Friday, January 9, 2009

I Can't Believe There's No Butter

A few weeks ago my brother and his family were coming over for dinner, and I volunteered to make the dessert. This was complicated, however, by the fact that my sister-in-law doesn’t eat dairy, nor is my brother’s family big into sugar. I spent a fair amount of time trying to think of something that would meet these criteria. I knew I could make something simple like a sponge cake, but that just didn’t quite seem right. And while I could make genoise without dairy, which would leave the question of frosting (a dairy free frosting is hard to come by, other than meringue). And then I remembered the magic chocolate mousse I made a few months ago, which requires only bittersweet chocolate and water. I decided I wanted to make this, and sandwich it between two dacquoise made with hazelnuts and almonds. The result was really delicious. The mousse as by far the dominant flavor, but its richness was nicely offset by the light and crispy dadquoise disks. And the best thing about this dessert is that it’s surprisingly healthy (for a dessert anyway). The only fats come from bittersweet chocolate, and the nuts, neither of which are particularly bad for you (at least compared with most desserts I make which have several sticks of butter). Remember to use good quality chocolate when you make the mousse here. This would also be really good with some fruit, either some fresh raspberries or strawberries, or some jam smeared on the insides of the disks. We, however, did not serve them like that.

Unfortunately the ingredients for the dacquoise are in grams, because I used Pierre Herme’s recipe. I’ll try to measure things back out and give a volume at some point.


Chocolate Mousse Sandwiches

Makes seven 5-inch sandwiches

Chocolate Mousse

400 ml water 
16 oz. bittersweet chocolate 
2 T Frangelico or Amaretto (or other nut flavored liquor)

1. Get a large mixing bowl and a larger pot. Fill the large pot with ice and water, and place the mixing bowl in it. You might want to build a foil collar for the mixing bowl, as chocolate is going to spray.

2. In a medium, heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine the chocolate and water. Heat over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixed with the water.

3. Pour the water and chocolate mixture into the prepared mixing bowl, and immediately begin to beat using a hand mixer. Beat for 5-10 minutes, or until mixture has cooled and stiffened into a mousse (the more you beat, the stiffer it will get, and because it will loosen up when the liquor is added, you want it very stiff to start).

4. Beat in the liquor. Store the mousse in the fridge until ready to use


Hazelnut-Almond Dacquoise

215 grams nuts (hazelnuts and/or almonds) 
150 grams confectioner’s sugar, plus more for dusting 
5 egg whites 
50 grams granulated sugar

1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a ramekin or mug, trace 14 5 – 6 inch circles on the parchment, leaving an inch between each. Set aside

2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Spread the nuts out on a cookie sheet and bake them for 10 minutes, or until just golden. Quickly place them into a towel and rub them together to get the skins off. (chances are you will be more successful getting the skins of the hazelnuts than the almonds, don’t worry about it).

3. Reserve 80 grams of the nuts. Place the remaining 135 grams in the food processor and pulse until coarse. Add the powdered sugar and pulse until combined and fine.

4. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer with the whisk attachment. Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. With the mixer on high, gradually add the granulated sugar. Continue beating the egg whites until they reach still peaks.

5. Gently fold the nut and sugar mixture into the egg white mixture, until just combined.

6. Using a pastry bag fitted with a ½ inch tip (this is just a bear coupler on a regular bag). Pipe the dacquoise into the prepared circles. Start at the center of the circle and move outwards in a spiral. Chances are your circles won’t look perfect, but don’t worry about it.

7. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until disks are crisp and golden, switching the baking sheets half way through. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container with wax paper between the disks until assembly.


Don’t assemble these until at least a few hours before serving, otherwise you risk the dacquoise becoming soggy from the mousse.

1. Place the 7 uglier disks face up on their serving plates (so that the flat side is down). Place a serving of mousse onto each dacquoise base (I would say half a cup, but that’s an estimate).

 Place a second dacquoise disk on top of the mousse and press down, but not so much that the mousse squirts out the sides. Serve.

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