Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mona Lisa and Julia Child...Something to Smile About

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert...Je ne comprends pas!!??

For those of us who are a bit rusty in the language of love and/or have not yet graduated with honors from one of Le Cordon Blue's Patisserie Culinary Programs, let's take a deep breath and break it down before we get started...

Biscuit is the French word for sponge or sandwich cake. Joconde is an almond sponge cake, named after the Mona Lisa (interesting tidbit...see below). Imprime refers to a decorative design. Entremet refers to the "sweet course" which is always served after the "cheese course" in France, and an ornate dessert composed of multiple layers of cake and fillings.

Now, let's combine the terms. A joconde imprime is a decorative design baked into a light sponge cake, or joconde, providing an elegant finish to entremets formed in ring molds. A joconde batter is used because it bakes into a moist, flexible cake. The cake batter may be tinted or marbleized for a further decorative effect. Entremets usually take the form of a multi-layered mousse cake featuring a variety of textures and flavors, intended to delight both the palate and the eye.

The world-famous Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, also known as La Gioconda (La Jaconde in French), is the portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of an Italian merchant, Francesco di Bartolomeo del Giocondo. Da Vinci visited France in 1516 or 1517, as the guest of King François I, and then remained there for the rest of his life. The Mona Lisa was still in the artist's possession and was held in very high esteem by the French. The name of this cake, joconde, was given to indicate how highly regarded the cake was among pastry chefs (from Globalgourmet).

The number of steps to make one little cake can be incredible! You must definitely be in the right frame of mind before commencing this project. The outer, more decorative sponge consists of two different sponges baked together: a Joconde-Décor Paste (tinted dark by the addition of cocoa powder) and a joconde sponge. A thin layer of the darker Joconde-Décor Paste is spread out onto a silpat and a pattern is sketched out (I used a pastry comb). The entire baking sheet with the patterned paste is slipped into the freezer briefly, and then the joconde batter is spread over top of the patterned paste. After it is baked, the biscuit joconde-imprime is peeled from the silpat, cut into strips, and used to line the outside of the cake. Additional pieces can be cut and used to create sponge layers between the fillings.

I should have taken more step-by-step photos, but the original recipe and links will provide far better instruction.

The Biscuit Joconde-Imprime

This Joconde requires attentive baking so that it remains flexible to easily conform to the molds. If under-baked, it will stick to the baking mat. It over-baked it will dry out and crack. Once cooled, the sponge may be cut into strips to line any shape ring mold.

Molds lined with the biscuit joconde-imprime, rounds
of biscuit joconde-imprime used for the base

We tried two different patterns. The entremet below features John's design (he came into the kitchen at this point and wanted to play).

In the photo above, you can see all of the components of the cake. The patterned strip of Joconde imprime is wrapped around the outside. Inside, you can see the base of the cake, made from Joconde, followed by a layer of Ricotta Cappuccino, another layer of Joconde, a thick layer of Julia Child's Perfect Chocolate Mousse, and topped with a thin layer of Frangelico-whipped cream. I crumbled a few Amaretti cookies over the top and garnished with some chocolate covered espresso beans.

I was pleased with my first attempt, and consider it a successful "test-run." However, if I tackle this again, I will use more care in perfecting the design in the Joconde-imprime "wrapping" and in building the layers, to achieve visually "cleaner" result.

If you aren't quite up to the challenge, I urge you to try Julia Child's Perfect Chocolate Mousse as a dessert on its own. This luscious, decadent mousse can be found on David Lebovitz' blog, here.

You can find the complete challenge recipe in The Daring Kitchen Recipe Archive, here.

Newf Notes:

1.  I used 6" springform pans, using just the outside ring, for my molds.
2.  I ended up making two batches of the joconde batter, one to create the joconde imprime wrapping, and another to cut circles of joconde to use as the bases and between layers of filling.
3.  I only needed to make half the quantity of the Joconde-Décor Paste and I made the chocolate version with cocoa powder. 
4.  I used strips of food-safe acetate, cut to fit the interior of the springform rings.  I was hoping to build the mousse and whipped cream layers higher than the top of joconde imprime (with the acetate as support), but I didn't have enough mousse.
5.  Next time, smaller entremets. Mine were too big, and easily served two.
6.  See Martha Stewart's recipe for individual Chocolate-Espresso Charlottes, made with Joconde, here.

Everyone smiled after tasting my little joconde cakes, especially Carmen, who said in a e-mail to me the following day...

"THANKS ... for ruining my diet! I thought you were sending over a "piece" of cake - It was WONDERFUL ... I can't wait to see you blog this ... this thing that's too good to be called "cake." Damn. It's too good to be called "sex" ! I'd call it the iCake because it's sturdy and compact yet light and portable and once you've had one you can't live without it!"

This was yet another Daring Bakers' challenge that introduced me to new techniques and ideas, reminding me I have so much more to learn when it comes to French pastry arts...but I am smiling, so it's a good thing!



Caroline said...

How beautiful! There may be a lot of steps, but the end result is a showstopper! I love both designs, and the cake itself sounds amazing. Great work!

Ago said...

Beautiful job and the Mona Lisa story and the name of this biscuit are so fascinating...

shelley c. said...

Haha - love that e-mail at the end! Love your desserts - really beautiful work. I love your pattern (and John's) and the finished entremet looks and sounds delicious.

sweetakery said...

How gorgeous!! I love both designs and flavors! Great work! =)

Wilde in the Kitchen said...

Your entremets turned out so pretty! The flavors inside of your joconde sound tempting too! Nice work on this challenge!

Carmen said...

I was fortunate to be the beneficiary of one of these cakes (Denise didn't trust herself with it) and I've written three posts to try to communicate how good this dessert is and I've deleted them all because they sound like porn - so rather than disgrace myself I'll just say, "I'm gonna make this thing wearing nothing but a thong and heels" ... See there?

Audax said...

uhmmm I'll make this only wearing a thong and heels...LOL LOL WOW that email reaction is amazing and your final entrement is stunning I loved this challenge also great work on this challenge. Lovely pixs as well.

Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous! I on the other hand didn't have much luck with this challenge.

Aparna said...

YOur entremet looks beautiful. I understand the sentiments in that e-mail.

Lisa said...

Both of your entremets are beautiful, your joconde perfection. I had so much trouble with mine, I almost gave up!

I adore your fillings, especially knowing first hand how amazing Julia's chocolate mousse is. Love the ricotta cappuccino beneath and the hint of hazelnut in the whipped cream.

Finally, I doubled and a half my mousse recipe so it would rise above the cake ring to be supported by the acetate, and that 'still' almost didn't make it, so I made another half The amounts of mousse or whatever fillings were up to us to estimate, so everything was a crapshoot!

Fantastic job on the challenge as always!!

MandyM said...

I love both of your jaconde designs and I really love the filling you used. Coffee & chocolate, a match made in heaven! Yum :D

Kudos Kitchen said...

I do believe you are an artist in the kitchen! I'm loving seeing your creations! Great, great work!