Saturday, January 07, 2006

mousse au chocolat
à l'Anglaise voluptueuse

Chocolate mousse in the style of a voluptuous Englishwoman!

This is the Englishwoman in question: the sumptuous Nigella Lawson:



Her cooking site is here. She's a big TV personality, too, though I've never had the chance to see her in action. My buddy Mike gave me her cookbook, Nigella Bites, and I plan to do a good bit of foodblogging based on her recipes over the course of this year.

I mentioned earlier that Nigella's site had a radical recipe for egg-less chocolate mousse. The very idea boggles the mind: eggs are essential for a good mousse. Nigella's way around this little problem is... marshmallows.

"Preposterous!" I hear you belch. And I'd agree!

Nigella knows this is cheating, but having read her cookbook all the way through now, I can tell you that she likes tweaking snobbish sensibilities, finding clever ways to get high-end results through low-end ingredients. Nigella isn't afraid to point out that she's a mom and therefore always looking for shortcuts.

The idea that you can make a chocolate mousse without any eggs was so intriguing, so maddening, that I had to know whether this recipe would work. I screwed up my courage and headed out for Hannam Market despite the cold, risking death (for your sake, asshole!), and decided to grab both dinner ingredients and the evil reagents needed to make Nigella's unique chocolate mousse:

1. chocolate (She doesn't specify whether it should be sweetened or unsweetened, but she does say it should be over "70% cocoa solids." I have no clue what this actually means. When I got to Hannam Market, I bought Korean chocolate chips, which came in a clear plastic bag.)

2. marshmallows (Good Christ, woman! marshmallows!!)

3. unsalted butter (I had to settle for lightly salted)

4. hot water (I simply used what I had at home)

5. a tub of "double cream" (I bought whipping cream, which is likely too thick)

6. vanilla extract (The store had only artificial vanilla, so I bought that.)

You see above that I compromised on most of the ingredients, except the water and marshmallows. Even the marshmallows were problematic: Hannam Market sells a Philippine brand of multicolored marshmallows.

The ingredients:



You're then supposed to put the marshmallows, chocolate, butter, and water together in a saucepan. The water should be boiling when it goes in-- I suppose this is to produce a sort of quick-melting, double boiler effect: a faster melt in the pan, less risk of burning the pan's bottom as you stir constantly. Sure enough, over the next few minutes, as I stirred, the marshmallows began to melt and the whole thing began to go brown:



The stirring occupied my attention. Once the whole mixture became a goopy brown mass (this should all be done on very low heat), I next turned to the heavy cream and vanilla, mixing the two thoroughly:



And then, per the good lady's instructions, I added the cream/vanilla mix to the chocolate and folded them together:



The astute cook will note that the above breaks another cardinal rule of mixing: liquid ingredients to be blended together should be about the same temperature at the moment of mixing. The cream/vanilla mixture was substantially cooler than the still-bubbling chocolate/marshmallow mixture. Erring on the side of caution, I returned the whole thing to the burner, just for a few seconds, and stirred until I was confident that a decent mix had taken place.

After that, I took the whole mess off the heat, found some glasses, and poured my version of Nigella's recipe into each of them:



In the meantime, I took the rest of the whipping cream and, well, whipped its ass:



I let the cups cool for about 30 minutes, then covered them with plastic wrap:



According to the master, they're supposed to chill for three hours. As I write this, it's been two hours, so I don't know what the mousse tastes like yet. I'm curious to see whether it properly simulates the consistency of real chocolate mousse, and whether the taste comes anywhere near the real thing. The "no eggs" business worries me, because it's the eggs that make true mousse au chocolat worthwhile.

If Nigella's recipe works, though, then I've discovered a way around the salmonella problem, and will now be able to prepare a decent dessert for whatever guests I entertain.

Stay tuned. More photos to come, and a description of the mousse's taste.


_

4 comments:

Jelly said...

I'm looking forward to hearing how they turned out! What did you get at Hannam market for dinner?
70% cocoa will mean a dark chocolate -- bittersweet. Chocco chips are surely semi-sweet, which can be up to 35% chocolate liquor. There would be a definite taste discrepancy to Nigella's mousse, but I really don't know how it would affect consistency.
Your use of whipping cream was probably right on the money. Double cream has a 42% fat content, while whipping cream is about 36%.
I often substitute salted butter for unsalted in sweet recipes, because I like salty/sweet combinations. It ends up, most times, not making a hell of a lot of difference.
As for vanilla, from http://web.foodnetwork.com/food/web/encyclopedia/termdetail/0,7770,1408,00.html: Imitation vanilla is composed of artificial flavorings (most of which are paper-industry by-products treated with chemicals). It often has a harsh quality and bitter aftertaste. There's no comparison between pure and artificial vanilla in flavor intensity and quality.
So, again, there will be some difference in taste between yours and Nigella's stuff, but you're to be commended for trying it with what you have available!
I can't wait for the fondue post, I loooove fondue. With no TV, what do you DO while you eat? I love the this and that of a dinner party, but here, I can't imagine eating without the distraction of television. Sometimes I time it so that my meal will be ready at the beginning, and last right through an Oprah broadcast.

Jelly said...

Oh, and by the way, I LOVE your lace tablecloth, grandma!

Kevin said...

Jelly,

My tablecloth is actually two skinny plastic tablecloths, laid across the table like a cross. I went to Lotte Mart to look for a legitimate tablecloth-- something washable, with a pattern that would hide the usual, non-egregious stains. They had nothing, which surprised me. So I bought the grandma lace.

As for what I got for dinner... nothing nutritious. Australian-brand Corn King hot dogs, a wedge of parmesan cheese, some flatbread, and a nice bottle of Maille brand French Dijon mustard-- the kind with whole mustard seeds inside it. Yum.

I'll have to repent by eating a bucketful of raw, unwashed veggies.


Kevin

Jelly said...

I just saw your reply tonight! I hear you on your explanation of the tablecloth, but still..... Granny Ho, please!!
You're lucky you can get parmesan cheese there. I'm waiting for my trip to Japan for a big expensive slab. That's one cheese that's absolutely worth the price, eh - compared to the crap-in-a-can (which I settle for, but still.)
I've seen, but never bought those hot dogs. Do you eat them with sliced bread?