The Midwestern Belena

In my current class, we make “Entremets.”   This is French for “between meals.”  The fact that French have a word for a dessert one eats aside from the meal makes we want to slap on a beret and take the next plane to Lyon…or, I suppose, Paris.  Lyon just was the first city to come to mind.

The entremets constructed in class are usually composed of mousse, thin layers of cake and an additional textural component like fruit compote, gelee, or a crunchy something.   When asked to design and make our own entremets, using any flavors, textures, etc., I instantly thought marshmallow.  (I regularly think “marshmallow!” but it’s generally out of context and I’m sure, a suppressed, slightly less obscene form of turrets syndrome.

But, if you give a Marissa a marshmallow, she’s going to want a s’more….AND, creating a s’more using mousse is sacrilege.   Sacrilege.   S’mores require hot toasted marshmallow, melted chocolate and the satisfying crunch of a graham cracker.  S’mores want nothing to do with mousse.  So, that was the end of the s’more entremet.

My next thought was, “zucchini bread.”   Zucchini bread has had a constant presence in my life.  My grandma makes it, my mother makes it, and even my former high school choir director makes it.  (In fact, my choir director was famous throughout the school for her zucchini bread and every student anticipated the tradition of being presented with one of the acclaimed loaves on the birthday of their senior year.)

Each loaf holds distinct craftsmanship, from the darkness of the golden-brown exterior to the surprise addition of walnuts and raisins.  These signature marks cultivate strong zucchini bread opinions and develop an awareness of the nuances of each loaf’s individual flavor profile.  Perhaps, it’s a Midwestern thing or perhaps, a miraculous zucchini bread anomaly has been bestowed upon my life.

Either way, I decided to make an entremet based on zucchini bread.  I tested the recipe at home, converting all the volume measurements into weights for the class exercise.  This took some trial and error.  Mostly, because family recipes assume certain, unwritten directions to be common knowledge.  (Example: “Two cups of zucchini, shredded,” translates into, “two cups of un-drained, shredded zucchini jam-packed to the top and slightly heaping.”)

After decoding the recipe, the next step was to pair zucchini with other flavors that could be transformed into mousse and other layers for the dessert.  I’m an amateur in food-pairing, but I based my ideas on this thought….

The squash of choice from the Dakotas to Ohio, this Midwestern zucchini bread coalesces a South Jersey, Italian charm.  If a Midwestern girl moved eastward and befriended a Gina Lombardi, they might share their cultural differences, like acrylic nails or a love for corn, and through this diversity find a delightful fusion of their flavors.   This is what they would bring to the picnic.

The final components:

  1. Zucchini bread base
  2. Cranberry, walnut spread, accented with a bit of cointreau and orange zest.
  3. Chocolate mousse
  4. One more layer of zucchini bread for good luck
  5. Ricotta mousse exterior, also with a splash of cointreau

In the end, designing a complex dessert from start to finish is incredibly satisfying, if not a bit exhausting.  I’d like to dedicate my first attempt to all those zucchini bread bakers in my life.  I present, “The Midwestern Belena.”


1 Comment

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One response to “The Midwestern Belena

  1. What a wonderful honor to be included with those bakers of zucchini breads of import in your life. It’s nice to know that the tradition of the bread on your birthday of your senior year…(that’s the only way I could get kids to stay in the choir for more than a year!!)…is stilll remembered, and actually helped you make this wonderful entremet that is pictured in your blog!!! I hope it tasted as good as it looks! By the way, my secret ingredient was coconut if that has any impact on this new recipe! We are so happy to be having part of your family coming to Ithaca very soon, and hope that you too, might be able to finally get to see and share the famous cottage experience with all of us.

    The ever loving “Mom” Crooker… aka music teacher of “note”!!!

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