You're going to laugh, aren't you? You're already laughing, AREN'T YOU?! Okay, clearly I'm a little sensitive about this, but . . . I've been going to Jazzercise classes. I know, I know . . . cue the comments about leg warmers, sideways ponytails, and off-shoulder Mickey Mouse t-shirts. Perhaps you've conjured up a picture of me in gigantic, neon hoop earrings with poofy bangs dancing around a la Flashdance. It's okay. I can take it.
Because I love Jazzercise. I LOVE IT. It's a dance exercise class that includes cardio, small weights, and stretching. I've been to two classes, and the pattern seems to be rocking out for 30 minutes (i.e. until I feel like I'm about to die), making the small weights and stretching exercises that last for about 15 minutes a total relief.
Before this, I was a sedentary lump (albeit a lump that did eat healthily throughout the week), so it's no surprise that I'm the least coordinated person on the planet. Like, less coordinated than your Great Aunt Ida who uses a walker to get around and can't really see anymore. Like, she would laugh me off the dance floor. So I'm typically the one flailing around in the back of the Jazzercise class two steps behind everyone else and sashaying in the wrong direction. I only wish I were joking!
The good news is, I still love it. I laugh at myself the whole time, sweat a lot, and wonder with slight discomfort if I'm jiggling in an unattractive way. As one of the instructors told me after my first class, "We're all moving the wrong way at some point!" I just keep jabbing and kicking and pliéing and sashaying and wriggling and whatever else I'm supposed to do until the class is over and I feel like a champ. Albeit a champ with poofy bangs.
Another reason to love my new foray into the exercise world is being able to reflect upon my healthy movement while eating things like rich Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse and Mascarpone Cream. I can now make comments to myself like, "Oh yeah, I totally Jazzercised this off. No problem," or, "I'm sure we'll be sashaying these calories off tomorrow."
With so much Secret Gardening going on, you may have assumed the Daring Bakers challenge fell by the wayside this month. Fortunately, that was not the case! 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.
These pavlovas are not the sort with the marshmallowy interior, but are more crisp throughout, like meringue cookies. They're topped with a decadent, fluffy chocolate mascarpone mousse and a drizzle of mascarpone cream made with heavenly Crème Anglaise. I opted to leave out orange flavorings suggested by the original recipe, because I typically don't like citrus meddling with my chocolate. The result was perfect. Make your pavlovas small, because these components all together make for an extremely rich, luscious dessert. You're going to need a glass of milk. And a nap. And some Jazzercise.
But it's worth it! Mike and I loved this dessert. The combination of crisp and smooth textures was fantastic. It was messy to eat, but simple to make, and a joy to taste! As Daring Bakers challenges go, this challenge had very few, "Uh-oh, this recipe's about to fail!" moments -- a huge plus for me in this busy month. I made my chocolate pavlovas look like little Soda Shop ice cream sundaes for added fun. Scrounge up your best chocolate and enjoy the cool mousse and crisp pavlova on a hot summer evening.
In the meantime, tell me, what's your favorite exercise routine? Jazzercise? Zumba? Treadmill? Channel surfing?
Gorgeous flowers from a student's parents' garden.
Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
Recipe by: Adapted from Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard
Yields: About 8-10 servings depending on the size of your pavlovas
Chocolate Pavlova Ingredients:
3 large egg whites
½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar
¼ cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse Ingredients:
1 ½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream
9 ounces (255 grams) good chocolate, chopped (I used bittersweet Ghiradeli chocolate chips)
1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone
pinch of nutmeg
Mascarpone Cream Ingredients:
1 recipe crème anglaise (see below)
1/6 cup (120 mls) mascarpone
1/6 cup (120 mls) heavy cream
Crème Anglaise Ingredients:
1/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 vanilla bean, split or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
Make chocolate pavlovas: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.
Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form (the whites should be firm but moist.) Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white (this looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)
Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon. Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool completely. You can make these ahead of time and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Make the Crème Anglaise: While the pavlovas are baking (unless you made them ahead of time), whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow.
Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat. Pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. Do not overcook.
Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.
Make the chocolate mascarpone mousse: While the pavlovas are baking or cooling, put ½ cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.
Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Do not overbeat, as the mascarpone will break. Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Refrigerate until you're ready to assemble your pavlovas.
Make the mascarpone cream: Slowly whisk the mascarpone into the Crème Anglaise. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.
Assemble your pavlovas: Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and add fresh fruit if desired.
P.S. - Now that I've posted my Daring Bakers challenge, check back soon for Secret Garden recipes!
P.S. 2 - Make sure to stop by and see other Daring Bakers' creations!