Culinary Class

A New Take on Chocolate Royale

By: Hannah Lee Leidy

The crowd-favorite dessert at Bombolo plays on its French roots

Eleanor Lacy stirs the crushed praline crunch into the rice krispie and chocolate ganache mixture.
Eleanor Lacy making the Chocolate Bombolo

Eleanor Lacy was an avid home baker before she earned the Best Dessert award from Chapel Hill Magazine. “[Growing up] I had a terrible sweet tooth, and as soon as I learned how to read, I read recipe books and picked out what I wanted to make for my family,” says the pastry chef and co-owner of Bombolo in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, noting that her mother baked lots of bread but steered clear of sweeter desserts. Lacy baked recreationally throughout her life; Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, her favorite resource, taught her that baking is more than technique—it’s also about the cook’s personal tastes.          

            Texture plays a big part for Lacy. Her chocolate bombolo, a riff on Child’s chocolate royale, combines silky chocolate mousse with a thick ganache base laced with crunchy praline bites. She first encountered the dessert at a dinner party hosted by a French couple. The meal concluded with a mousse-like dessert made by a French pastry chef who happened to be attending the party. Lacy was obsessed—her husband got the pastry chef to make the cake again for her birthday. “I thought, ‘This is my most favorite cake ever; I want to make it!’” she says.

            She researched and started experimenting with recipes, learning she could swap out crushed feuilletine bits in the fudgy base for Rice Krispies and process the praline nuts into a pastelike consistency that’s easier to mix in. But, she says, “I’m a stickler for accuracy, and it didn’t feel right to call it ‘chocolate royale.’” As she and her brother, Garrett Fleming, were developing the menu in anticipation of opening their New American restaurant with an Italian verve, Lacy says, “We had this fun word we were throwing around—it passed into Italian vernacular as someone with a big belly who is jolly—so it made sense to call [the dessert] bombolo.”

Get the Chocolate Bombolo Recipe

Chef spreads mousse over Chocolate Bombolo

chocolate bombolo heading-plus-icon

yields

Serves 8

    For the Bombolo Base:
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 cups hazelnuts or almonds, toasted
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt, divided
  • 6 ounces milk chocolate
  • 2 cups crisped rice cereal
  • Cocoa powder, for dusting
  • For the Mousse:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons butter, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • ⅓ cup brewed coffee or espresso
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Zest from 1 orange
  • Pinch of salt
  • Cocoa powder, for serving
  • Whipped cream, for serving (Lacy recommends homemade)
steps

Make the Bombolo Base

  1. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper and set aside. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar with 2 tablespoons water and swirl together until sugar dissolves. Continue cooking syrup, stirring occasionally, until it begins to caramelize and turns a deep amber color. Add hazelnuts or almonds and stir to coat entirely. Turn out praline nuts onto prepared sheet tray and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and let cool to room temperature.
  2. Break cooled pralines into small chunks. Add half of pralines to a food processor and blend until a pastelike texture forms. Repeat with remaining pralines. Set aside.
  3. Prepare a double boiler by setting a pot of water to a low simmer over medium heat. Set a heatproof bowl over simmering water; add chocolate and stir until just melted and smooth. Remove chocolate from heat and stir in crisped rice cereal and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt until everything is well coated. Add processed praline mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Dust bottom of a springform pan with cocoa powder and press base mixture evenly into the bottom of pan.

Make the Chocolate Mousse

  1. Place a bowl over remaining hot water on stove and add butter, chocolate, and coffee. Stir until butter is mostly melted, then remove from heat. (As you work through recipe, continue to stir occasionally so that mixture does not solidify.)
  2. In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk egg yolks on medium speed until thickened and light yellow. Slowly add in sugar, letting it dissolve. Increase speed to high and beat until yolks leave a ribbon that holds its shape when drizzled off whisk. Place bowl of yolks over simmering water, whisking by hand until mixture is very hot. Whisk in orange zest and then return bowl to stand mixer and beat at high speed until cool, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Lower speed to medium, and gradually beat in chocolate-coffee mixture, pausing between additions until fully combined. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat for 30 more seconds.
  3. Add a pinch of salt to egg whites and use a hand mixer or stand mixer to whisk on medium speed until soft peaks form. Stir one-quarter of the egg whites into chocolate-coffee mixture and then gently fold in remaining whites until combined. Turn out mousse into prepared springform pan over bombolo base and smooth top with an offset spatula or spoon. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to overnight.

To serve

  1. Dust top of chilled bombolo with cocoa powder and run a butter knife around sides to help it release when unlatching springform pan. Slice into 8 pieces and serve with whipped cream.
Recipes

Milk Chocolate Mousse

Pastry Chef Emily Cookson’s chocolate mousse is airy and sweet with a rich combination of dark and milk chocolates topped with a milk chocolate ganache.

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