Chocolate Cakes with Red Beet Ice Cream and Toasted Walnut Sauce

May 16, 2009

I knew I wanted to make a chocolate dessert, but also wanted an unusual component or presentation. What could be more unusual than beets and chocolate? (Okay, I can think of lots of more unusual combinations, but how many of them would you want to eat?) This dessert didn’t involve any new or difficult techniques, but it took the most time and had the most advance prep of any course in the dinner. I’ll break the recipe down by components, some of which took more than a day to prepare.

Beet Ice Cream

Another innocent-looking instruction: “Put 2 pounds of beets through a vegetable juicer, reserving the pulp; you should have about 2 cups of juice.” I don’t have a juicer, so I used my Breville Super Blast-O-Matic blender. I peeled and chopped the beets into chunks. I added them to the blender with some water, processed them in two batches, then strained the juice through a china cap.

Beet juice and pulp

I tossed the pulp, which is supposed to be used to infuse the cream. I figured I’d just add some beet juice instead, since I had three cups of the stuff. (Note: Working with beet juice means cleaning up more pink splotches in the kitchen than Thing A and Thing B.) I reduced two cups of the juice down to 1/4 cup and put it in the fridge.

I combined 1 1/2 cups each of milk and heavy cream in a saucepan, added 3/8 cup of sugar and a splash of beet juice, then brought the mixture to a simmer until the sugar dissolved.

Cream with beet juice

I whisked 8 egg yolks and another 3/8 cup of sugar in a bowl, added about a third of the hot cream to temper the yolks, then returned the mix to the saucepan. I stirred the custard over low heat with a wooden spoon until the custard thickened and coated the back of the spoon.

Custard

I poured the custard into a bowl set in an ice-water bath until it cooled, than I strained it and stored the custard in the fridge overnight.

The next morning I stirred the reduced beet juice into the chilled custard.

Beet juice in custard

I poured the mixture into an ice cream maker and churned for 25 minutes.

Beet ice cream

I placed the ice cream in the freezer to set.

Chocolate Cake

I melted 8 ounces of Valrhona bittersweet chocolate with 4 ounces of butter in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water.

Chocolate and butter

I stirred to combine, removed the bowl from the heat, and let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Melted chocolate

I whisked three large eggs and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a metal mixer bowl over the simmering water until the sugar was dissolved. Then I attached the bowl to my mixer and whipped the eggs until they had tripled in volume.

Whipped yolks

I folded in the cooled melted chocolate and 1/4 cup of cream whipped to soft peaks into the eggs. Then I spooned 2 ounces of the mousse (that’s what I had at this point) into buttered foil cups. A standard round ice cream scoop is exactly 2 ounces, which made the portioning easy. I placed the cups in a pan and added hot water to come up one third of the height.

Mousse in cups

I baked the cakes for 10 minutes at 350°F, then covered the pan with a sheet of foil and baked for another 15 minutes until the tops were set. I removed the cups from the water bath and let them cool to room temperature.

Chocolate cakes

Walnut Syrup and Candied Walnuts

This step began with “poaching liquid,” another sub-component. I brought an entire bottle of sauvignon blanc to a boil, added a cup of sugar and 3 cups of water. I stirred until the sugar was dissolved, removed from the heat and added the juice of 1 lemon.

While the wine cooked, I toasted 8 ounces of wanut halves (15 minutes at 350°F) and rubbed off the loose skins. I added the walnuts to 2 cups of poaching liquid and simmered until reduced to 2/3 cup.

Walnuts in syrup

I strained off the syrup and put in in the fridge. I spread the walnuts on a baking sheet, sprinkled them with salt, and baked them  in a 250°F oven for 30 minutes. I let them cool on the baking sheet.

Candied walnuts

Beet Chips

I sliced two small beets paper-thin on a mandoline.

Sliced beets

I lightly floured the slices, and added them to a deep fryer with oil at 300°F, frying until the chips stopped bubbling.

Fried beets

I drained the chips on paper towels and sprinkled them with salt.

Beet chips

Final plating

I spooned some of the walnut syrup onto each plate. I unmolded the cakes and placed them upside down in the pools of syrup. I arranged 2 candied walnut halves next tho the cakes, then placed a scoop of the beet ice cream next to the walnuts. I finished by sticking 2 beet chips in the ice cream.

Final plate

I was skeptical about the beet ice cream, making a point of not tasting it until it was served — I wanted to be as surprised as our guests. It was sweet, which helped cut through the dense cake, but you could also taste the vegetal undercurrent of the beet flavoring. In combination with the walnut syrup it added an unexpected earthiness to the dessert. The crunchy chips and walnuts provided necessary textural contrast. Of course, the color combination was hard to beat (heh).

I asked one of our guests, who works in a wine shop, to bring something for this dessert. I was unsure that a sweet eiswein or port would be right for this combination of tastes. She brought a Southern Tier mocha stout:

Mocha stout

Another winner: the astringency of the stout balanced the richness of the dessert. You could taste the chocolate and coffee notes as well. I’ll try this stout again with a chocolate dessert.

Sources

All ingredients from Whole Foods.

Stout provided by Andrea Davis.

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