There was a time when all mousse was to me was the stuff that you put in your hair to help keep it up. Okay, you can now take that look of disgust off your faces, forgive me, it was the early nineties and birds nests and teased fringes were still all the rage. So were bike pants and bubble skirts, but let's leave that for another post. Fast forward ten years from then and I did eventually discover that mousse is so much more than a hair product. And it appears that the mousse that you put in your mouth far outweighs the pleasures of the mousse that you put in your hair.
So of course with my limited and somewhat awry experience with mousse, I had never made it nor had any inkling as to how it was actually made. I had eaten mousse at several restaurants before, although I never got the inclination to make them for myself, until now that is. I imagined that it was very involved, with lots of of beating and whisking; I was wrong about the whisking and beating part, although I did find out with this recipe that it can get quite involved, try a few hours involved.
After getting Matt Moran's self titled cookbook last year as a present from G, I would, almost daily, open the book to page 195 and gaze covetously at the photograpgh of his signature Aria dessert, the Chocolate Delice. The dessert is basically a chocolate mousse that consists of a caramel truffle base, then a layer of chocolate pastry, then above that a layer of chocolate mousse, then a thin layer of choclate icing topped with caramelised hazelnuts and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Sounds divine- absolutely! Sounds complicated- oh yeah!
Having never made mousse before, let alone, a multi-layered, multi-bowl dessert from a multi-award winning restaurant, I thought to myself, slow down! I had always been taught to aim high, to reach for the stars so to say, but this was almost equivalent to flying to the moon in a rocket ship that I didn't know how to operate. Pretty much impossible I'd say. So instead of reaching for the impossible and potentially wasting blocks and blocks of precious chocolate and eggs, I decided to make my maiden voyage into mousse-dom a slightly easier one.
I decided I would omit the layer of chocolate pastry from the recipe and that the chocolate icing would simply be a drizzling of chocolate ganache over the mousse. A collective sigh of relief is breathed by both me and my kitchen. Even though I was leaving out the layer of chocolate pastry, the recipe still puts quite a demand on your kitchen and its utensils. By the time it came to caramelise the hazelnuts, the kitchen was a mess. Whisks, spoons, bowls were haphazardly strewn across the kitchen bench, sink piled high with saucepans and and measuring cups. It was a sight to behold, the kitchen was in full use, and all for this mousse.
Matt does warn the would-be-mousse-maker that the recipe is not for the faint-hearted. And I admit, I almost wanted to give up a few times during the process. Not that the steps are particulary difficult but simply because there are so many steps to go through, it's easy to lose heart. And the mess piling up in the sink is another deterrant to making this dessert. The stakes are high and so is the washing up afterwards.
But once you have completed the whole process, the end result is worth all the self-doubt and trepidation. The moment you taste the velvety soft mousse that simply melts in your mouth, you can forget all about the dishes stacked up in the sink. The caramelised hazlenuts also provide a great contrast to the silkiness of the chocolate mousse. And the truffle adds that little bit of sweetness that just completes this beautiful dish.
It's one of the best desserts I have ever tasted and it feels all the more rewarding that it was I that slaved about in the kitchen to make it happen. Now if only I could feel the same way about those dishes.
If you want to see other mousses in action, then head over to the lovely Helene's blog Tartelette to check out the round up for Hay Hay its Donna Day, coming soon. For now here is the recipe for what I have called Chocolate Delights.
adapted from Matt Moran’s cookbook
20g caster sugar
125g coverture milk chocolate
FOR THE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
70g dark chocolate, 70% cacao
1 tsp granulated gelatine
2 tbsp hot water
1 egg, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
FOR THE HAZELNUTS
¼ cup caster sugar
2 tbsp water
24 hazelnuts, roasted and skinned
FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE
30g dark chocolate
THE CARAMEL TRUFFLE
Place four metal rings (about 7.5cm in diameter x 2cm high) on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Place chocolate in a small dry bowl and set aside.
In a small saucepan over low heat, combine caster sugar and water. Use a wet pastry brush to wash any sugar caught on the sides of the saucepan.
Once the sugar has completely dissolved, increase the heat to high and cook until the sugar has achieved a light golden colour.
Take the saucepan away from the heat and slowly pour in the cream. Stir until all the caramel has dissolved.
Pour caramel mixture to the chocolate and mix until the chocolate is incorporated throughout.
Pour the caramel truffle into the metal rings and set aside in refrigerator to set.
THE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
Melt chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, then set aside to cool slightly.
Place gelatine in a small bowl and dissolved with hot water, stirring continuously with a fork so as lumps do not form. If lumps do form, strain the gelatine into another bowl.
In a bowl, beat the egg and egg yolk together until light and airy, stir in the melted chocolate and then quickly mix in the gelatine.
In another bowl, whip the cream until just thickened and then fold into the chocolate mixture.
Take the rings from the fridge and fill the moulds right to the top of the rings then return to the refrigerator for another hour to set.
While the mousse is setting caramelise the hazelnuts.
Preheat oven 160°C.
Spread hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast for 5 minutes.
Place roasted hazelnuts onto a dry tea towel and fold into a pouch. Vigorously rub the hazelnuts together in the tea towel for about 3 seconds to remove the skins.
Clean off hazelnuts and set aside.
Then, dissolve the sugar and water in a saucepan, over low heat.
Cook the syrup until it becomes golden in colour; be careful not to burn the sugar at this point.
Add the skinned hazelnuts to the caramel and mix them to coat.
Then immediately spoon the hazelnuts onto some greaseproof paper and set aside to cool.
FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE
Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Pour the cream over the chocolate in a bowl and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is glossy.
Unmould the delights by gently warming the outside of each ring with a tea towel rinsed in hot water and wrung out.
Place them onto the centre of each plate and top with 6 caramelised hazelnuts each.
Then drizzle over with the chocolate ganache.