Eunice Power - Outside Catering Company, Waterford, Ireland.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Desserts

Originally Appeared In The Irish Times - Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wow your guests with these elegant desserts that can be prepared in advance, writes EUNICE POWER

The house is now dressed for Christmas, the only time of the year it looks remotely respectable - for a few days at least. So, while the tree is showing no signs of fatigue, the fairy lights are still working, the door wreath is fresh, candles arranged on every available surface and my over-mantle arrangements are at their peak, I see a three-day window in which I can entertain some friends. Plans for a dinner party are afoot.

The menu is planned with considerable thought being invested in the dessert. I want to stay away from traditional Christmassy fare. I have just completed the marathon Christmas baking session, where I have been submerged in brandy, spices and dried fruit for weeks, consequently I decide that it’s time for chocolate. And so I juggle ideas, finally arriving at these two decadent desserts.

I bought the edible rose petals for the jellies from Blásta Wholefoods in Dungarvan, and health food shops may be the best place to find them.

White Chocolate Mousse With Turkish Delight Jelly 

This pretty and delicate dessert takes a little time and patience, as you need to wait for the jelly to set. It’s a very simple recipe, with outstanding results in terms of flavour and presentation.

The white chocolate mousse recipe was given to me by Garrett Byrne of Campagne restaurant in Kilkenny, just as I was about to lose faith in the workability of white chocolate. I have made this dessert for large parties, when I served it in little votive glasses, or you could serve it in martini glasses. Makes six.

Turkish Delight Jelly 
  • 150g sugar
  • 250ml water
  • 1 dessert spoon rose water
  • A good pinch of citric acid (tip of a teaspoon)
  • 2 leaves of gelatine
  • 1 drop of red food colouring (and I mean a drop)
  • 25g shelled pistachio nuts, chopped
  • 1 dessert spoon of edible rose petals and some extra for decorating
White Chocolate Mousse
  • 150g good quality white chocolate
  • 37.5g butter
  • 300ml cream, whipped
First, make the jelly. Soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of lukewarm water until they are soft (this should take about five minutes). Drain the water off the gelatine leaves and return them to the bowl.

Dissolve the sugar in the water over a gentle heat. Add the rose water, food colouring and citric acid and heat to simmering point. Pour the hot liquid over the gelatine and stir until the gelatine is dissolved. Pour the mixture into a jug.

Divide half the jelly between six glasses and refrigerate until set (this should take about an hour). When set, sprinkle chopped pistachio nuts and rose petals on the jelly. Pour the remainder of the jelly on top.

If the remaining jelly has set, reheat it gently to a pouring consistency. Return the jellies to the fridge and allow to set overnight.

To make the white chocolate mousse,melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Melt the butter and add this to the melted white chocolate. Allow this to cool a little, then fold the chocolate into the whipped cream. If you add the chocolate to the cream while it is still hot, the cream will split. Chill the mixture for an hour or so.

When you want to serve dessert, pipe the white chocolate mousse over the Turkish Delight jelly. Sprinkle rose petals and crushed pistachios over the top - and a little sprinkle of edible glitter if you have it .

Velvet Chocolate Tart

This is the nicest tart I have ever made. The recipe came back from New Zealand, courtesy of my chef and kitchen companion, Roisin. The pastry base has a light and crumbly texture, is remarkably easy to work with, but must be chilled before rolling out. But it’s the filling that’s the real gem here, with a velvety smooth texture like crème brûlée.

Pastry Base
  • 175g plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
  • 50g of icing sugar
  • 100g very cold butter, cubed
  • 1 egg yolk, plus 1 tbsp cold water
  • 300g dark chocolate (50 per cent cocoa solids - anything darker will make the tart too rich)
  • 350ml cream
  • 100ml milk
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
Lightly butter a 24 cm (9½ inch) tart tin and put it in the fridge. Put the flour, and icing sugar in a food processor and aerate with a couple of quick on/off pulses. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and water (if necessary) and process until the pastry just draws together.

Turn it out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly to form a flat round. Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for at least 20 minutes before rolling out.

Pre-heat an oven to 190 degrees/gas 5. Roll out to a round at least five centimetres (two inches) larger than the tin. Wrap the pastry around the rolling pin, lift into place and unroll loosely over the chilled tin. Gently lift and press the pastry into the tin to line, then roll the rolling pin over the top of the tin to trim off the excess pastry.

Line the chilled pastry case with baking parchment, fill with baking beans and cook for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the beans and paper and cook for another 10 minutes or a little longer, until a light biscuit brown colour.

Turn down the oven temperature to 120 degrees/gas ½. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl. Bring the milk, cream and sugar to the boil and pour this over the chocolate and beat in the egg yolks. Pass the mixture through a sieve and pour into the pre-prepared base.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the tart has set around the outside but still has a slight wobble in the centre.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least two hours before cutting and serving. Serve with softly whipped cream.

Food cooked and styled by Eunice Power. 
Photographs: Shane O'Neill