Monday, October 18, 2010

Praline Bakery and Cafe: Chocolate Mousse Cake and a Chocolate Macaron

Before I detail all the great stuff I learned at Nick Magieri's demonstration, there is, of course, more chocolate-related activity to report. This weekend, Tom Sietsema’s 2010 Fall Dining Guide was published in The Washington Post. In his guide, he reviewed the Praline Bakery and Restaurant in Bethesda, and mentioned a display of macarons that greets patrons when they enter. I was sold.

I went there with a friend, who is the bearer of extensive knowledge of all things DC, and we picked up two chocolate treats. First up was a chocolate mousse pave.

After cutting through the raspberry and shaved chocolate topping, there are several layers to explore. A very thin layer of raspberry gel sits on top of a slightly thicker layer of bittersweet chocolate ganache, and then a series of alternating cake and mousse layers form the bulk of the cake.

My friend and I both noticed that the cake portion of this was the weakest point, as it was neither dense nor light and airy. It was a sponge cake, yet wasn’t accompanied by enough complimentary dense fillings or sauces to carry the dessert, and had only a slight chocolate flavor. While the cake itself wasn’t the best, the other components were quite good. My friend especially liked the raspberry gel, with its nice mixture of sweet and tart, and I was impressed with the smooth texture of the dark chocolate ganache. We both enjoyed the mousse, which had a perfect density and a pleasing milk chocolate flavor. The creation would have been much more appealing had more of this mousse been used.

Although we weren’t completely blown away by the cake, we didn’t have any trouble finishing it before we moved onto our next treat: a simple chocolate macaron.

The meringue shells were just a tad too crunchy on the very outside, which made it difficult to enjoy the macaron without making a mess. That being said, if you aren’t afraid of making a mess, you’ll get to a ganache filling that delivers a strong chocolate flavor and an exceptionally creamy texture for a bittersweet-based ganache. The ganache filling is the main source of chocolate flavor for this macaron, as the almond flavor dominates the meringue. Although my friend and I both enjoyed the macaron, I think the one I had at Cacao was a little better. Perhaps a side-by-side comparison is in order.

Even though the pave wasn’t perfect, the macaron was promising, so the Praline Bakery and Restaurant is probably worth checking out again – they did, after all, have opera cake and a selection of handcrafted chocolates.


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