White chocolate, lemon, raspberries… these are sexy foods. This dessert is simple in construction, comprising merely a lemon cream, white chocolate, sweet lemons and fresh raspberries, but its taste is anything but. This napoleon presents sensuous textures with everyday flavors; a sublimely silky cream contrasts perfectly with crisp white chocolate. Tart and tangy paired with sweet and creamy makes for a bright and utterly refreshing dessert.
For the white chocolate layers:
1 pound white chocolate, tempered
For the lemon cream:
1 teaspoon unflavored granulated gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
½ cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 4 large lemons)
Zest of 2 lemons
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
A pinch of salt
½ cup heavy cream, whipped to medium peaks
For the poached lemon slices:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 small lemons, sliced very thinly
For the candied lemon confit:
1 cup water
1 ½ cups sugar, divided
2 flat baking sheets
At least 2 sheets of clear acetate
Electric or handheld mixer
Fine mesh sieve
Mandolin or sharp straight-edge knife
Round pastry tip
Sharp paring knife
Prepare the white chocolate layers:
Using a large offset spatula, spread the tempered white chocolate very thinly on a plastic accetate sheet over the back of a flat baking pan. Complete this procedure at least 2 times, using separate pans and acetate each time. When the chocolate has set (this should take only about 2-3 minutes), use a sharp paring knife and a straight-edge ruler to cut the chocolate into at least 24 2×3-inch rectangles (we recommend cutting extra in case of breakage). Set the pan in the refrigerator and allow the chocolate to set for at least four hours before using. Unmold the rectangles before using.
[Chef’s Note: To temper white chocolate, first chop the chocolate into small pieces. Place about 2/3 of the chocolate in a mixing bowl. Slowly microwave the chocolate in 30 second intervals to melt it, stirring with a rubber spatula after each interval so it melts evenly. Once the chocolate has completely melted, continue to microwave until it reaches a temperature of 115 to 118° F; when the chocolate is ready it feels warmer than your body and hot to the touch. Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir the chocolate slowly and constantly, continually adding the reserved unmelted chocolate until it cools to 78 or 79° F. It should be thick, smooth and glossy in texture. Once at the correct temperature, slowly microwave again, this time in 5-7 second intervals, stirring between, until is warmed to 86 to 88° F. Be very careful, because the chocolate warms very quickly. Do not let the chocolate get too warm or it will go out of temper.
You will not need all of the tempered white chocolate, but it is always best to temper chocolate in amounts no smaller than 1 pound. When finished, just spread the extra onto a sheet of parchment paper, let set and then break up and store with the rest of your chocolate for another use.]
Prepare the lemon cream:
Dissolve the gelatin in the cold water.
Prepare a water bath by putting a saucepan of water over heat to simmer. Combine the sugar, eggs and egg yolk, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt in a metal bowl and place over the simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Cook the mixture over the water bath, whisking constantly until it thickens, becomes very creamy, and your whisk leaves a ribbon in the cream; this may take up to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the gelatin and butter until completely smooth. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the cream into a clean bowl or container. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface and let cool at least 1 hour or for up to 2 days.
Once cooled to at least room temperature, fold in the whipped cream. Place the lightened cream into a pastry bag fitted with a medium round tip. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready for use.
Prepare the lemon slices:
Combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Add the lemon slices and return to a quick boil. Lower heat and simmer until the slices are almost translucent, about 5 minutes. Chill in the syrup and reserve until ready for use, for up to 2 weeks.
Prepare the lemon confit:
Peel strips of lemon skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut most of the white pith from the rinds and discard. Thinly julienne the peel using a sharp paring knife, place in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Strain and repeat this blanching procedure two more times.
Combine the water and 1 cup of sugar and bring to a boil. Add the julienned peel and return to a quick boil. As with the slices, lower the heat and simmer until the zest is almost translucent, about 5 minutes. Strain, saving the syrup if desired, and toss the zest with the remaining ½ cup of sugar. Arrange the sugar-coated zest on a wire cooling rack and let rest until dry, at least 1 hour. Store in an air-tight container until ready for use.
[Chef’s Note: It may seem tedious to cook the peel three times, but blanching the rind removes the bitterness and is a necessary step to produce an edible garnish. The candied zest will keep for about a month.]
To assemble the napoleon, use four white chocolate rectangles per napoleon. Place one smooth side up on a plate. Neatly pipe three lines of lemon cream vertically on top of the white chocolate layer. Top with another layer of white chocolate, and then layer 2 slices of poached lemon over the chocolate layer and six raspberries on top of the lemon slices. Top with another layer of white chocolate. Pipe another three lines of lemon cream on this layer of white chocolate, and top with the final white chocolate layer. Arrange three strips of candied lemon peel on top of the final white chocolate layer for garnish.
Repeat the procedure with the remaining white chocolate and fillings. The napoleons are ready to enjoy now or can be refrigerated for up to about 4 hours until ready to serve.
Try this dessert with a lime or an orange cream instead of lemon by substituting equal parts juice and zest of your desired fruit. Feel free to use fresh strawberries, blackberries or blueberries instead of the raspberries.
Recipe and photo by Monica Glass