Getting to know…Michael John Ion – Head Pastry Chef
Get to know our Head Pastry Chef Michael John Ion, as he talks about what inspired him to become a chef, his favourite dessert and even lets you in on his secret recipe and method for his signature Black Forest Gateux dish…
How long have you worked at Allt yr Afon Restaurant?
12 years. I even met my wife whilst working here at the Hotel!
What inspired you to become a chef?
Definitely my Grandparents’ cooking. As a family, we used to get together every Sunday for a big family dinner. My Nan used to do all the baking and would always make sure that I helped with the Welshcakes, trifles and scones. They used to grow whatever they could in the garden so it truly was proper homegrown food. Myself and my Grandad even entered a local gardener’s club competition and won first place for the biggest marrow!
Where is your favourite holiday destination for food?
Italy. I love the variety and versatility of the pastas! You an do so much with it!
What is your favourite dessert?
Crumble! My Granddad would grow the most delicious apples in the garden that we’d use to go into the crumble. To this day, my favourite dessert is still Apple Crumble. When I was younger I used to spend a lot of time at my Grandparents house as one of my close friends used to live close by as well. We’d help pick the Apples, prepare the crumble and then make sure it was eaten!
What is your signature dessert at the Wolfscastle Country Hotel?
Black Forest Gateux with a modern twist! Here’s the recipe that should serve 4…
- 200g Cherries, cherry liquor
- 100g caster sugar
- 20g cocoa powder
- 150g egg white
- 100g butter, melted and warm
- 100g egg yolk
- 125g 70% bitter chocolate
- Vanilla and White Chocolate Mousse
- 100g White Chocolate
- 1 gelatine leaf, softened in cold water
- 200g double cream
- 2 vanilla pods, split and seeds scraped
- 300g double cream, whipped to soft peaks
- Place the egg whites in the bowl of a food mixer with a whisk attached. Set to a medium/high speed and whisk until the egg whites start to increase in volume, then slowly add the sugar.
- Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas mark 3-4. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a bain marie. In a separate bowl, sift the cocoa powder over the egg yolks, whisking thoroughly to combine. Slowly pour and continue to whisk in the melted butter. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before gently folding in the meringue, 1/3 at a time to incorporate as much air as possible.
- Line a shallow baking tray with parchment and evenly spread out the chocolate sponge mix. Place into the oven for 10 minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely before handling.
- Use a 6cm pastry cutter to make 8 rounds of the sponge. Use 4 of the sponge rings as the base and place into a high-sided 6cm pastry ring. Reserve the other 4 rounds until later.
Vanilla and White Chocolate Mousse
- Pour 200ml of double cream into a pan with the vanilla. Bring to the boil and the remove from the heat.
- Place the white chocolate in a bowl and pass the hot vanilla cream through a fine chinois onto the chocolate stirring to dissolve. Add the softened gelatine and whisk to combine. Set aside to cool slightly.
- While the white chocolate mix is cooling, use a pastry brush to seal the chocolate sponge base in the kirsch, reserved from the griottine cherries. Once the chocolate mix is cool, fold in 300ml of whipped double cream. Whilst still runny, pour the white chocolate mix over the soaked sponge to create a second layer, around 5mm in thickness.
- Remove the pips from the griottine cherries, cut in half and place seven halves into each of the 4 rings on top of the white chocolate layer. Press down firmly so the white chocolate mixture fills out all the gaps between the two layers of sponge.
- Use up and leftover liquid from the cherries to brush the top layer of chocolate sponge before pressing the top layer lightly down into the ring. Set in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours.
- Once set, remove the gateau from the ring using a knife and roll in some chocolate flakes or crushed chocolate chips.