Chocolate mousse. It’s one of the simplest, and most classic desserts I know. Simple can be relative, since there’s a fair amount of whisking involved, but it can be made well in advance and put together at the last minute.
Recently this was the dessert I walked a number of home cooks through in a class I taught with Kitchen in The Market, a Minneapolis based catering kitchen that occasionally hosts something they call “Chef’s Night Off”-a class featuring a rotating local chef, with all the proceeds going to a local charity.
Last year’s class was on various types of pasta, this one was a little different. Basically I just thought of a couple seasonal, interesting recipes and made a 3-course, family style meal out of them for the guests to try. Here was the menu:
- Fried Sunfish with Lovage Aioli
- Parisienne Gnocchi
- Harvest Vegetable Succotash
- Piedmontese Culotte Steaks with Sauce Choron
- Smoked Chocolate Mousse with Wild Cherry Sauce
The sunfish were served as a starter, followed by the steaks with the gnocchi and succotash, and finally the mousse. The mousse is a rich one, thick and custardy. The briefly fermented cream on the side gives it a nice tang, and helps the dish not taste so sweet. As a habit, I try not to use too much sugar in dessert, you want just enough, but not too much. I’m not a fan of desserts that make it feel like my teeth will fall out of my head. Here the chocolate takes center stage, but I employ a fun technique that gives plenty of food depth-smoke.
I smoke all kinds of foods, but desserts have a special place in my heart, especially smoked chocolate, and things made with cream, it adds a certain “je ne sais quoi” that diners go crazy for, even if they can’t even tell the dish in question has been smoked.
Like all things though, moderation is the key when adding smoke to foods, since applying too much, or using things to smoke that aren’t properly cured (a.k.a dried), or have too strong a flavor (like sage) will give inedible results. I’m going to outline an easy way to cold smoke things using a charcoal grill for you, it’s pretty fool proof, if you pay attention.
Smoked Chocolate Mousse with Wild Black Cherry Sauce and Creme Fraiche
If you’re pregnant or worried about eating raw egg, whip the whites and yolks per the recipe over a water bath until they reach a temperature of 145 degrees F.
Serves 4-8, yielding about 4 cups of very rich mousse, but not overly sweet mousse.
- 5 oz bittersweet chocolate
- .75 oz butter
- 3 egg yolks
- 4 tablespoons water
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 3 egg whites
- 8 oz heavy cream (2 cups), whipped
- Handful of very dry wood for smoking, or another smoking medium of your choice, like grapevines or rosemary branches
- 1/2 cup crème fraiche, to garnish (see recipe below )
- 1 recipe wild cherry sauce (see recipe below)
- Cold smoke the chocolate for 10 minutes. To rig up a cold smoker at home, put some smoking wood chips off to one side in the bottom of a charcoal grill. Put the chocolate into a container set on some ice to keep it cold and make sure it doesn’t melt, then place that opposite the wood, after you’ve put the grate on. You want to smoke the chocolate, but you don’t want it to get warm. Light the wood on fire, blow out the flames, then let the grill fill with smoke, put the chocolate in and let it sit for 10 minutes. Easy.
- Combine the chocolate and butter and melt over a hot water bath.
- Combine the egg yolks with half of the water and half of the sugar and whisk over a hot water bath until fluffy and doubled in volume. Remove from the heat and whip until cool.
- Combine the egg whites with the remaining sugar and water and whisk in a stand mixer until light and fluffy, as for meringue, but do not over-beat or they will break.
- Using a large rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the egg yolks.
- Fold in the butter-chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.
- Fold in the whipped cream.
- Dipping the spoon or scoop in warm water in between each scoop, arrange scoops of the mousse with a dollop of crème fraiche and a tablespoon or so of the cherry sauce on chilled plates and serve immediately.
A basic recipe
- 1 cup cream
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- Combine the cream and butter milk and store, covered, in an airtight container at room temperature for 72 hours, or until creamy and thick, like sour cream.
- Transfer to a labeled, dated container and refrigerate until needed.
Wild Black Cherry Sauce
- 1 cup port wine
- 2 cups wild black cherry or chokecherry jam or jelly (you can substitute raspberry or blackberry too, any ripe tart berry)
- In a non-reactive saucepan, heat the port wine and burn off the alcohol.
- Add the jam and cook until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, whisking occasionally to prevent burning, this should take about 5 minutes.
- Cool the sauce, then transfer to a labeled, dated container and refrigerate until needed, place a piece of parchment or plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce to prevent a skin from forming.