Well, aren’t you just… precious.
Your pages are glossy and guided, your cover is padded with embossed lettering, you come in your own box, swaddled in a piece of aubergine tissue paper. And you have this… way about you. This… tone. A tone that somehow manages to be simultaneously breezy and yet demanding and utterly, utterly pompous. It’s the tone the Lord of the Manor uses to remind an impertinent guest where he can park his helicopter. French bakers employ this tone, as do exiled members of the aristocracy and those claim to have seen REM perform live prior to 1983.
When this tone appears within a recipe, it tells me that I should take myself to TGI McKripsyTuesdayBusterbees If I want to take shortcuts. Not to say that I’m going to listen, but it’s useful to understand the level of exactitude with which I should pour over the instructions.
Here’s something of a confession: I kind of like fuss. Certain kinds, anyway. While I freely admit to being the occasional victim of aspirational snobbery, and will reluctantly fess up to a certain grim pleasure out of being sneered at by a recipe…. I appreciate care. And delicateness. And knowledge and skill honed over decades. I appreciate being reminded, for example, that I have to hold the spatula in a certain way in order not to deflate a foam, or asked to pad excess moisture out of gelatin sheets.
But what I don’t appreciate is dismissive, bloated fuss, the short that shifts expectations capriciously within the same recipe – blithely glossy when it comes to a complex and unnatural-feeling method of fat/flour integration, and yet maddeningly specific about garnishing the final pieces.
I really wanted these beignets to turn out, for example. I eagerly surrendered most of a Sunday to make them. They were fried. I filled them with pastry cream and sacrificed a bottle of jam in the process. It was occasion-appropriate and could have fed them to the Phillistines at work. They were, without belaboring the obvious, homemade doughnuts.
Frankly, I was disappointed. Between the starter, having to substitute for fresh yeast, and an unusual method of incorporating the ingredients, I didn’t trust my instincts and wound up with a dense pastry that only an abundance of cream or jam could save. The yeast added a I ate a few, gave a few away, but chalked my failure up to fear.
Sidenote #1 Of COURSE the fussy French beignet recipe calls for fresh yeast. Of course it does.
Sidenote #2 Bitter
sweet. The IGA on Ludlow carried fresh yeast.
Fortunately there was chocolate mousse..
Don’t you love it when you try a recipe and it instantly becomes “yours?” This happened. When the passion I feel for a spectacular result gives way to the comfort of knowing just how easy it was to create. Like waking up from a perfect dream and realizing most of it was still true. And I instantly I forgave her for the beignets.
Really. This is the second best chocolate mousse recipe you will ever find Because, you know.
If you must, dwell upon the paradox that a chocolate mousse can be this dense and this light at the same time. It was “full” in the mouth while still being ethereal, lingering just long enough for you to notice the chocolate but not long enough to articulate any dry bubblyness of the egg foam.
And it’s seriously the easiest thing in the world to make.
Mousse au Chocoat, based upon the recipe from Laduree
For every VERY FRESH egg:
40 grams of dark chocolate (an ounce and half if you are visualizing, like me). And use the good stuff.
10 grams of butter
10 grams of sugar
pinch of salt
Chop the chocolate into small pieces, and melt over a double boiler or in short pulses in one of those microwave oven things.
Chop the butter into cubes and add to the completely melted chocolate.
Separate the egg. Lightly beat the yolk(s) just to liquify.
Add the salt to the egg white(s) and whip until white. Drizzle in the sugar while whipping into a stable foam. Aim for soft peaks but a little bit of extra beating isn’t going to hurt too much.
Incorporate the egg yolk into the foam. The cookbook demands that you use a whisk without actually whisking. Instead, “simply start with the whisk in the center part of the bowl, work up the sides of the bowl and bring down toward the center.” Um, I simply folded. Worked fine.
Fold the chocolate/butter mixture into the egg foam. Work in fourths with a spatula, placing a portion of the chocolate on top of the egg foam in the center, placing the spatula “blade” down into the center of the bowl, scooping the mixture toward you along the sides and back over the center, then rotate the bowl slightly, and start again. Add another installment of chocolate when incorporated.
This is much simpler than I must be making it sound. But it’s important to deflate the foam as little as possible.
Once the chocolate is fully integrated, refrigerate a few hours before serving. Consider piping the mousse atop an already ridiculous chocolate dessert you prepared for your significant other, concealing the fact that the tempered chocolate fans didn’t really turn out.