Meaning “little orange” in Spanish, La Naranjita blends the bright exoticism of blood oranges with warm spices, toasted hazelnut and milk chocolate in an appealing combination inspired by the flavors of Spain.
Although Sicily, Italy, is perhaps one of the best known growing regions for blood oranges, Spain produces a native blood orange variety known as Sanguinello. All blood oranges get their characteristic reddish to maroon hue from climates with high temperatures in the daytime and cool nights.
The hazelnut dacquoise base is lightly spiced with warm hints of clove, cardamom and nutmeg, yet it is subdued enough to accentuate rather than upstage the other components. Coating both sides of the baked dacquoise with melted cocoa butter ensures that it will not absorb excess moisture, which can cause sogginess. Take care to not overbake the batter; it should be cakey rather than dry and crisp.
On top of the dacquoise, the praline ganache provides intense hazelnut flavor in a thin layer, punctuated by pieces of roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts. The blend of milk chocolate and unsweetened chocolate gives greater depth of flavor while also slightly cutting the sweetness of the praline paste. Emulsify the ganache in a food processor to ensure an extremely smooth texture for optimal crystallization; alternatively, an immersion blender can be used with similar results.
The focal layer of the cake is chiboust cream, a classic French pastry cream preparation dating back to the mid-19th century, and named for its inventor whose bakery was on Rue Saint-Honore in Paris. In recognition of the location as well as Saint Honore himself, patron saint of bakers and pastry cooks, Chiboust created the Gateau St. Honore, which features Chiboust’s now namesake cream–a combination of pastry cream and Italian meringue stabilized by gelatin. La Naranjita uses an orange chiboust, flavored with orange liqueur and orange zest. The texture of the cream is pleasantly clean and resilient in a different way than a bavarois or other mousse, resulting from its reliance on meringue instead of whipped cream as the principal aerating component.
To make the chiboust, melt gelatin into still hot pastry cream; then add orange liqueur and zest. This base can stay at room temperature while the Italian meringue is mixed. Incorporate the Italian meringue into the pastry cream base while still warm, about 110° to 120°F, in order to avoid lumps. Then pour the prepared chiboust over the ganache-topped dacquoise and smooth before freezing.
The final layer of the entremet is the blood orange gelée, which suspends a generous amount of blood orange segments, creating a striking color contrast and intriguing irregular texture. The gelée maintains its set without coming off as “chewy,” due to the combination of pectin and gelatin. Although the orange segments cannot be frozen, the gelée itself can be frozen and re-melted before combining with the oranges and topping the entremet. This leaves only the last-minute task of segmenting the oranges in order to glaze, portion and finish the cakes.
Finally, in order to not detract from the uniquely striking color and appearance of the entremet, finish with a bit of gold leaf to further enhance the shine and triangular dark chocolate bands, which add a bit of height as well as a shape that echoes that of the orange segments.