I actually agonized for several days over the perfect dessert to make. I don't get the chance very often to do plated desserts, which can be great fun, so I wanted to really take my time in developing this one. There were other constraints also, such as having everything made ahead of time, since I'd be in class and on campus the entire day. I knew that I wanted the dessert to involve chocolate (because it was the one thing I was sure that Sharon liked), and I knew that I wanted to do something in triplicate. Beyond that, though, I was clueless (and intimidated, after a mutual friend of ours had informed me that Sharon's a foodie). Until, my mom showed up one day with a bag of beautiful, home-grown oranges from a friend's tree. Then it hit:
Lady Grey tea. If you haven't tried this more subtle version of Earl Grey tea yet, I highly, highly recommend it. Basically, instead of the typical lemon accompaniment for Earl Grey tea, Lady Grey tea uses orange instead, which, to me, really enhances the fragrance of the bergamot extract (Twinings is the brand I recommend for Lady Grey, and, for you lucky folk in London, I know that the Twinings main store sells loose leaf Lady Grey). Lady Grey and chocolate also go fabulously together, and so I present to you the Lady Grey Trio dessert:
The Lady Grey Trio
Earl Grey Dark Chocolate Ice Cream
Orange Creme Brulee
Chocolate Orbit Cake
with white chocolate Lady Grey creme anglaise
Now, I must warn you: this is not a dessert trio for the faint of heart. First of all, it involves not one or two, but three different types of custards and creams. (Meaning also, lots of subsequent meringue and macaron practice.) Then, it also involves a lot of chocolate. In fact, there's so much rich, creamy chocolate that the orange creme brulee actually acts sort of like a palate cleanser. I'm not kidding. Creme brulee as a palate cleanser. Proceed at your own risk. (Though, come to think of it, this entire dessert is gluten free, so that's one "healthy" thing going for it.)
That said, those of you who *are* willing to take the plunge won't regret it, because this dessert trio is an unabashed and shameless celebration of extreme decadence and love of chocolate. The Earl Grey dark chocolate ice cream is made with dark chocolate and Dutch-processed cocoa powder, and there's also black cocoa powder thrown in for good measure. Of course, I always use extra heavy manufacturing cream whenever possible. *looks about innocently and whistles.* The end result is some of the darkest and richest chocolate ice cream that I've ever had, with lingering flavors of the Earl Grey tea and bergamot at the very end. (I refuse to go back to store bought ice cream these days.)
For a chocolate cake, I of course had to turn to David Lebovitz's chocolate orbit cake, which is basically, as I always put it, chocolate baked in the oven. Because, quite literally, that's what it is. It's an extremely moist and dense chocolate cake, and to lighten it up, I drowned it here in some white chocolate Lady Grey creme anglaise sauce. "Lighten" is a relative term, okay? The sauce went really well with the cake, with the flavors of tea and orange and white chocolate balancing out the robust, dark chocolate-ty richness underneath.
As for the orange creme brulee--well. Thank goodness for the orange creme brulee. The light creaminess of the baked custard and intense orange flavor from fresh orange zest and a dash of Grand Marnier was most definitely a welcome accompaniment to the indulgence of chocolate in the other parts of the dessert trio! And, who doesn't enjoy cracking open the top of a creme brulee? :-)
All in all, we had a wonderfully pleasant evening: Sharon brought over her violin and we, together with my roommate, played (well, I stumbled) our way through several Baroque and early Classical double violin and piano trios. I have to say that I thought my dessert trio was the perfect complement to our musical evening--for some reason, the bergamot and orange tea and dark chocolate flavors reminded me faintly of ye olden Baroque times (highly romanticized by my imagination, I'm sure) when people would enjoy good food, company, conversation, and music post-dinner in their candlelit salons amidst stacks of musty old books and claw-footed sofas. And, how much more fitting it was when my roommate remarked afterwards that "the Lady Grey Trio" would make a great name for a chamber music trio, too!
Anyways, time to wrap up this extraordinarily lengthy post and announce the winner of the black cocoa and photo print giveaway! Selected at random (using random.org algorithm), congrats to entry #102 myblankpage! You didn't leave a contact email, though, so please email me at s [at] shihbakes [dot] com to claim your prize! You have one week before I pick someone new.
Thanks so much to everyone else for commenting in the giveaway. As I said before, it was so much fun to visit your blogs and hear your ideas about what to do with black cocoa. I now have a to-make list miles long. Alas, though, after this Lady Grey Trio dessert and the past two posts, I think I might put this blog on a chocolate-free diet for a week or so. I, at the very least, need the detox. :-P
Read on for recipes...