Don’t start now: a plated dessert

When Dua Lipa released her new single, “Don’t start now”, of course I fanboyed. It had this upbeat, modern Disco-style that was so indicative of her music. And the message, while a bit generically delivered so that it was relatable, still resonated with me. Specifically not letting “being left behind” affect you, but rather, propel you. So I wanted to make a dessert in homage to her song for just that reason alone. And I wanted to include some of her Albanian heritage in the dessert as well, just because I could.

When I think of Dua Lipa, I think of mature, dark, gorgeous, and a bit sassy. So I wanted all of that in this dessert. I am making a take on sampita, which is an Albanian-Montenegrin cake that is topped/soaked with an Italian meringue, and combining that with Mont blanc, a chestnut dessert that is popular in the winter and fall. I’m going to add the “sass” so to speak by doing a malted chocolate ice cream, with pieces of chestnut cake folded in, just to add some extra fun to it. And to make it dark, quite literally, I’m using activated charcoal, just to give it the dark, black finish. I really wanted

For the brown butter-chestnut cake:
1/4 cup chestnut flour
1/4 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons brown butter
a pinch of salt

Whip eggs with sugar and brown butter until ribbon stage. Fold ingredients together and pour into a lined sheet tray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool completely before unmolding from the tray.

For the chocolate ice cream base:
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup malted milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark chocolate
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
a pinch of salt

Melt chocolate into the cream and milk. Temper egg yolks, salt, cocoa powder, and sugar with the chocolate-cream mixture and allow to cool down to room temperature, if not slightly colder. Transfer into an ice cream machine. Churn for 20-30 minutes and transfer to the freezer to set.

For the chestnut puree:
1/4 cup roasted chestnuts, peeled
1/4 cup heavy cream
a pinch of salt

Simmer down the peeled and diced chestnuts in cream until softened. Puree until velvety smooth, passing through a sieve as necessary.

For the malted coffee caramel:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon instant espresso
2 tablespoons malted milk
1 tablespoon brown butter
a pinch of salt

Bring sugar, water, and salt to a simmer. Once the mixture turns golden, add in the other ingredients and stir until combined.

For the brown butter crumb:
2 tablespoons chestnut flour
2 tablespoons semolina flour
2 tablespoons brown butter
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
a pinch of salt

Whip together into a crumble and bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes.

For the Italian meringue:
2 egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
a pinch of salt
a pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine 1/4 cup of the sugar with the water and salt and bring to a simmer. Whip egg whites with the remaining sugar, cream of tartar, and vanilla to stiff peaks and pour in the sugar syrup once it hits 220 degrees F. Pipe between two layers of the chestnut cake.

For the meringue crisps:
1 egg white
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon activated charcoal
a pinch of salt

Whip egg white with sugar and salt to stiff peaks first. Add in the charcoal. Spread onto a piece of parchment and bake at 200 degrees F for 1 1/2 hours. Cool before breaking into smaller pieces.

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