This is a great dessert to make in advance and would be a delicious and elegant ending for holiday meals. It's quite rich and intense, so even though it doesn't look that big, it should be enough to feed eight to 10 diners.
Chocolate and salted caramel terrine
This recipe, like some of my other favourites, exists because of a mistake. I wanted to make a dessert terrine based on an existing recipe for chocolate caramel mousse lightened with a large quantity of whipped cream and stabilised with gelatin. I didn't use enough whipped cream and, after I'd poured the mixture into the mould, I realised that although I had bloomed the gelatin, it was still sitting there, in a bowl on the counter; I'd forgotten to stir it into the ingredients. It was too late to do anything about it, so I chilled the terrine and served it. To my surprise, it was still sliceable. The chocolate flavour was faint, though, so I doubled the amount and came up with this recipe. It needs several hours to chill and, once it's cold, you can't leave it out at room temperature for very long or it will become too soft.
The croquant absorbs moisture quickly, so don't make it too far in advance.
For the croquant:
60 grams granulated sugar
10 grams sliced almonds, lightly toasted
For the terrine:
120 grams granulated sugar
300ml cream, divided, chilled
60 grams unsalted butter, chilled
¼ tsp fine sea salt
180 grams bittersweet chocolate (with a cacao percentage of about 70 per cent), chopped into small pieces
Fruit, for garnishing
Use pan coating to lightly spray a rectangular terrine mould or loaf pan that holds about 800ml. Cut a piece of baking paper that fits the length of the pan and comes up the sides with some overhang. Fit it smoothly into the contours of pan, then lightly spray it once more with pan coating. Cut a piece of baking paper that fits the width of the pan and comes up the sides with some overhang. Fit it smoothly into the contours of the pan. Press firmly on the paper lining so it sticks to the sides of the pan.
Make the croquant. Line a baking pan with aluminium foil then lightly spray the foil with pan coating. Put the sugar in a medium-sized saucepan and mix in about 15ml of water (the exact amount doesn't matter; it's just used to dissolve the sugar quickly). Set the pan over a medium flame and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved. Dip a pastry brush in hot water and use it to wash down the sugar crystals on the side of the pan. Cook the mixture without stirring until it turns pale golden. Swirl the pan so it colours evenly, then continue to cook until it turns medium amber. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the almonds then immediately pour the mixture onto the foil-lined tray, spreading it into a thin layer. When it's cool, break the croquant into small pieces, then use a food processor or blender to grind it into a rough powder. Transfer to a bowl then cover it tightly with cling-film.
Make the terrine mixture. Pour 120ml of cream into a small bowl and put the butter and salt in a small dish, and place these ingredients by the side of the stove. Put 120 grams of sugar in a medium-sized saucepan and mix in about 30ml of water. Set the pan over a medium flame and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Wash the sugar crystals from the side of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in hot water. Cook the sugar without stirring, swirling the pan as needed, until it turns medium-dark amber (be careful not to let it get too dark, or it will be bitter). Immediately remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in the cream: it will bubble vigorously and send off hot steam, so don't let it burn you. Stir in the butter and salt. Leave for five minutes, then add the chocolate and stir until it's melted and smooth. Cool the mixture to room temperature.
When the caramel-chocolate mixture is cool, whip 180ml of chilled cream until it forms soft peaks. Add one third of the whipped cream into the caramel-chocolate and stir to incorporate. Add half the remaining whipped cream and fold it in gently, then carefully mix in the last of the cream, trying to maintain as much volume as possible.
Pour one-third of the mixture into the prepared pan. Spread the mixture so it coats the bottom of the pan, then sprinkle half the croquant evenly on top. Spread half of the remaining caramel-chocolate mixture into the pan then sprinkle with the rest of the croquant. Add the last of the terrine mixture to the pan and smooth out the top. Gently bang the pan on the countertop a couple of times (to release any air holes). Put the pan in the refrigerator and chill for at least four hours.
When it's time for dessert, grasp the length of the baking paper overhang and carefully lift the terrine out of the pan - it should come out fairly easily. If it doesn't fill a larger pan with hot water and briefly (no more than five seconds) dip the mould into the hot water to warm it slightly before lifting the terrine from the pan. Put the terrine - with the paper still around it - on a cutting board. Invert the serving plate onto the terrine. Holding the serving plate and cutting board firmly, turn both over in one smooth motion. Remove the cutting board and peel away the grease-proof paper. Slice the terrine with a thin-blade knife that's been dipped in hot water then wiped dry. Garnish each portion with fruit before serving.
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