Appropriate behaviour is a very interesting thing. Every now and then I find myself questioning why some people acts in (what I think are) peculiar ways. This, of course, opens up a whole thought process about how others might perceive my actions, and whether they might find them equally as peculiar! Is it irritating to have someone bring a dessert if you have already made one? I can imagine this might be. Perhaps, I need to stop bringing food and take a bottle of wine instead…
It seems, based on discussion with my friends, that the main factor distinguishing appropriate behaviour is related to (cultural) upbringing – and my half-Asian heritage has had a huge impact. A good example is that I cannot turn up to a friend’s place empty-handed, unless explicitly told not to – and I think this comes from the fact that I do not have any childhood memories of turning up to someone’s place without some baked goods. I recently mentioned this to my mum, to which she responded: “Let me give you some advice that it has taken me years to figure out – don’t volunteer to bring anything.” Despite this ‘advice’ I think is it too late for me – the habit is here to stay! To be honest, since I enjoy cooking, bringing something is not really a chore – and I do get pleasure out of cooking for other people (and watching the pleasure they get from eating the food I make).
Oh, and I should say that my mum still always brings something…
Anyway, back to the point of this post (yes, yes, I get very easily sidetracked)… Sometime ago I was invited over to a friend’s place for dinner and decided that I would bring dessert. I was, at the time, trying to cook challenging foods – I had made a croquembouche for a friend’s birthday a couple of months prior just to see if I could do it – so for this particular dinner party, I set myself a task: make a dessert that represents not just one, but all seven deadly sins – it was to be the ultimate in decadence!
Forget wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony – meet the new deadly sins:
Dark chocolate swirls (the layer that required the least amount of work… sloth)
White chocolate mousse (pure white like pride & vanity)
Layers of golden pastry, cocoa and, of course, gold leaf (greed)
Red velvet cake (no colour is as lustful as red…)
Chilli chocolate ganache (to be wrathful, it needs a little bit of bite!)
Chocolate meringue (envy – because I too wish for no fat!)
Dark chocolate and salted peanut truffle (the ultimate indulgence that represents gluttony)
7 deadly sins...
Make the chocolate swirls (sloth) meringue (envy), cake (passion) and truffle (gluttony) first as these need to cool (I would even go so far as to suggest making them the day before). Also the recipes are not necessarily the exact amount required so please use your judgement in terms of how much batter you want to put into that pan to make this layered dessert.
Sloth – Chocolate swirls flecked with gold leaf
Melt 250g chocolate in a double broiler (this should probably be tempered but I’m still a little frightened by the process and am not yet game to try it). Once melted, drizzle on grease-proof paper and allow to set. Once set, place some gold leaf on the surface of the chocolate.
Pride/ Vanity – White chocolate mousse
300g white chocolate
1 tsp vanilla extract
300ml whipping cream
Dash of olive oil
Melt the white chocolate in a double broiler. Add extract. Remove bowl from saucepan and set aside. In a separate bowl, whip cream until it holds it’s shape. Transfer the melted chocolate to a new (not hot) bowl. Add a generous dash of oil to the chocolate and whisk vigorously. You want to chocolate to cool down but not solidify. Once the chocolate has cooled, fold in the cream. Refrigerate. N.B. This is not the type of mousse that sets – it is ready to eat and consequently should be made as required.
Greed – Filo, cocoa and gold leaf mille-feuille
This layer was easy! Basically you place a sheet of filo on a baking sheet (cut to the size of your square pan that you will be using for the cakes), brush it with melted butter (or spray with oil), sprinkle with cocoa and cover with another sheet of filo. Every so often add a layer of gold leaf. Keep repeating this until you get the thickness you want. Then bake at 180 degrees Celsius until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Lust – Red velvet cake
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
¼ cup (60g) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cups sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
30g red food colouring
½ cup buttermilk
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp white vinegar
½ tsp baking soda
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a square baking tray.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and blend well.
Make a paste of cocoa and food colouring and add to the butter mixture. Sift flour and salt together into this mixture. One at a time, add the following ingredients: buttermilk, vanilla, and water.
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and the baking soda. Fold it into the cake batter. Make sure it’s incorporated, but don’t beat it. Pour the batter into the pan and place in the oven (you can test this by seeing if the cake springs back when touched. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, then turn out of pan and onto a rack to finish cooling completely.
Wrath – Chilli chocolate ganache
¾ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons chilli powder
170 g semisweet chocolate, chopped
Heat cream and butter over medium heat until butter is melted and cream bubbles around saucepan edge. Place chilli and chopped chocolate in a medium sized bowl, pour heated cream and butter over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for about 30 seconds then start whisking it until smooth. Set aside mixture and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon, it should reach piping consistency within an hour or two.
Envy – Chocolate Meringue
60 gm eggwhite
60 gm raw caster sugar
½ vanilla bean, scraped seeds only
60 gm pure icing sugar, sieved
50 gm dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 120 degrees Celsius. Whisk eggwhites and a pinch of salt in an electric mixer until soft peaks form (4-5 minutes), add caster sugar in a thin steady stream, whisking continuously until stiff and glossy, then whisk in vanilla seeds. Fold in icing sugar, then chocolate and spoon mixture into a lined square tray. Bake until dry and lightly coloured. Turn off oven, cool in oven for 1 hour, then transfer to a wire rack, dust with cocoa and serve.
Gluttony – Dark chocolate and salted peanut truffle
227g semi-sweet chocolate
¼ cup butter
¾ tsp flour
¾ tsp sugar
½ tsp hot water
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, chopped
Line a square pan with baking paper. Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
In a saucepan, melt butter and chocolate together. Add flour, sugar and water, blending well. Add yolks, one at a time, beating well after each yolk.
In another bowl, beat egg whites until you’ve got stiff peaks. Fold the whipped whites into the chocolate mixture. Add peanuts and pour batter into pan and bake for approximately 20 minutes.
Start with the truffle as the base. Spread a small amount of ganache over the top and place the meringue on top. Spread a thick layer of chilli ganache over the meringue. Top with the red velvet cake. Spread another thin layer of ganache on the cake and top with the pastry layer. Pipe mousse kisses on top of the pastry and top with chocolate-swirl sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (3-4 hours). Turn cake out of mould, thinly slice with a hot knife, and serve.