About one month ago, J decided he wanted to speak French. And suddenly it was all on. French podcasts appeared on my computer and conversation began in the form of “est-ce que je peux avoir un café?” and “la chambre est trop petite!” I must say, I am very impressed. He is dedicated to his 15min podcasts every day to and from work, he translates the vegetables in our meal into their French counterparts over dinner, and he has started inviting his very cool French friend over for conversational meals.
I, on the other hand, am finding it rather difficult! My decision to join the party in learning basic French is proving far more difficult than I planned. I figured having studied Spanish would make it easier – yet I just get frustrated at how non-phonetic this new language is!
But there are many positives of J’s new venture – the fascination with baguettes and pain au chocolat, the artsy and rather daft French movies, and low key French dinner parties with French men. Last night, while the boys translated aviation safety briefs (“ne pas fumer à bord de l’avion”) I flipped savoury crepes which we rolled around stirfried vegetables and topped with a curried cheese sauce before grilling in the oven. Absolutely divine – and surprisingly easy!
Also divine, and just as easy (if not more!) was dessert.
This was a real blast to construct. I have wanted to create a crêpe stack for a while – so I went all out and followed Xiaolu’s recipe from 6 Bittersweets for her Bruléed Mocha Crepe Cake. She is a fantastic wee cook who creates the most unusual things – Snickers Chocolate Peanut Macarons, Boston Cream Pie cake pops, S’mores Cupcakes, and Butter Chicken Paneer Curry Pizza (all of which are on my must-try list..) and this, which can now be successfully ticked off. Now – how to take such exquisite photos as Xiaolu does..
I am going to rave about this rather dismal (but still amazing despite having only 12 layers rather than 1000) version of mille crêpe, ’cause it really deserves some rave. The layers are amazing, smooth frosting between soft, light crêpes. But the sauce – that is where rave is most worthy! The sauce is made using a homemade chocolate liqueur, which consists of a super dark cocoa mix and vodka, steeped overnight before being mixed with freshly brewed espresso and dark dark chocolate and cream (or cream cheese in my case..). I hear the liqueur itself can be served as a dessert topped with heavy cream, which just gets my mind buzzing with images of it drizzled hot over icecream, added to a creamy cocktail mix, or used as a shot in tomorrow morning’s espresso. Indulgent yes?
Bruléed Mocha Crêpe Cake & homemade chocolate liqueur
Recipe adapted from 6 Bittersweets
5 large eggs, lightly whisked
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
3 Tbsp white sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (pure vanilla extract)
2 Tbsp melted butter, plus more to grease
For filling and topping
200g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup light cream (or milk)
1/3 cup brewed espresso
6 Tbsp white sugar
100g dark chocolate, chopped
3 Tbsp light cream or milk
3 Tbsp brewed espresso
3 Tbsp chocolate liqueur (recipe below)
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp honey (optional)
Blend all the crêpe ingredients just until smooth. Set aside for 30 minutes to rest.
Heat an 8-inch non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Brush with melted butter. Pour in enough batter to coat the base of the pan (swirl the pan to coat it evenly with batter immediately). Cook for 1 minute or until lightly golden and just set. Use a spatula to turn and cook for a further 30 seconds or until golden. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining batter.
To make filling, place chocolate, cream, coffee, and 4 tablespoons of sugar in a heatproof bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water. Use a spatula or heatproof spoon to stir for 5 minutes or until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat; cover with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until mixture cools and thickens.
Line a 6 to 7-inch springform pan with plastic wrap. Place a crêpe in the pan. Spread with a little filling. Continue layering with crêpes and filling, finishing with a crêpe. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until chilled and set (at least 3 hours and up to 1 day).
To make chocolate mocha sauce, combine chocolate, cream, coffee, liqueur, sugar, and honey in a heatproof bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water. Stir for 5 minutes or until sauce is smooth. Refrigerate until needed, but reheat until smooth and fluid to serve.
Turn the cake out onto a clean serving platter. Sprinkle the top of the cake evenly with white sugar. Then melt the sugar evenly with a kitchen torch to form a crisp caramel topping. Allow to sit at least 5 minutes before serving. Use a sharp knife to cut into wedges. Place on serving plates and drizzle with hot sauce.
Makes 3 1/2 cups
5 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 cup vodka
In a bowl, dissolve cocoa powder in boiling water. In a saucepan, bring sugar and 3/4 cup of water to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add sugar syrup to cocoa syrup. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a jar with a lid. Add the vodka, cover and refrigerate overnight. (It will keep up to 1 month, but will lose potency over time.).
Xiaolu from 6 Bittersweets recommends this liqueur as a dessert of its own. To do so, stir well and strain again through a fine-mesh sieve into a glass until 2/3 full. Top with lightly-sweetened whipped cream, or float heavy cream on top (by holding a spoon with the bowl down and the edge almost touching the liqueur in the glass then pouring cream slowly over the back of the spoon until a layer (1/8 to 1/4-inch deep) floats on top of the liqueur). Garnish with cocoa nibs or chocolate shavings.