Thursday, February 28, 2013

Chocolate and Mint. Mousse for the Masses

   This last weekend was Oscar weekend or as it's known around our house, The Hollywood Super Bowl. For years, even when I was a little kid, the whole family would park itself in front of the Teevee to watch the dresses, the glamour and all the envelope ripping. Oscar Day was like a national Holiday for Fran. Where my dad would yell at us during any sort of football game if we stepped on the loose board in the living room that sent the television picture spinning, everyone knew to stay out of mom's way on Oscar night. It always started early with the Red Carpet arrivals and didn't end until Barbara Walters had made someone cry.

   When I had my own home, I followed those rules handed down by my foremothers. One does not move from the TV during the Time of Oscar. For many years I had food prepared and waiting for my guests to help themselves so that I could watch everything, beginning to end. And then there was this year. The Year of the Momo.

   It had started the week before when our house guests from LA were up at working at Pixar and decided to come spend the weekend with us in Sonoma. I had a request to make some momo, and that request turned me into a momo making fool. The momo were so easy and quick to make that I thought to myself, self, why not just make momo for your yearly Oscar event? It would be easy. And fast. And who doesn't like momo? You can serve them with various Indian side dishes and homemade chutneys. Easy peasy. And then I started inviting people. More than a dozen to be exact. I remember lying in bed and thinking to myself, how many momo can one person eat? They're small, they're tasty, they're eaten in one bite. Holy shit!! I'm going to be making like over a 100 momo!!! What the hell have I done?!

   Then I started checking out our guests for food allergies, something I always do. I had 2 gluten frees, 1 vegetarian who was also a piscatarian, 1 nut allergy who could only eat coconut and 1 lactose intolerant. **** Bad word of choice goes here. So now I was faced with a math problem. How many gluten free, how many nut free how many....Arrrrrgh! I would need a slide rule to figure it out.

   Needless to say I spent the first 30 minutes of the Oscars in the kitchen with the sound turned up surrounded by tall stacks of various bamboo steamers. Multi steamers marked for no allergic cross contamination. My kitchen looked like a hole in the wall dim sum parlor run by a bamboo steamer hoarder.

   At least the dessert was easy. A few days before, my friend and fellow Sonoman Anne McKibben who founded CocoaPlanet asked me if I'd like some chocolate to use in whatever I was concocting for dessert.  When someone offers me chocolate they usually don't have to ask twice, especially this CocoaPlanet stuff.

   What can I say about a company who's motto is "More Taste Less Sugar." Each piece is less than 100 calories, and contains only 8 grams of sugar. Plus it's Gluten Free and Kosher. I actually buy the stuff myself, to use at home, but of course if Anne wants to give me some, that's okay by me. It comes in several flavors. After she heard I had a bag of Mint Crystals that Marx Foods had given me, she contributed Cocoa Mint chocolates to the pot and a chocolate mint mousse was born.

Chocolate Mint Mousse

Here's What You Need:

7 oz of semi sweet chocolate. I used 7 squares of CocoaPlanet Cocoa Mint
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbs sugar
2 cups of whipping cream
Extra whipping cream for topping
Mint Crystals

Here's What You Do:

Chop the chocolate into pieces and set it aside.

Whip the egg yolks, sugar, and a pinch of salt together in a metal bowl and set it aside.

Heat 3/4 of a cup of cream in a pot.
When the cream is hot, slowly drizzle it into the metal bowl full of egg yolk mixture.

Keep stirring while you do this, otherwise you will have scrambled eggs and not a custard base for the mousse.

Note: Some mousses, (meese, mice, moussi??) are made with a gelatin base instead of eggs. Here is one recipe. I didn't use gelatin in this mousse as one of the vegetarian guests does not eat gelatin and I didn't want to take a chance experimenting with agar agar on this particular recipe. I had my hands full with momo and rice paper wraps.

Once the cream and egg mixture is well whisked in the metal bowl, pour it back into the pot.

Now it's time to cook the custard.
Keep the heat on medium low and stir it constantly. It's ready when your thermometer reads 160 degrees.
Usually I just eyeball custard and consider it done when it coats the spoon thickly, but if you want to be technical, it's 160 degrees you're looking for.
When the mixture has reached 160, pour it through a fine strainer into a bowl.

Add in the vanilla.
Melt your chocolate pieces, either in a glass bowl in the microwave at half power for about 3 to 5 minutes. (Take it out every minute or so to stir it) or as I did, in a metal bowl over a pot of boiling water.
When the chocolate has melted (it doesn't take long) blend it into the custard.

You want to whisk this stuff until it's smooth and glossy then set it aside to cool.
When it's cooled (also happens fast) start whipping the cream.
Whip 1 and 1/4 cups of cream into barely stiff peaks.

Okay, now here's a confession. I was whipping and then decided to check on my hand blender. So, I turned it off and lifted it out of the bowl to examine it. I then decided to start whipping again, holding it near my face I turned it on. Alan said he saw that was what I was going to do but couldn't believe I would actually do it. I wound up covered in whipped cream.

That's after cleaning up. So, nobody's perfect.

Take the whipped cream and whisk about 1/4 of it into the mousse well. This will lighten the color and make it easier to work with.

 Gently fold the rest of the whipped cream into the mixture...

...until it's all folded in.

Spoon the mousse into individual serving glasses, cover them in plastic wrap and chill for at least 7 hours. I made mine the day before the Oscars, which was one less thing I had to do. Much appreciated as this is a great make ahead dessert.

The one thing I didn't do was the individual glasses. This recipe serves 8.  I  doubled it and then put it all into one large bowl, which I then spooned into individual servings as I don't have 16 all of one kind of glass.

Before serving whip some unsweetened cream.
Place a dollop on top of each mousse and then sprinkle the whipped cream with crushed mint crystals.

The result is a light and fluffy cocoa mint mousse.

Postscript: While cleaning the big bowl this was served from, I was preparing to rinse it in the sink. Alan yelled "No!" and wrestled it away from me to scrape what thin shreds of mousse remained. Classy? No. Delicious? Yes.
   What have I learned from this Oscar experience? I will never again serve momo to an army of people when there's something I want to see on TV. But this Cocoa MInt Mousse is a big time keeper and I'm very eager to try it with some other of CocoaPlanet's chocolate flavors. I'm truly hooked on the stuff. Thanks to Marx Foods for the Mint Crystals and CocoaPlanet for the delicious chocolate!!

  Coming up next Spring is nearly here, and it's fresh, green and healthy time again. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

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