Sunday, March 30, 2014

Chocolate Mousse & Dirt Dessert

Spring is erupting. The dead-tree look in the garden is pushed to the back of a winter memory, and shades of refreshing green are taking over. Bulbs buried under dirt are peeking, some have already pushed the stalks up to carry young leaves and flower buds. Spring is also in this dessert, where young green is poking out of the dirt.... or is it dirt?

If you make this dessert in an empty (clean!) garden pot, it will look like a pot of dirt with plants. Try it, and surprise someone on April Fools' Day!

Chocolate Mousse & Dirt Dessert
(recipe generously serves 4)

Chocolate Mousse
2 egg yolks
80gr dark chocolate
40 ml sugar syrup (equal parts water & sugar)
150ml whipping cream

Whip the whipping cream until stiff. I don't add sugar, but feel free to do so. Whisk the egg yolks until pale and creamy. Bring the sugar syrup to a light boil, and then proceed to add to the egg yolks slowly, adding a couple of drops of the hot syrup to the yolks first to temper, then slowly add the rest in a steady stream while whisking until cool. Melt the chocolate (over hot water or in the microwave). Keep an eye on it: when 50% is melted, take it off the heat and let residual heat melt the rest of the chocolate. When slightly cooled, add to the sugar syrup and egg yolk mixture, working fast. When cool, start folding in the whipped cream in batches. Gently fold it in, from the outside inwards. As for the whipping cream and amount of it: the more you fold in, the airier the mousse becomes, but it will also make the mousse less pure "chocolatey". Taste when you're halfway through the whipped cream amount. If you're happy with the consistency and overall taste, don't use the rest. If not, continue to incorporate the cream.

The Dirt
To make the dirt, the easiest is to use dark chocolate chip cookies (homemade or store-bought). Three or four large cookies will do. Gently pound in a mortar and pestle (be careful not to pound into a paste!), or grind in a food processor (same paste-warning). It will truly resemble dark earthy dirt. I used a leftover slice of chocolate mousse cake that I made on another occasion, and kept in the freezer. Only use the crumbly outside layer (unless, like me, you baked the cake in the oven just a little too long, and it turns out quite crumbly throughout...).

To assemble: spoon a layer of chocolate mousse in a deep bowl that opens wide at the top. Sprinkle the dirt over to cover completely. Garnish with fresh herb leaves such as mint, basil, thyme and/or edible flowers. In the picture are slices of kumquat confit.

Kumquat Confit
1 cup cleaned kumquat
1 cup sugar
tbsp water

To clean the kumquat: quarter and scrape off the pits. Blanch three times as follows: place the kumquat quarters in a pan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Immediately take off the heat, drain, and start over: cold water, boil, drain. This is to remove all impurities from the skin, and reduce the bitterness. It also softens the skins. After your 3-time blanching, add a cup of sugar and 1-2 tbsp water and bring to a boil. Now, let simmer for up to 30 minutes. Cool down in the syrup and keep until ready to use. If you don't use all: it keeps for weeks in an airtight container (under syrup).

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