Mousse Two: Noir et Praliné

November 5th, 2007

Dark and edgy, chocolat noir has a grip on me. Maybe my crush on bitter chocolate started with Marabou, the superb Swedish chocolate that I savored on ferries going from Finland to Sweden years ago. (A Finnish friend just sent the bad news that Marabou dark is no longer available - what a loss for chocolate lovers!) But to cook with bitter chocolate, a balance must be struck between bitter and sweet. This rendition of a dark mousse does just that, with an added crunch of praline. Having tried adding spirits for depth, I found that rum was too strong, so I dash a little cognac or armagnac into the equation. Gently fold in whipping cream, which adds richness but not the volume of whisked whites that lifted mousse I to a lighter texture. And whether almonds or toasted hazelnuts are used for the praline, in the spirit of autumn, don’t forget the nuts.

The praline: In a non-stick frying pan, toast 1/2 cup coarsely slivered (not finely flaked) blanched almonds. Add a scant 1/2 cup powdered/icing sugar, stirring in from the edges as it caramelizes over low heat. Line a pie tin with aluminum foil, and when the almonds are coated with caramel (10 to 15 minutes or less), quickly transfer them into the tin. Cool, cover with foil and break into pieces by hitting it with a mallet. Set aside 1/3 cup of crushed praline for the mousse, which should serve 4 or 5.

The mousse: Melt in a pan set over simmering water (not ON - or it will scorch and spoil the flavor), 100 grams dark chocolate, such as Lindt Excellence, 70% cacao (1 bar/ package) which has been broken/beaten into pieces (to melt faster). Add 2 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks and stir, then add 50 grams of praline-filled milk chocolate, such as Côte d’Or (1/2 package) or Gianduja, broken up, and 1 to 2 spoons of Cognac or strong coffee. Lift the pan off the heat. Separate 3 eggs, and stir the yolks into the chocolate one by one; then stir in the powdered praline, add a twist or two of grated nutmeg. Whip 1/2 cup of thick cream, 1 tablespoon confectioner’s/icing sugar and fold this carefully into the cooled chocolate mixture. The amount of cream can be doubled, and a bit more sugar (sweeten to taste) added. When blended, pour the mousse into a glass bowl or individual cups, sprinkling all with crushed praline.

What to do with the extra egg whites? If you are not in a mood to make meringue, whip up a simple prune mousse. Cook 2 cups of semi-dried prunes in water to cover (with a tea bag to soften the skins); cool them, remove pits, then purée in a blender, add 1/4 cup sugar and a twist of nutmeg (and minced orange zest, or a splash of Cointreau if you have time) to the prunes. Whisk the (3) egg whites (add a pinch of fine salt and a tablespoon of sugar) to form stiff peaks, fold them into the prunes in three stages to hold the volume, pour into an attractive bowl and top with crunchy praline. Ready for dinner: Mousse aux pruneaux - a bonus autumnal treat - can be made a day in advance, to serve six.  Hold the remaining crushed praline in reserve - maybe to sprinkle on Jésuites…..

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