So here comes another multi-component Cooking Channel inspired dessert. I think I was watching Unique Eats or something and the episode was all about candy. This one pastry chef (I really need to write down their names!) makes a fancy shmancy dessert called The Candy Bar. Each layer is a unique representation of elements from classic candy bars. There was a caramel peanut layer, a crunchy chocolatey kit kat type layer, etc. It looked really whimsical and delicious and I couldn't wait to come up with my own version. So I decided on 3 main components; chocolate panna cotta, chocolate cake, and my version of the crunchy kit kat layer I saw on the show. For the panna cotta, I used this recipe I found on Sugar Rush. The chocolate cake is just a standard recipe, you can use any cake you'd like.
The kit kat layer took some experimenting. The chef mentioned it was crepes, baked in the oven, crumbled and mixed with chocolate. So here is my recipe for the kit kat layer.
Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup cold water
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup Nutella
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl combine eggs, milk, water, flour and melted butter. Heat a sauce pan over medium low heat. Coat with cooking spray. Because these crepes are going to be baked and broken up, it really doesn't matter how they look. They can rip and tear, they can be underdone or over done. This is the most relaxing crepe experience you will ever have!!
Once you have cooked all your crepes, lay them on sheet pans, careful not to overlap. You will need about 4 separate sheets or you may need to work in batches. Bake at 350 for about 20 to 30 minutes. This can turn on you quick so keep an eye on them. If you notice the edges start to brown, carefully break them off with tongs.
Once all the crepes are a nice golden color, place in a food processor and pulse till ground. Add Nutella and melted chocolate. Spread in a parchment lined 13x9 inch pan and cool in refrigerator. When ready to use, cut into whatever shape you would like, I used a 3 inch round biscuit cutter.
Once crumbled, the crepes should look like this.
Some of the most interesting elements on the entire dessert were the garnishes. The chef topped it all off with a cherry "caviar" garnish. I have seen this plenty of times on T.V. but for some reason, this time, I decided to try it myself. I didn't even know if it was possible. Chefs these days have such a large arsenal of interesting tools and chemicals to create absolutely mind blowing desserts. And I don't know about you, but I don't have liquid nitrogen laying around in my pantry. So I sat at my computer, went to Google, and found this video.
I was still a bit apprehensive, but I can honestly say it was super easy and they turned out great! You basically drop little balls of slightly solidified jello into cold oil. The viscosity of the oil is what creates the sphere and the temperature is what sets the jello. So here is my modified recipe.
Black Cherry "Caviar"
Makes: About a cup
An 8 to 10 inch tall container, like a glass
A squeeze bottle or a dropper
2 to 4 cups canola oil, depending on size of container
10 ounces water
15 pitted black cherries
2 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons cherry brandy
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
Fill container with canola oil and place in freezer for about an hour. The goal is to get the oil really really cold, but just enough so that the oil is still liquidy. You know you've gone too far when the oil is the texture of loose Vaseline. But no fear, about 3 minutes on the counter and some stirring loosens it up again.
Meanwhile, place water, cherries, sugar, and brandy in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Cool and puree in a blender. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. The idea here is to get 8 ounces of liquid from this. If you end up with less, just top it off with more water and cherry brandy. Once cool, sprinkle gelatin over the top and let bloom for about 10 minutes. Place back in saucepan over low heat just till the gelatin dissolves. If using a squeeze bottle, pour mixture into it now. Place in fridge until the mixture thickens slightly. You don't want any chunks or lumps. It should still be a fairly smooth liquidy mixture.
When oil is at the right temperature, you are ready to form the caviar. Using a dropper or squeeze bottle, gently drop small spheres into the oil. They will float right at the surface for a few seconds, then slowly fall to the bottom.
After you have done a few, get some out with a spoon and check the texture. If you are worried they aren't sturdy enough, feel free to add more powdered gelatin. Repeat the blooming, heating and cooling process and then keep making spheres till you have as many as you need. They can be kept in the oil overnight. When ready to use, carefully rinse them off with cold water.
For assembly, brush some cherry preserves on the plate. Lay down the chocolate cake and crunchy hazelnut layer. Place panna cotta on top and garnish with caviar. I used this Alton Brown recipe to make some fun sugar decorations and with the remaining caramel, I made a quick caramel mousse to finish the whole thing off.
Although there are many components, each one is quite simple on its own. When they come together at the end it creates a really beautiful dessert! Perfect for dinner parties, Valentine's Day, or any occasion where chocolate is needed!