peeled, flesh removed and cut into long, thin slices

1/2 cup apricot jam

1/3 cup chocolate sprinkles Butter bottom and sides of a 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Turn chilled Pate Sucree (dough) out onto a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle with a little flour. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough out to form a 13-inch round about 1/8-inch thick, rotating the dough as you roll it and occasionally sliding a flat metal spatula underneath to make sure it does not stick to the work surface. Lift the dough by folding it in half over the rolling pin, and gently place it on top of prepared tart pan; be careful not to stretch the dough, or the tart shell will shrink as it bakes. Trim off all but 1/2-inch of the dough along the edge of the tart pan. Fold the extra dough into the pan and press firmly against the sides. Prick the bottom of the tart shell about 12 times with a fork. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days, to chill completely.

Spread Pastry Cream evenly over bottom of chilled tart shell. Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven until edges of dough are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove tart from oven and let it cool slightly on a wire rack. While tart is still slightly warm, peel away and discard skin that has formed on top of Pastry Cream. Allow tart to cool completely.

Place a 3-inch round biscuit cutter in center of Pastry Cream. Arrange mango slices on top of Pastry Cream, placing one tip of the slice at the edge of the cutter so that the other tip extends to the edge of the tart. Make several layers around cutter so that the mango slices look like sunflower petals.

Bring apricot jam to a boil in a small saucepan. Strain jam and brush lightly and evenly over mango slices. Scatter chocolate sprinkles in an even layer inside biscuit cutter and carefully remove cutter. Remove tart from ring, transfer to a platter and serve. Sunflower Tart will keep for 4 hours under a cake dome at room temperature. Makes 10 servings.

(From "Dessert University," by Roland Mesnier.)

PATE SUCREE OR SWEET DOUGH

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 tablespoon vanilla

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Pinch salt

1 large egg

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour Combine sugar and butter in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Cream together until smooth. Stir in vanilla, lemon zest and salt. Then stir in egg, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice as necessary. Stir in flour until just combined.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. Pate sucree may be frozen, wrapped in plastic and then in foil, for up to 2 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Makes enough dough for 1 (10-inch) tart crust.

PASTRY CREAM

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch

5 large eggs OR 8 large egg yolks

1 quart whole milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

Pinch salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled (optional) Whisk sugar and cornstarch together in a medium bowl. Whisk in eggs.

Bring milk to a boil in a large saucepan. Slowly dribble 1/2 cup hot milk into egg mixture, whisking constantly. Dribble another 1/2 cup milk into egg mixture, again whisking constantly.

Whisk egg mixture back into milk and return pan to heat. Bring to a full boil, whisking constantly. Remove pan from heat and pour mixture into a bowl. Stir in vanilla, salt and butter. Allow to cool completely. Then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days. Push Pastry Cream through a fine-mesh strainer before using. Makes 5 cups.



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