Madison, WI

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Ralph from Madison, WI

Ralph participated in Week 7: Desserts, and attempted the The Mighty Marjolaine Challenge. Let's see how they did!

How do you rate your baking performance?

Absolutely lovely.

Give your dessert a clever name — and tell us about your recipe.

Marjolaine the Marathoner (it took a while to make it, and it fuels the baker who is training for a marathon). I have never made a Marjolaine and therefore was not partial to a specific recipe. I used Mary Berry’s as a guide and followed it pretty much to a T.

What was the biggest surprise during your baking journey? Did you use any unconventional approaches? What did you learn along the way? Tell us about it!

This was not an easy undertaking. I had to make two batches of the praline because the first one crystallized, and I had to (better: wanted to) do it again. The second time was much better. I learned that it’s much simpler to pour the syrup over the nuts on the baking sheet as opposed to mixing them in the sauce pan. Everything can cause crystallization, and it can be easily avoided by leaving the syrup alone in the pot. Then my hand blender died because its chopper could not deal with the praline – my hefty food processor could. Even without these extra obstacles I have no idea how one could make this in three hours. I am pretty comfortable and fairly quick working with meringue and (here: French) buttercream, but it was the combination of all the little steps of toasting and cooling and chopping and folding that was time consuming. Also, I (and more importantly the butter cream) needed chill time in order to stay in shape, especially when it came to the decoration. As you will see below, I wanted the chocolate to stand out. I know this dessert says "nuts" but we are big chocolate lovers at home, and I felt the recipe deserves a very good ganache. Bag of morsels – back into the pantry. I was pleasantly surprised by how much of a difference good chocolate and good Wisconsin cream make. The bitterness adds a lot to the quite sweet layers of buttery goodness. The cake is well worth the time it takes making it because all the individual flavors are stunning. The praline buttercream alone is a real treat. However, this is nothing you can whip up on a whim.

How did you add a Wisconsin twist to your flavors or decoration?

The gateaux is so nut-dominated that I decide to give Madison’s (and Wisconsin’s) chocolate culture a strong nod. I wanted to emphasize the ganache and drove to the new Madison Chocolate Company on Monroe Street (http://www.madisonchocolate.com). They offer a great selection of chocolates and also great help. I left with Ecuadorian bittersweet chocolate with a high cocoa butter content. Exactly what I needed! The Ganache turned out exceptionally well, and I once again thought how great it is to have high quality products at my fingertips. I certainly used local eggs and dairy in my recipe. For those who are inclined to burn off all the cake calories, the Rockin’ Chocolate Marathon in Madison is coming up.

Watch Ralph tackle this challenge below: