Chocolate Mousse was one of the very first recipes I tried to make, way back when I was a middle schooler. Making a quintessentially French dish was an assignment for my French class, so I set off with a copy of Time Life Books: classic French cooking and did my best. Which wasn’t very good.
Actually, it was terrible. The recipe called for coffee, which at the time, before I became an avid consumer of the beverage, was a confusing ingredient. Did they mean coffee grounds or brewed coffee. Well, I chose very wrong and went with the grounds, probably because I didn’t know how to brew coffee. It was like eating chocolate with sand in it. Not good. I made it again with brewed coffee and it was a revelation. The texture was like silk, the taste of the chocolate was so rich and luscious, unlike anything I’d ever eaten. It was like a very distant cousin to chocolate pudding, but altogether superior. I was so proud that I’d made something this delicious. It was one of the first times I was excited about a school assignment and it set me off on more baking adventures.
My friends Sonja and Alex, otherwise known as the parents of the most adorable little boy, Larson (and some may know them for their excellent blog a couple cooks), just sent me their new cookbook. As I flipped through all the gorgeous recipes, I was stopped in my tracks by a picture of chocolate mousse topped with meringue. For anyone who follows me on Instagram, you know I am a huge fan of the ethereal sweet topping; whipped up pretty and then lit on fire with a blow torch. I always knew I liked these two and their recipes, but it turns out that Alex also has a thing for blow torches, so they just got even cooler IMHO. This is a super simple and quick chocolate mousse recipe you can whip up at the last minute for Valentine’s Day and your sweetheart will never know it just took a few minutes to make. The bit of crunch in the middle is just brilliant and adds that contrast of texture that makes for a great dessert. They’ve generously agreed to share the recipe, but you should all go out and find their book, Pretty Simple Cooking!
By the time I became a pastry chef in the mid 1990s tiramisu, the decadent Italian dessert that defined the 80s, was banned from all high-end restaurants. It was a matter of bad PR, not because it wasn’t well liked or frequently requested. In fact, it was its very popularity that took it down. We pastry chef types just got bored with making it all the time to satisfy the demand. The same fate took down the molten lava cake and flourless chocolate torte. But, as happens with all good things, they find their way back in fashion. I predict the humble tiramisu will find its way onto a menu near you. If I happen to be wrong about this, we can have our own revolution and make it at home. This version was inspired by a recipe from Joanne Chang’s book, Flour. Yes, she apologizes for making it. I stand proud and layer espresso sponge cake, soaked with coffee and booze with rich mascarpone mousse, then top it all with chocolate ganache and raspberries. The trick is to soak the layers just enough to impart flavor and make them delicate, but not so much that they become soggy mush. The bite of the coffee and liqueur is perfectly mellowed by the custard, but none of it is overly sweet. I built them as individuals, using PVC pipe that I had cut to the right size (super cheap), but you can buy circular pastry molds (kind of expensive) or even washed out cans (sweetened condensed milk is just the right size). You can do this exact same recipe in a small trifle bowl or in short water glasses.
Andrew Zimmern was my very first boss out of culinary school – in the 1990s high-end restaurant I mentioned earlier. It was a wild and creative time in my life. He wasn’t eating freaky things, but he was pushing the culinary palate in Minneapolis, and I was lucky enough to be part of that ride. Last week he invited me to visit with him on his podcast Go Fork Yourself. We talked about baking bread in a crock pot, cooking in a dishwasher, vegan egg replacer that is changing the world, to be, or not to be gluten-free and the merits of a sexy index (my new book has one), plus the first time I told him to go fork himself! You can here the podcast here.
(makes 8 individual)
4 eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup espresso, hot
1 cup all-purpose flour
Mascarpone cream filling:
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Amaretto
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
For assembling tiramisu:
1 cup coffee, plus 2 tablespoons Amaretto
1/4 cup cocoa powder, for dusting layers
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Amaretto
Fresh Raspberries for garnish
To make the sponge cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F
Line a baking sheet with parchment and grease with butter
NOTE: I doubled the above recipe, so all of the pictures will show a larger amount than you will be making.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat 4 yolks, 1/3 cup sugar and the hot espresso on high speed for about 5 minutes.
The egg mixture will be light in color and very thick.
The egg foam will hesitate on the surface when the whisk is lifted out of the bowl and the foam falls back into the bowl.
In another metal bowl (if you use the same bowl and whisk, they need to be perfectly clean and dried or the whites won’t whip properly). Beat the egg whites on medium speed until they start to foam, about 1 minute. Slowly add the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and continue mixing until the whites are shiny and hold a stiff peak.
Mix about 1/3 of the whites into the yolks, this will lighten the yolk mixture. Gently fold the remaining egg white mixture into the yolks using a rubber spatula.
Sift the flour and salt over the combined egg foam.
Gently fold the flour into the eggs, using the rubber spatula.
Spread the cake batter over the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cake springs back when gently pressed. Allow the cake to cool completely. It can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for 24 hours.
To make the mascarpone filling:
In a double boiler whisk together 4 egg yolks, sugar, Amaretto and salt.
Continue whisking until the mixture thickens.
Place the bowl in an ice bath to cool the mixture quickly. Stir occasionally until it is completely cool.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat together the mascarpone and heavy cream until they hold stiff peaks. Be sure not to over do it or it will get grainy.
Once the yolk mixture is cool, fold the whipped mascarpone into it.
To assemble the individual tiramisu:
Place the molds on a baking sheet lined with parchment and line your molds with acetate strips. The acetate is a stiff, but pliable, plastic that will line the molds, which makes removing the tiramisu a snap.
Using a round cutter that matches the diameter of your PVC molds, cut out a circle of the cooled cake. Place the cake circle on the bottom of the mold.
Brush each cake layer with the coffee and Amaretto mixture. Just enough to flavor, but not so much that it is saturated.
dust the top with cocoa powder.
Place the mascarpone mixture in a pastry bag fitted with a round tip.
Pipe a thin layer of the custard over the cream.
Repeat with another layer of cake, soaking liquid, cocoa powder, mascarpone. Finish with one more layer of cake, soaking liquid and cocoa.
To make the ganache: Heat the cream in a saucepan to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate, swirl the pot to make sure the chocolate is covered. Let sit for 3 minutes, then gently stir with a spoon. Allow the ganache to cool and thicken slightly. While it is still pourable, spoon the ganache over the top of each tiramisu to make a thin layer.
Cover each tiramisu with raspberries and refrigerate until ready to eat.