Makes 8 to 10 servings
It’s fun to play with three mousses in one dessert. The key to greatness, whether it is an individual serving or a large cake, is to use much more of the darkest, most intense chocolate mousse as an anchoring flavor on the bottom, and top it with lesser amounts of the two lighter, sweeter mousses. I like the dark layer to have a different texture from the others. Here, bittersweet Chocolate Marquise is topped with layers of Gianduja Mousse and White Chocolate–Orange Mousse. But you could substitute Mocha Mousse or Milk Chocolate–Orange Mousse for the gianduja and use plain White Chocolate Mousse for the top, and so forth. Prepare each mousse just before using it.
Instead of individual desserts, you can make one large dessert. A full recipe of each mousse will fill a chocolate-lined pan, or simply an 8-inch springform pan lined with a plastic strip.
2 ounces (55 grams) of the same (or any other) chocolate used for Chocolate Marquise, finely chopped, if using dessert rings
½ recipe Chocolate Marquise (recipe below)
⅓ recipe Gianduja Mousse (recipe below)
⅓ recipe White Chocolate–Orange Mousse (recipe below)
Ruffled chocolate fans (recipe below) or strips of candied orange peel for decoration
1. If using dessert rings, melt the chocolate in a medium stainless steel bowl set in a wide skillet of barely simmering water, stirring frequently until the chocolate is almost completely melted and smooth. Remove from the heat.
2. Meanwhile, cut ten 3-inch squares of foil and trace a 2-inch circle on each; lay the foil on a cookie sheet. Divide the melted chocolate among the foil squares, spreading it to cover each traced circle. Set a dessert ring over each chocolate circle. Refrigerate to harden the chocolate. If not using rings, set out martini or parfait glasses.
3. Prepare the Chocolate Marquise. If using rings, fill each one almost half full—there is no need to make an even layer. (Leftover marquise can be refrigerated and nibbled on later.) If using glasses, divide all of the marquise evenly among them. Refrigerate the rings or glasses.
4. Prepare the Gianduja Mousse. Spoon it neatly into the rings, leaving room for the final mousse. (Scrape any extra mousse into the bowl with the leftover marquise.) If using glasses, divide all of the mousse equally among them, on top of the marquise.
5. Prepare the White Chocolate–Orange Mousse. Fill the rings, heaping the mousse slightly above the top, then use a metal icing spatula to spread the mousse level in each ring. (Add any leftover mousse to the others.) If using glasses, simply divide all of the mousse among them, on top of the gianduja. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until set, before serving.
6. The mousses are served in their glasses, or unmolded from the rings as follows: Pick up one dessert ring and peel off the foil. Set it on a serving plate. Warm the ring carefully with a hair dryer, or wrap a wrung-out hot wet washcloth around it, then pull the ring off the mousse. Repeat until all of the mousses are unmolded.
Serve each mousse topped with a chocolate fan or cigarette, a strip of orange peel, or a caramelized hazelnut, if desired.
Note: Rings this size hold ½ cup mousse; if your rings are larger, count on fewer servings. You can figure out how much mousse you need for any size ring by lining one with foil and measuring how much water it holds filled to the top. Multiply by the number of rings you want to fill, and consult the yield of each mousse recipe.
Makes about 41⁄2 cups; serves 8 to 10
A richer chocolate mousse that includes butter, Chocolate Marquise is excellent on its own and positively glamorous with Caramel Shards and Spun Sugar. Because it sets firm enough to slice, it is also perfect for filling a ladyfinger-lined mold or spreading between cake layers. If you are using fresh farm eggs or are confident about the quality of your eggs, you can use the “fresh egg” method instead of the heated procedure.
8 ounces (225 grams) 54% to 62% chocolate, coarsely chopped
8 tablespoons (115 grams/1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup (50 grams) sugar
Scant ⅛ teaspoon salt
¼ cup water
Lightly sweetened whipped cream
1. Place the chocolate and butter in a medium stainless steel bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir frequently until the chocolate is nearly melted. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir until completely melted and smooth. Set aside.
2. For the heated (egg-safe) method: In another medium stainless steel bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar and salt until well blended. Whisk in the water. Set the bowl in the skillet of barely simmering water, and stir with a heatproof silicone spatula, sweeping the bottom and sides of the bowl continuously, to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Continue until the eggs register 160°F on an instant-read thermometer. (You will have to remove the bowl from the skillet to take the temperature unless you are agile enough to both stir and hold and read the thermometer at the same time!) For safety, rinse the thermometer stem in the hot skillet water between readings. Remove the bowl from the skillet and beat the eggs with an electric mixer at high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they have a texture like softly whipped cream.
3. For the fresh-egg method: Whip the eggs, sugar, and salt—without the water or heating step—at high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until the eggs have a texture like softly whipped cream. Fold one-quarter of the eggs into the chocolate.
4. Fold in half of the remaining eggs until nearly blended. Add the rest of the eggs and fold just until evenly incorporated. Immediately, before the mousse can begin to stiffen and set, divide it among the ramekins, or use it to fill a cake or other dessert. Chill for at least 1 hour, or until set.
White or Milk Chocolate Mousse
Makes 4 cups; serves 6 to 8
This mousse has the consistency of extra-thick whipped cream rather than the more aerated structure of even the richest classic chocolate mousse. After waxing rhapsodic about the taste and texture of classic chocolate mousse made with eggs, and the use of milk or water instead of cream, why am I backsliding with this eggless recipe loaded with cream? Because white and milk chocolates taste and behave quite differently from dark chocolate in recipes. Years ago I tried a dozen recipes for white and milk chocolate mousses. In recipes that called for eggs, I found the flavors less clean, and I didn’t like the sticky, slightly elastic texture caused by the eggs. Cream interfered less with the flavors of the chocolate and improved the texture.
On the face of it, the recipe is no more than whipped cream folded into chocolate, but there are critical details that ensure that the mousse turns out with a perfectly smooth rather than grainy texture. Melting the chocolate first with water (or another liquid) to loosen it is essential, and then you must positively restrain yourself when whipping the cream: it must be so soft that you are certain it can’t be right—but it is.
Made with white chocolate, this mousse is perfect with tart sweet berries or stone fruits. Both the white and milk chocolate versions invite simple flavor variations, including infusions, and experimentation. Serve the mousse in dessert glasses, or use it as a filling for cakes and desserts. If you want to use the mousse to fill cake layers, or as an element in a composed dessert, have everything else ready, then prepare the mousse immediately before you need it to assemble the finished product. The mousse begins to set very quickly and the texture is damaged if you spread or stir or move it after it has begun to set.
9 ounces (255 grams) white or milk chocolate, finely chopped
6 tablespoons water (or half water and half eau-de-vie, brandy, or other liqueur)
1½ cups heavy cream
1. Place the chocolate and water in a medium stainless steel bowl. Bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a wide skillet. Turn the burner off (if your stove is electric, remove the skillet from the burner) and wait for 30 seconds, then set the bowl of chocolate in the hot water. Stir constantly until the chocolate is melted and smooth. White chocolate is especially fragile and burns easily; do not turn the heat on again under the skillet unless absolutely necessary. Remove the bowl of chocolate from the hot water. Or, melt the chocolate with the water in a microwave on Low (30%) power for about 3 minutes. Stir until completely melted and smooth.
Let the chocolate cool to about 85°F (a small dab on your upper lip should feel slightly cool, not cold). If the chocolate mixture is too cold, the mousse may turn out grainy; if necessary, set the bowl in the pan of warm water for a few seconds before the next step.
2. Whip the cream in a medium bowl only until it is thickened and barely beginning to hold a shape—when you tilt the bowl, it should flow to one side, fluffy but still pourable and not at all stiff. Scrape the cream into the bowl of chocolate and fold carefully but quickly just until the two are incorporated. The mousse should seem too soft; it will firm up later. Immediately, while the mousse is still soft, divide it among dessert glasses or spoon into a serving bowl. Cover and chill until set, at least an hour; longer if it is in a single large dish.
Make the mousse with 9 ounces (255 grams) gianduja (milk chocolate with toasted hazelnut paste) and reduce the water to ¼ cup. Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream and chopped toasted hazelnuts.
White Chocolate–Citrus Mousses
Orange or Blood Orange: Use white or milk chocolate. Substitute ¼ cup Grand Marnier or Cointreau for ¼ cup of the water and add 1 teaspoon lightly packed finely grated orange zest.
Lemon, Lime, or Grapefruit: Use white chocolate. Substitute ¼ cup white rum, vodka (try one infused with citrus), tequila, or gin for ¼ cup of the water and add 1 teaspoon lightly packed finely grated zest.
Chocolate Fans and Ruffles
Chocolate fans and ruffles take lots of practice. If you can’t make them obey at first (and it’s inevitable you won’t), the abstract shapes that you get in the meantime look terrific embedded in frosting or glued on with a little melted chocolate or leftover glaze. No one needs to know you were trying for fans and ruffles.
Ruffled fans with ragged or deckled edges are my favorite—perhaps even my signature—show-off trick with chocolate. Because they are made of pure chocolate with nothing added, they are as delicious as they are sensational to look at. Decorate an individual dessert or even a dish of ice cream or pudding with a single fan, or arrange lots of fans to resemble a giant flower with ruffled petals on a larger dessert.
The amount of chocolate is approximate, and you may not need every bit of it. The idea is to spread a relatively thin even coat of chocolate on the cookie sheets. As you get more skilled, you will spread the chocolate thinner and scrape the excess back into the bowl. Some chefs add a little flavorless cooking oil to the chocolate to make it less brittle, thus easy to cut after it’s chilled on the finished dessert. If you would like to do that, add 1 tablespoon of oil to the chocolate when you melt it.
12 ounces (340 grams) dark, bittersweet, semisweet, milk, or white chocolate (no chocolate chips!), melted (see Chocolate Note)
1 to 2 ounces (30 to 55 grams) chocolate of a contrasting color, melted (optional)
1. Warm the back of one of the cookie sheets by holding it about 6 inches above a burner (gas or electric) and moving it back and forth in a slow circle until the bottom of the pan feels very warm all over (when you touch the underside rather than the inside) but not hot enough to burn your fingers. Turn the pan upside down on the counter and pour about one-quarter of the chocolate onto it. Spread it into a very thin, even layer with the offset spatula. Immediately, if desired, drizzle or streak the sheet randomly with a little of the contrasting chocolate. Refrigerate to harden the chocolate for at least 20 minutes, or up to several hours. Repeat to coat the remaining cookie sheets.
2. Remove one chilled pan at a time from the refrigerator and let the chocolate soften until it is flexible when you try to scrape it from the pan. Line the two extra baking sheets with parchment or wax paper, for the finished shapes.
3. For fans: Place one short edge of the pan of chocolate up along the edge of the counter in front of you. Lean forward (wearing an apron!) against the counter to brace the pan and keep it from sliding foward as you work. If you are right-handed, start at the upper left-hand corner of the pan (if you are left-handed, reverse the directions as appropriate). Hold the straight spatula with two hands; use your left hand to hold the end of the blade with your third and fourth fingers against the back edge, and thumb and index fingers in front of the blade to gather the ruffle (yes, it is an awkward position!). Use your right hand to hold the blade near the handle, and press the blade firmly against the pan with that right thumb as you work. With the back edge raised only slightly off the pan, pull the front edge of the spatula firmly toward you, sliding it under the layer of chocolate. If all goes well (it probably won’t at first), the chocolate will gather up against the thumb and index finger of your left hand and open into a fan near the handle of the spatula. With practice, you may be able to make 10 to 15 good-sized fans from each cookie sheet of chocolate. Remember, whatever shapes you do get will look dramatic arranged on a cake.
4. For easier shapes: Brace the pan against the wall or the backsplash of your kitchen counter. Push the edge of a metal dough scraper or a putty knife away from you, at an angle against the chocolate, to make sheaves or curls or whatever ruffley shapes turn out.
5. Either way, place the finished fans or shapes on one of the lined pans and refrigerate as soon as possible. If the finished shapes start to melt as you work, work with two pans at a time, rotating one in and one out of the refrigerator as needed to hold your finished work.
Tips: If the chocolate is too cold, it will crack and splinter when you try to slide the spatula—wait a few minutes to let soften at room temperature. If the chocolate is too warm, it will gum up or melt against the spatula—return it to the refrigerator for only a minute or so to firm up before trying again. The right temperature makes a big difference; so don’t fight it. Sheets can be rechilled over and over again or allowed to soften longer at room temperature as necessary. If the temperature of the chocolate is perfect but you still can’t get the shape you want, try altering the angle at which you are holding the spatula blade as you scrape; beginners usually tilt the blade up too much, when it should be almost but not quite flat against the pan. Once
you have a feel for the perfect chocolate temperature, you can remove more than one pan at a time from the refrigerator, or remove the pans at short intervals, depending on the warmth of the room and the speed at which you work.
Chocolate Ruffles: I normally just arrange ruffled chocolate fans together and call that a ruffle, but you can make an actual long ruffle using the fan technique by scraping the chocolate in longer pulls. Then, while the ruffle is still soft and flexible, arrange it directly on the dessert, perhaps in a spiral from the center.
"Excerpted from Seriously Bitter Sweet by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013. Photographs by Deborah Jones."