What’s up DFK nation, welcome to part two of the Top Ten Saga! For those just tuning in, a few months ago I was named one of the top pastry chefs in the country this year by Dessert Professional Magazine (I know, I can’t believe it either) and in celebration of the award myself and the other honorees presented some signature sweets at a gala in NYC. For post number one in the saga I shared with you the first of three items I presented – a speculoos sandwich cookie. Now we get into the real nitty gritty, the petit gateau.
I really enjoy working with the form of a petit gateau (or PGs as I call them). The small size means you need to edit your flavors and textures to almost bare bones, and that forces you to focus on what is most important in the pastry. How can you get the most impact in flavor and texture with less to work with and still maintain balance? Oh and make it pretty. For me this is a fun problem solving exercise, so making PGs is always a joy!
Orange and chocolate has been a favorite flavor combination of mine since I was little. During Christmas my Dad would be all about the Terry’s Chocolate Oranges. Through that tradition the flavors took on a special significance, marking the beginning of the greatest time of year for a kid. Just seeing that package still makes me think of the holidays. More than just the magic of nostalgia, I think chocolate and orange is a flavor combination a lot of people are unfamiliar with or even uncomfortable with, and balancing it well can be tricky, so again, I like the challenge.
Caramel felt like a good third flavor component since it bridges the gap between both the orange and chocolate, working well with them both. It also gave me the ability to adjust bitterness to help balance any overly sweet notes from the chocolate.
The quality of the oranges you use is important! I specifically use cara cara oranges for the caramel and mandarin oranges for the glaze and chocolate cake brownie. The cara cara is sweeter and less acidic than most other oranges which is why I think it pairs nicely with caramel. Mandarins – possibly my favorite fruit of all time – are also fairly sweet and distinct and intense in flavor, making them a good match for the forward flavors of chocolate.
The longer you infuse your cream with orange rind, the better. Fat absorbs flavor much better than water, but it takes time. The difference between infusing your orange cream for 20 minutes versus overnight is pretty stark. Be patient, grasshopper, and take the time to properly infuse your cream. You may notice the cream appears to coagulate after infusing. That’s actually a reaction from the calcium in the cream and the pectin in the citrus rind. Don’t sweat, when you heat the cream back up the thickened globs will break down again.
This recipe calls for cocoa paste. This is found in grocery stores known as 100% chocolate or sometimes baker’s chocolate.
If possible, measure your orange zest directly into your other ingredients. The oil found between the skin and the pith is what we’re looking for, and if you zest into a container, a lot of that oil will be left behind when you add the zest to your recipe. Zesting into other ingredients ensures that any oil gets soaked up by them and incorporated into the finished product.
chocolate orange caramel pg
225g chocolate, 58%
310g butter unsalted
58g cocoa paste 100% chocolate
300g whole eggs
260g powdered sugar
12g vanilla extract
250g pastry flour
8g baking powder
12g mandarin orange zest approx. 2 oranges
8g orange oil optional
Before you get started, bring the whole eggs to room temperature. If you don’t want to wait for them to warm up on their own, you can do this quickly by whisking them over a bowl of hot water.
Combine the chocolate, cocoa paste and butter and place them in a metal mixing bowl over a saucepot filled with one inch of water. Bring the water to just a simmer and slowly melt the chocolate mixture.
Combine and sift the salt, pastry flour and baking powder and reserve it for later.
Sift the powdered sugar and combine it with the whole eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, orange zest and orange oil. You can incorporate these together with a whisk by hand or in a stand mixing bowl fitted with a whip attachment. Either way, whisk well until all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
Add the melted chocolate, cocoa paste and butter to the egg mixture and whisk well until combined.
Whisk the dry ingredients into the batter, mixing until well combined.
Pour the batter into your baking pan/mold. I use a half sheet pan lined with a silicone baking mat and a half sheet cake frame (also commonly called a pan extender).
Bake: convection; 350F/176C; 20-25min
Once the cake cools, cut out rounds using a 2.5″/65mm round cutter. Reserve these for assembling.
orange caramel custard
275g heavy cream
62g orange juice fresh
5g vanilla paste
120g egg yolks
5g gelatin 160 bloom
8g orange zest
Zest the orange into large peels and add them to your heavy cream in a saucepot. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat and then cover the top of the saucepot with plastic wrap to create a tight seal. Infuse the cream like this for at least 30min. You can leave it overnight in the fridge if you’d like too. After infusing, remove the orange peels and reserve the heavy cream in the saucepot.
Hydrate your gelatin in cold water and reserve that too.
Make a dry caramel with the sugar (this just means no additional water is added, just plain old sugar). Preheat a saucepot over medium-high heat and then add a thin layer of sugar to the pot. Let the sugar dissolve and add another thin layer of sugar. Once you have created some liquid caramel you can continue to add sugar a little at a time, making sure to stir the dry solids into the caramel and not letting there be more solid than liquid in the pot. This will avoid lumps forming while you make the caramel. If the caramel starts to smoke, turn down the heat a little.
While the caramel is cooking, heat your heavy cream to a simmer. When the caramel has reached a medium amber color, turn off the heat and add the hot heavy cream in several small additions, mixing the caramel thoroughly with each addition before adding more cream.