Love yourself: a plated dessert

I feel like whenever I make a chocolate cake, I’ll always be remembered for the one I made on MasterChef. Which is fair, since it was a pretty iconic moment for the show(and my life), but it’s important for me to move on and make better things than that with every dish or dessert I make. For me, it’s important to constantly self-improve as a baker and as a cook. For this dessert, I wanted it to be my opportunity to make yet another plated chocolate cake, but more sophisticated in terms of the plating, and with equally sophisticated flavors. I also made it gluten-free and vegan to boot, because being able to do things within both restrictions, and make them taste good, that’s something I try and pride myself on as a baker. Starting out as a vegan baker, it gives me a huge sense of comfortability with not having to use animal products in my desserts. In fact, for the majority of my recipes for the month of April, I actually am going to veer towards either gluten-free or vegan recipes for a vast majority, just because it was around this time 10 years ago that I really started my journey in cooking/baking.

For the actual dessert, we have a chocolate-cardamom(one of my favorite spices) cake with a tahini-orange blossom ice cream, cardamom ganache, and tahini-chocolate mousse. I wanted to plate this dessert almost like an open-faced chocolate tart meets a cake bar, just because sheet cakes seem to be all the rage these days, and that was my homage to that. With tahini, it’s sesame paste, and I’m pretty sure it’s no secret to how much I love sesame. The chocolate mousse is one of three vegan chocolate mousses I love to make, this time, being the method Heston Blumenthal employs, by whipping melted chocolate with hot water over ice. It’s surprisingly effective, and I felt like with the other two methods(chilled coconut cream or pureed silken tofu), it would give me less opportunity to showcase the flavor of tahini. To make the dessert gluten-free, it was mostly the cake that needed modification. So I opted to use mochiko(glutinous rice flour) and almond flour, and some xanthan gum to bind it. I named the dessert “Love yourself”, which is a Carole and Tuesday reference, but also, because this dessert is full of things that I personally love, in the preparation methods for the components in it, the presentation, and the flavors.

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For the tahini-orange blossom ice cream:
1/2 cup tahini
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons cornstarch(yes, some brands are gluten-free, so use those)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
a pinch of salt

Whisk the cornstarch into the water. Add in the other ingredients, sans orange blossom water, and whisk on medium-high heat until the mixture thickens just enough to coat the back of a spoon. Take off heat and cool down completely before whisking in your orange blossom water. Transfer to an ice cream machine and churn to its instructions. Freeze for at least an hour before attempting to quenelle it.

For the chocolate-cardamom cake:
1 cup mochiko
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup hot water
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup olive oil
a pinch of salt

Bloom cocoa powder, mochiko, and cardamom in hot water first, and whisk in the tahini as well to loosen it. Combine all of your ingredients together. Pour and spread in a lined quarter sheet tray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Cool completely.

For the chocolate-orange blossom-cardamom soak:
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup hot water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
a pinch of salt
2 teaspoons orange blossom water

Whisk together and pour over the cooled cake, just so that it won’t go dry.

For the cardamom ganache:
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons canola oil
a pinch of salt
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 cup soy or almond milk
2 tablespoons agar agar

Heat up soy milk with agar and tahini on low heat until everything is dissolved. Melt down chocolate over a double boiler and combine into the milk mixture. Finish with salt and canola oil. Spread evenly over the soaked and cooled chocolate cake and freeze until set firmly.

For the tahini-chocolate mousse:
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup hot water + more as needed
a pinch of salt
ice

Melt together the tahini with hot water. Melt down the dark chocolate over a double boiler. Whisk in the warmed tahini-water mixture, little at a time, allowing it to come together. Continue whipping and adding the liquid, allowing the chocolate to aerate. Transfer the bowl on and off ice to allow the mousse to slightly firm as you continue to whisk in the liquid. You should whip the chocolate for a total of 10 minutes. Transfer to a piping bag for plating.

For assembly:
Using a warm knife, cut your set chocolate cake into bars, cleaning the knife between cuts. Plate with dots of the chocolate mousse piped on it and along the plate. Quenelle the ice cream and place over one of the dots. If desired, garnish with gold or silver leaf to finish.

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