Monday, September 5, 2011
It looks like a slice of cake, but it’s no cake: A chunk of Frozen Chocolate Mousse awaits my eager desserty appetite.
Thirty years ago, I purchased a book that would change my life.
It was Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts. I liked chocolate, and I liked desserts. How could I not buy that book?
What set that book apart was Maida’s engaging writing style. Her recipes were meticulous and precise, with no detail, however trivial, left to the imagination. Yet instead of being tedious and persnickety, she walked you through each step like a patient teacher and confidante. If you followed her instructions, you couldn’t fail.
And ohhh, those chocolate desserts. When I think of the Heatter dessert oeuvre, I am reminded of my friend Gary’s comment about ice cream: All ice cream flavors are good; some just taste better than others. Maida’s confections were all excellent. It was only a question of which ones you liked best.
Chocolate mousse. Chocolate pots de crème. Mexican chocolate icebox cookies. Frozen white chocolate mousse. Made-from-scratch chocolate pudding. The best honkin’ hot fudge sauce on the planet. Torte soufflé au chocolat. Sachertorte. Chocolate cheesecake with amaretto. Chocolate angel pie. Chocolate Regal. Brownies. Chocolate chip-coconut macaroons. Craig Claiborne’s Rum Chocolate Dessert. Good Gawd, you could eat yourself to death... and this was just the tip of the Choco-Berg.
Later, I would investigate other Heatter desserts, recipes from her other books. But the chocolate dessert book remains my main go-to guide when I want something that is reliably, ridiculously decadent and delicious. It hasn’t disappointed me yet.
Frozen Chocolate Mousse with Mexican Chocolate Crust
[I made this a few nights ago for a dinner party - the first time trotting out this particular Heatter recipe in about 25 years. It’s too dangerous to keep around the house, which is why we don’t have it more often. This time I added my own little twist by jazzing up the crust with some Mexican spice.]
8 ounces Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¾ stick unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Take a 9-inch springform pan and grease the sides - not the bottom - with butter.
Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers come in a nine-ounce package. Take four wafers out of the package; set aside or eat. Put the rest in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until you have fine crumbs. (Alternatively, seal the wafers in a plastic ziplock bag and beat the crap out of them with a hammer or rolling pin... or use Eric’s technique of painstakingly grinding the wafers with a mortar and pestle.) Add the cinnamon, black pepper, and cayenne; blend well. Dump the crumbs into a bowl and blend with the melted butter.
Put about ⅔ of the crumbs in the pan and, tilting the pan, press them against the sides of the pan with your fingers to create uniform sidewalls. Then add the rest of the crumbs to the pan and press against the bottom of the pan to form a uniform crust. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Set the pan aside on a rack to cool completely.
1 tbsp dry instant espresso or coffee (I used a single-serving packet of Starbucks Via)
½ cup boiling water
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1¼ cup granulated sugar
4 eggs, large or extra-large, separated
3 cups whipping cream
⅛ tsp cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
You can use any good-quality semisweet chocolate in this recipe. I’ve made it with Nestlé’s Toll House chocolate chips with excellent results. Most recently, I used a blend of half semisweet and half bittersweet Callebaut chocolate. Just make sure you use real chocolate. If it contains any fat other than cocoa butter, it’s not real chocolate - it’s chocolate-flavored shite, and it does not belong in your kitchen.
In a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the instant coffee in the boiling water. Add ½ cup of the sugar (reserve the remaining ¾ cup) and stir until dissolved. Turn the heat down low and add the chocolate, stirring until melted and completely smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a minute or two, then add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating with a wire whisk after adding each one. You should end up with a smooth, thick chocolate mixture. Set aside to cool.
In a chilled large bowl, beat the cream just until it holds a shape. (Don’t beat it until it’s too stiff. You want whipped cream, not butter.) Set aside.
In a second bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the salt and cream of tartar. Beat until the whites begin to hold a shape, then slow down the beaters and add the remaining ¾ cup of sugar, a spoonful at a time, beating until well-incorporated. Speed up the beaters and beat until the whites hold a definite shape but are not stiff or glossy. Fold a third of the chocolate mixture into the whites, then fold in another third. Then fold the whites into the remaining third of the chocolate.
In a large mixing bowl, fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. Then pour the mousse into the prepared crust and smooth or swirl the top. Stick the whole mess into the freezer. After about an hour cover the top with cling wrap or aluminum foil and wrap the whole thing up airtight. Freeze overnight.
To serve, use a heavy knife to cut around the sides of the pan, then release the sides and remove. If desired, you can use a wide spatula to remove the mousse from the pan bottom before serving, but this isn’t necessary.
Cut the mousse into slices with a heavy knife; it will slice easily and cleanly. You can serve it with a little whipped cream or just as-is; either way, it’s ridiculously delicious and completely decadent.
And if your ass gets fat, blame Maida. I still do.