Chocolate Mousse

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French Kids Eat Everything was the second book I read in my brainwashing of French food culture (the first was Bringing Up Bebe) and it was the best one in the trend of “the French know what you’re doing wrong”, in my opinion.  In the book, the author, Karen Le Billon, describes her struggle raising her two little girls on the streets of Paris, trying to fit in to a food culture so different from our own.  She noticed toddlers sitting in restaurants for an hour meal without making a peep and eating the entire time.  She never saw public temper tantrums in grocery stores over a product not bought, even if desired (kids know they can’t have snacks unless it’s 4 p.m. and even then, most are not used to packaged food aisle-fare).  She wanted to know how the French managed to raise children who ate peacefully and in turn, made having a meal together actually appear fun for the adults, as well!

There are a lot of great take-away tips in this book and one of them is to make the 4p.m. snack (or 3ish, in our case) really good – something a child won’t mind waiting for.  The French have an appointed time for snacks in the afternoon because between noon and 8 is a long time to wait for food (although they expect adults to wait!  Snacks only apply to children – dang it).  So I’ve been trying to find fun things to make and at the back of the book, there are some real recipes found in the daycare systems in Paris, as well as in every day homes.  One of those recipes is for a simple chocolate mousse.  I had procured some amazingly fresh eggs from my dear friend, Katrina, and I thought there would be no more honorable way to consume them than to eat them raw.

I just lost some readers.

Seriously, though, eating eggs from a reliable source, from happy chickens whose eggs are only a few days old – you would more likely get eaten by a goat than get sick from eggs like this.  I’ve never been one to shy away from a raw egg in cookie dough, even with the old eggs from the store, but for a recipe that calls for 6 whole eggs, I don’t think I would have been too comfortable eating them if I didn’t know how old they really were.  And I knew, in this case, because Katrina gathered them from the hen house a day before I took them home.  You all should hook up with a friend who has chickens.  They can never eat as many eggs as they end up getting!  And if you have chickens, this type of recipe is great for using up excess eggs!

This mousse is light, fluffy and has an amazing texture and flavor with the added zing of orange zest.  You must eat it very very cold or the texture gets a little too loose.  But straight from the fridge, they are amazing and Olive enjoyed it a LOT, and I exercised my patience with messy eating and happily took pictures of the chocolate chaos.

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Chocolate Mousse
Serves 6

1/2 pound semi-sweet Baker’s chocolate (I actually used Ghirardelli 60% chips)
4 teaspoons butter (oh, just use two tablespoons)
6 eggs, whites and yolks separated
Zest of half an orange (I also think a 1/4 tsp almond extract would be awesome!)
Pinch of salt

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler on the stove over low heat.  Quick method: melt in the microwave on 30 second increments, stirring gently until melted and smooth.  When the chocolate is melted and cooled a bit, add in the egg yolks and orange zest and stir well. Set aside.

In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or in a large metal bowl with metal whisk, by hand, if you know what you’re made of) beat the egg whites until they reach stiff peaks (adding a pinch of salt at the start will help them stiffen).

Gently fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.  Mix gently, then fold in the other half, mixing very gently.  Spoon the mousse into little serving dishes and chill for 2 to 3 hours or over night until firm.

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A First Birthday Cake

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Exactly one year ago, this pic was taken.  Olive was just 6 days old and we were home, out on our porch, having a glass of wine and marveling at this red headed little girl in our arms.  Matt made a birth DAY cake that we had when we got home from the hospital with friends and family to celebrate her actual birth and the only thing that changed this year was the cake and the size of the red head.

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We’ve had such a wonderful year with Olive.  It’s been amazing to watch her discover things, develop likes and dislikes (kitties, peas – respectively) and one of the most enjoyable activities in my life this year has been showing her food.  It’s crazy to realize that these little creatures don’t know what ANYTHING is.  They don’t know a peach from a mango from a pear from a plate of spaghetti.  They don’t know how garlic smells while roasting or the magic that is mire poix sizzling away in butter.  It’s our JOY to get to show them!  For

“…no matter what they think, we know: We are the ones who have tasted and seen how gracious it all is.” 

In this spirit of education, Matt and I contemplated what we wanted Olive to try for her first birthday.  She’d had many fruits so I considered a lemon layer cake, strawberry shortcake, something with banana cream.  Matt really wanted her to have chocolate for the first time and REALLY GOOD chocolate, at that.  So we combined forces and created a Neapolitan-esque cake with a flourless chocolate cake as the base, a white chocolate mousse in the middle and topped with a thick, strawberry whipped cream.  The chocolate cake is by far the best chocolate “cake” I’ve ever had.  Taken from the brilliant Dave Lebovitz, it’s nearly like a truffle center, or the best fudge of your life.  The white chocolate mousse was taken from Annie’s Eats, which I’d used on a cake for Matt for Valentine’s day this year, which he was crazy about.  And then the strawberry whipped cream was just a last minute sort of creation by me for Olive.  Because she loves strawberries and I figured if she didn’t like the rest, she’d at least like a third of her cake and we wouldn’t look like complete fools when it came show time.

Olive's Birthday Cake

For the bottom layer, Matt baked it in a 9″ round cake pan.  We had a hard time getting the cake out (panic moment) and so I crumbled it all up and pressed it tightly into a spring form pan.  Then I lined the pan with a couple layers of acetate strips, stacked on top of each other and taped on the outside, to get that tall form for piping in the other two layers.  All you do is pipe in the white chocolate mousse on top of the chocolate cake, let it sit in the fridge while you make the whipped cream, and then pipe in the whipped cream and wrap plastic wrap across the top of the tube so it doesn’t dry out and let it sit in the fridge over night, or for an hour in the freezer.  This makes it much easier to cut.

Chocolate Cake (Orbit Cake)

14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4″ cubes, plus more for the pan
10 ounces 62% semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (our FAVORITE dark chocolate, which we exclusively used for this cake, is Lindt’s 70% dark chocolate bars.  Heaven.)
5 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar

Position rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F. Lightly butter a 9×2″ round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper (if you do this easy step, you won’t have to mush it all into a spring-form pan like I did.)
Place the butter and chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave at 30 second increments, stirring after each, until the chocolate is completely  melted, glassy, and incorporated with the butter.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar.  Gradually whisk in the melted chocolate mixture and continue whisking until thoroughly combined.
Pour batter into the prepared pan.  Place the pan in a larger roasting pan, and cover the top of the cake pan with foil.  Add enough hot water to the baking pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes until the cake has set.  To test, touch the center of the cake lightly with your finger: the surface will be slightly tacky, but your fingers should come away clean.
Carefully remove the cake pan from the water bath and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours – up to 3 days.
To assemble with the mousse, run a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen the sides.  Invert onto a serving plate, wrap in the acetate strips (or wax paper – tape doesn’t stick to parchment) and get on with making the next step.

White Chocolate Mousse

1 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin
2 tbs water
12 oz white chocolate chips (don’t use almond bark – it won’t taste right)
3 cups heavy cream

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl and let stand at least 5 minutes to soften.  Place the white chocolate in a medium bowl.  Bring 1 cup of the cream to a boil in a small saucepan.  Remove the pan from the heat, add the gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved.  Pour the hot cream mixture over the white chocolate and let stand about 1 minute.  Whisk until the mixture is smooth.  Cool to room temperature, about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the remaining 2 cups of cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken.  Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted.  Using a whisk, mix one-third of the whipped cream to the white chocolate mixture to lighten it.  Fold in the remaining whipped cream gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  Spoon the white chocolate mousse into the pan over the chocolate cake.  Smooth the top with an offset spatula.

Strawberry Whipped Cream

1 jar of strawberry jam – the fancier the better
3 cups heavy cream

Scrap the jar of jam into a small saucepan over low heat and add about 1/4 cup of water.  Heat it just enough so that it incorporates with the water and you break up any lumps with a whisk and the jam is smooth.  Transfer it to a bowl and let it cool about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to help it cool.
In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, stir the cream on medium for a while until it starts to thicken.  Then whip on medium high while you gently let the jam stream into the edge of the bowl, careful to not hit the whisk in the middle, until completely incorporated.  Whip until a little firmer than soft peaks.  At this point, I added a little red food coloring (just a few drops) to make it more pink and folded it in with a spatula until fully incorporated. Do what you will with that.  I just wanted it to be pink to truly look Neapolitan. Transfer cream to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe, pipe, pipe until you can’t pipe any more.  Have fun with it.  Make zigzags and peaks and star flowers – whatever you want.  Just fill in all the gaps and sprinkle the top with extra crunchy sugar for effect.

serves at least 20