In my dreams: a plated dessert

So this dessert, as cheesy as it sounds, actually came to me in a dream. Specifically, I had drempt I was a dessert menu consultant for restaurants, and that I was served this exact dessert. I was in the middle of tasting it when my alarm went off, but I distinctly remember this rich, creamy dark chocolate ice cream with dark chocolate shavings folded through it, smoked, tart cherries, and butter choux pastry. The chocolate gave a nice crunch as it melted on my tongue, while the cherries just added a nice contrast, especially with that smoke. So of course, I had to create this recipe, just to see it through from my dreams to reality.

Obviously, the name is a given, based on how the concept of the dessert came about. When I recall what I had seen and ate, admittedly, in my dreams, the ice cream was served to me melted, which dream-me was irritated by and immediately pointed out to the dream-chef. That being said, I will not be serving melted ice cream in this real life version. For the pate choux, it was chocolate flavored, while the only other components included an earl grey pastry cream with smoked cherries, the dark chocolate ice cream, and a chocolate crumble. For smoking the cherries, you could use a smoking gun if you have it, but in my case, I do not, so I opted for making a Chinese-styled smoker using a wok, tin foil, tea leaves, a candle lighter, and a grate to hold the cherries with. I mean, it works. For what I’m smoking the cherries with, I opted for earl gray tea leaves, just because I remember an almost floral flavor on the cherries, which the bergamot and lavender would be able to give them, and to tie in with the pastry cream. I also decided to include pistachios in this rendition, despite them not being in the dream version, just because the dessert was 2/3rds the way to being spumoni, an Italian dessert with chocolate, cherry, and pistachio, so I wanted to bring the concept together. That and earl grey actually compliments everything in spumoni anyways, so it just works!

Makes enough for 4 servings:
For the smoked cherries:
1 cup bing cherries, pitted
2 earl grey teabags
1/4 cup granulated or dark brown sugar – in two parts
3 tablespoons brown rice
1 tablespoon salt

Line a wok with aluminum foil. Place the rice, half of the sugar, and the contents of your teabags into the wok and start heating it up, making sure to have your ventilation on so that you don’t set off a fire alarm. The sugar will start to bubble, burn, and heat up the other ingredients in the wok. Allow the smoke to start coming out and after the initial smolder, cover the wok with a large bowl or lid to trap in the smoke. Toss the pitted cherries with salt and sugar and place either in a metal bowl or a pouch made of aluminum foil. Place into the makeshift smoker and allow it to smoke for about 8-10 minutes, just so that they take on the flavor. Reserve the juices as well, as you will be folding that into the pastry cream to finish it. For the cherries to be used in the pastry cream, chop about half of them up, very finely, as they will have to be able to go through a piping bag.

For the vanilla pastry cream:
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
a pinch of salt
2/3 cups heavy cream
3 earl grey tea bags
1/4 teaspoon gelatin powder + 1 tablespoon cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat up the cream with earl grey and melt in your gelatin and allow that to sit for at least 5 minutes before removing the tea bags and squeezing them to extract as much flavor as possible. Temper the egg yolks, salt, cornstarch, and sugar with your warmed cream. Whisk on medium heat for 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened substantially, and whisk in your butter, and finish with the vanilla. Pass through a sieve. Chill down first, then add in the chopped up cherries and all of the smoked cherry juices. Transfer to a piping bag and chill down.

For the dark chocolate ice cream:
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup dark chocolate, in three parts
1/2 cup granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
3 tablespoons dried cherries
1/4 cup crushed pistachios

Melt down one part of your dark chocolate into your heavy cream. Temper with the egg yolks, sugar, and salt. Start churning in the ice cream machine first. Melt and temper the rest of your chocolate and spread on either acetate or parchment and chill down. Once the ice cream is firm, fold the chocolate, dried cherries, and pistachios into the ice cream and transfer to a freezer-proof container. Freeze for at least 2 hours.

For the pate choux:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
2 eggs
a pinch of salt

Bring water, butter, and salt to a simmer. Add in your flour and cocoa powder and stir until glossy. Cool down and stir in your eggs. Transfer the batter to a piping bag and pipe onto a parchment-lined sheet tray, about 1-inch circles, about 2 inches apart. Place on the sablage. Bake at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes, and lower the temperature to 325 degrees F, rotate your pan, and continue baking for another 10 minutes. Allow the choux to cool down completely before piping in your filling.

For the pistachio sablage:
1/4 cup pistachios, shelled
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
a pinch of salt

Blitz the pistachio with flour and sugar into a fine powder. Mix in the salt and butter and refrigerate until firm. Roll out on a floured surface and cut 1 inch circles. Place on the pate choux before baking.

For the dark chocolate-pistachio crumble:
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup crushed pistachios
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Whip together into a crumbly texture, press down onto a sheet tray, and bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Break apart and crush into smaller pieces, and cool down.

To plate:
Pipe the pastry cream into the pate choux. Place the crumble onto the plate and garnish with your smoked cherries, pate choux, and a quenelle of the dark chocolate ice cream.


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