Slideshow: Behind the Sweets: Hetty Arts Makes Chocolate Cassava Cake at The Refinery

Frozen Cassava
Frozen Cassava
This is what frozen cassava looks like when it's delivered to the restaurant. Chef Hetty gets her cassava from Testa Produce, which started carrying it at her request. Before that, she would find the root in Chinatown. The Refinery's Executive Chef Lawrence Letrero is Filipino and cassava is commonly used in Filipino cuisine. Chef Hetty first cooked with cassava when she worked with Lawrence at Untitled.
Grating Cassava
Grating Cassava
Cassava must be grated while still frozen or it gets mushy and difficult to work with. Normally, Chef Hetty uses a mechanized grater for this.
Adding Coconut Milk, Vanilla, and Sugar
Adding Coconut Milk, Vanilla, and Sugar
The next step is adding coconut milk, vanilla extract, and granulated sugar to the mixture. It now has a soupy texture and is ready for the oven. If you've ever had cassava before in a dessert, chances are it was in tapioca form. When cassava starch is dried to a powdery extract, it is known as tapioca.
Cassava Cakes
Cassava Cakes
After baking, Chef Hetty cuts circles out of the cassava cakes and these are now ready to be plated. Although the dessert is called "chocolate cassava cake" on the menu, there is no chocolate in the cassava cake. Chef Hetty chose to call it chocolate cassava cake to attract people with "chocolate" since the dessert is definitely heavy on chocolate components.
Aerating Marshmallows
Aerating Marshmallows
Chef Hetty makes her own marshmallows for the marshmallow ice cream accompanying her cassava cakes. The first step is whipping egg whites, sugar syrup, and bloomed gelatin together in a KitchenAid mixer.
Luminescent Marshmallow Fluff
Luminescent Marshmallow Fluff
The aerated marshmallow mix has a pearly luminescence. This mix needs to set in the refrigerator before it can be cut in cubes. .
KitchenAid
KitchenAid
The KitchenAid mixer comes in handy again when making ice cream. Guests often comment that Chef Hetty's ice cream is very light and fluffy. She achieves this soft consistency by whipping the sugar, egg yolks, and salt together at a high speed instead of just hand-whipping it.
Tempering Yolk Mixture
Tempering Yolk Mixture
Chef Hetty tempers the whipped yolk mixture with boiling hot milk and heavy cream. If she skips this step, the yolks may curdle when they are added to the hot milk.
Adding Yolk Mixture to Milk
Adding Yolk Mixture to Milk
After tempering, she adds the now hot yolk mixture back to the hot milk and cream. Then, Chef Hetty adds a teaspoon of ice cream stabilizer per quart of ice cream. Her ice cream stabilizer consists of a mix of guar gum, gelatin, and agar agar. The stabilizer is important so the ice cream doesn't melt too quickly, or the beautiful quenelle might be a goopy mess before it gets to the table.
Crispy Chocolate Garnish
Crispy Chocolate Garnish
The first step to making the crispy chocolate garnish is combining sugar, Valrhona cocoa powder, butter, and milk and cooking it over medium heat until it dissolves.
Bubbly Chocolate with Pectin
Bubbly Chocolate with Pectin
Then, Chef Hetty sprinkles green pectin atop the bubbling chocolate. Pectin is a jellifying agent that helps her achieve the right consistency with the chocolate.
Spreading Chocolate
Spreading Chocolate
Now, Chef Hetty pours the chocolate on a Silpat non-stick baking mat and spreads it thin. You can still see many bubbles in the chocolate, and she'll freeze it before baking to prevent the chocolate from spreading too thin in the oven. If it's too thin, it won't bubble up correctly when baking.
Pastry Chef Hetty Arts
Pastry Chef Hetty Arts
Pastry Chef Hetty Arts loves the creative freedom she has with her desserts at The Refinery. At Untitled, where she first worked with Chef Letrero, the desserts were "very rustic and not really my style," she says. "Here, it's much more creative."
Chocolate Cassava Cake
Chocolate Cassava Cake
The finished dessert contains round pieces of cassava cake, dark chocolate brittle, dark chocolate cremeux, marshmallow ice cream, toasted meringue and coconut cassava rochers. The rochers are simply made with the same grated cassava as used in the cakes, desiccated coconut, sugar, and egg whites.