blueberry riviera

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Sometimes I feel I’m at the absolute mercy of parental authority, and sometimes I feel like a grown-up capable of making important choices. Like today when I decided to have nothing but lollies for lunch (with a few almonds thrown in, so not entirely junk food). Don’t tell my mum, she has this vision of me being some sort of super health-conscious, cringe-at-the-sight-of-fried-food, vegan wannabe, which I can be, but not when I’ve been chocolate-deprived for a week. I also picked up a bar of lemon chocolate, which is how the idea of making Pierre Hermé’s Riviera came to be.

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Dat non-existent food styling… I tried.

Chocolate is awesome, obviously. And unlike some I have no problem with a dessert made entirely with chocolate and nothing else to cut through the richness, which is why I was originally intent on replicating (crudely, for sure) Hermé’s Carrement. But there’s something about the combination of chocolate with lemon that is so enticing, neither overwhelming the other but existing in a mutualistic relationship. The lemon cream deepening the dark chocolate flavour, and the almost bitter 72% chocolate bringing out the tartness of the lemon.

An unprecedented rarity – blueberries are on sale for $5 for 2 pints. So of course I did the unnecessary thing and dotted as many as I could onto the lemon cream layer – I can never resist ̶r̶u̶i̶n̶i̶n̶g̶ tweaking a tried and tested recipe, from a master no less. I also swapped the flourless chocolate cake layer for the rich chocolate cake in Carrement, just because it uses exactly one egg and not parts of several eggs. Just to echo the lemon cream, I chopped up pieces of my lemon white chocolate bar (with bonus popping candy) and threw that in, as well as almonds for crunch. As the cake layer has a fair amount of butter in it, I didn’t feel the need to douse it with simple syrup.

I used to feel dismayed at not being able to try my hand at recipes requiring pastry rings for assembling different layers, particularly entremets. My baking cupboard is already cluttered as hell and my occasional $25/wk tutoring salary is never going to afford me every piece of equipment that every recipe calls for. So at first I tried stapling cardboard together to make a framework then covered with foil, but it wasn’t really stable and had to go on top of a tray, which is hard to fit in our perpetually bursting fridge. I think the way I did it this time – building everything in the tin I baked the bottom cake layer in, lined by clingfilm of course, then freeze the whole thing till solid before lifting it out by the clingfilm – was a bit more reliable and works just as well as a pastry ring once the edges are trimmed. A lot of improvisation is involved when you’re a broke student trying to replicate professional work in a home kitchen. Heck, I don’t even have a square tin, I literally just use leftover cardboard boxes from chocolates or whatever, it even prevents the sides from browning too much.

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Blueberry Riviera cake (makes one 12x20cm cake)
(adapted from Pierre Hermé)

For the rich chocolate cake:
62.5g dark chocolate (at least 60%)
62.5g unsalted butter
1 egg
55g sugar
17.5 flour
pinch of salt

For the dark chocolate mousse:
125g dark chocolate, chopped
60g heavy cream
1 egg yolk
20g sugar
1/2 tsp powdered gelatine
1/2 tbsp cold water
175g heavy cream

For the lemon cream:
55g sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 egg
75g softened unsalted butter

handful of blueberries (~1/2 cup)

~1/2 batch chocolate glaze

Preheat the oven to 170C/350F and prepare 12x20cm (or similar capacity) baking tin (line, spray or grease & flour) or tray if using pastry ring later.

Melt the chocolate with butter gently in a microwave or on a bain marie. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Beat the egg and sugar just till combined, sift in the flour and salt, whisk them in. Mix in the chocolate mixture and bake for 10 minutes then leave to cool completely.

For the mousse, sprinkle the gelatine over the cold water evenly and leave to bloom for 5 minutes. In the meantime, heat the 60g of heavy cream in a decent-sized pot till just simmering. While heating, Beat the yolk and sugar together until pale and the sugar is dissolved, then stream in the hot cream a little at a time, whisking vigorously to avoid curdling. Return the yolk-sugar-cream mixture to the pot on medium heat, whisking all the time, until thick enough to leave an open channel when you draw a finger through it on the back of a spoon. Stir in the lump of gelatine, then pour the mixture through a sieve onto the chopped chocolate. Stir to combine and leave to cool to room temp. Whip the 175g of heavy cream to soft peaks, and fold it into the cooled chocolate mixture a bit at a time till homogenous. Cover and store in fridge.

For the lemon cream, rub the zest and sugar together until moist and fragrant. Put the egg, zesty sugar and juice in a bowl atop a pot of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t come into contact with the water. Whisk, whisk and whisk for about 5 minutes until pastel yellow in colour and substantially thickened (doesn’t drip when you dip your finger in to…quality control). Cool to room temperature then blend in the softened butter ideally with an emulsion blender but electric whisk is okay too (Hermé stresses the incorporation of air in this step to give the cream its light yet luscious texture). Put clingfilm directly onto the surface and store in fridge until ready for assembly.

To assemble, spread 2/3 of the mousse evenly onto the cake base. If the mousse isn’t quite thick, return to fridge to firm up or the layers will mix. Then spread on the lemon cream, and scatter over a handful of blueberries, pressing them to submerge into the cream. Flatten the top and chill if wobbly. Spread on the last of the mousse and smooth the top as much as you can as bumps and voids will show up underneath the final glaze. Freeze the whole cake until rock solid, preferably overnight before glazing. To glaze, transfer the cake onto a wire rack on top of a tray, warm up the glaze to about body temp. or 40°C and pour excessively over the top. Quickly flatten out the top with a flat spatula once or twice. Trim off the sides with a hot knife and eat.

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*Oh! In case by some miracle my changing the name of the blog has gone noticed, it was because the previous name felt pervier the longer I looked at it, so I made it the tagline instead. Fine, it also made me feel clever to make the world’s most obvious pun. Whether you noticed, whether you skip my text altogether, I want to thank you for tolerating me. Every single view, like, and comment means an enormous deal to me. I’m still learning and navigating through the dark, but I’ll keep trying to put as much truth and passion into my writing as I can.

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