News! Chocolate Events News!

October 19th, 2007

In between one mousse and another, a quick word on current and upcoming chocolate events: In Perugia, Italy,  Eurochocolate is this week, 13th to 21st October.  In addition to tastings and demonstrations, sit in on a round table discussing “The Sustainable Economy of Cocoa Producing Countries”. If not 2007, put Perugia on the Tasty Travels plan for October 2008.  Check for details.

Over 100 chocolatiers and 400 exhibits fill the Salon du Chocolat, the 19th & 20th of October  in Paris – events on the menu include chocolate-hued fashion shows.  In New York, Chocolate Week is the 4th to 11th of November, 2007.

Mousse One & Mousse Two

October 10th, 2007

Well, we have survived a long, drawn-out kitchen renovation which took two months instead of the projected two weeks. I became a bit more resourceful – without the old oven and before the new one was in operation – digging out recipes for stove-top solutions to dessert. Chocolate-loving friends always inspire me to expand my chocolate cake, torte and pie repertoire, but recently when they were expected for dinner, it had to be a different solution to the “what’s the choko-dessert?” question. The best answer was a classic chocolate pudding – okay, mousse au chocolat. Having tried some that were thick and bitter, some saucy-soupy and too sweet, I stretched for a new approach. Many mousse recipes involve making a sugary meringue with the whites, others suggest leaf gelatine to assure form. Michel Roux’s elegant rendition candies orange zest, and folds in sweetened cream instead of egg whites. Julia Child added strong coffee to the melting chocolate, while Prue Leith suggested Grand Marnier and a pinch of ginger. Just when I thought all possibilites had been weighed, I flipped open “The Cook and the Gardener”, Amanda Hesser’s delicious chronicle of her year cooking at La Varenne. Hesser suggests infusing bay leaves in warm cream, a first step for a chocolate ganache…..this could lend a subtly nutty twist to the mousse on my mind. So now, after my culinary oracles have been duly consulted, I offer an option or two that stand up to your own interpretations:

Mousse I, an herbal flight of fancy : 3/4 cup of heavy cream + 2 fresh bay leaves; heat the cream to scald it, take off the heat and add 2 bay leaves broken in half – let this steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Melt 6 oz./80 grams dark chocolate in a pan over (not ON) simmering water, stirring in 1 tablespoon strong coffee, then stir in 2 tablespoons of butter (chopped into bits), stirring all this as it becomes glossy. Separate 3 eggs, and whisk in the 3 egg yolks one by one. Pour the warm cream through a sieve into the yolk & chocolate mixture, whisking to blend it all. In a deep bowl, with electric beaters, beat the 3 egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar or salt, whisking to foamy peaks, then add gradually 1/3 cup sugar and beat to form stiffer peaks. Gently fold this in 4 parts into the chocolate mixture. Another 1/2 cup of whipped thick cream could be added at this point, but it is optional lily-gilding. When smoothly blended, pour the mousse into a glass bowl and chill for 4 to 12 hours. Sprinkle with a sifting of powdered Italian or Dutch cocoa before serving to 6. This can be chilled in 6 individual cups or glasses. Serve with almond tuiles to scoop up the mousse. Tuiles recipe to follow…. and a darker Mousse II. To bring out the elusive tones of bay leaf, a tipple of sweet Saussignac or Jurançon wine elicits the subtle herbal nuances.

Why Bay?

Whether you call it sweet bay, bay laurel, or simply bay leaf, the glossy green leaves carry more potential for flavor than I ever imagined. The sweet bay’s history alone is fascinating: in Greek legend, Apollo made the tree a sacred plant, assigning the leaves a symbol of honor. Thus the heros, athletes, warriors, emperors and achievers were crowned with a laurel wreath. Bacca-laureate means laurel berries in Latin. A long list of medicinal attributes include the bay leaf’s anti-inflammatory effects, it is a local antiseptic, an anti-fungal, it aids digestion and stimulates the appetite. Bay contains parthenolides, which are used to treat migraine headaches; and bay has been found effective in treating some types of rheumatism. The tangy, slightly nutty aroma that bay leaf imparts to milk or cream made it the medieval cook’s economical substitute for almonds in puddings – when times were tight. New England’s resourceful settlers used bay berries to scent candles and freshen the air. When a glossy green bay leaf is snapped in half, the natural oils are released into the sauce or soup, so do use fresh leaves, not dried brown ones. With so many health-giving qualities, sweet bay plays a more frequent role in our soups, sauces – and even in puddings, taking a cue from those clever medieval cooks.