One of my last experiments before the I begin the frenzy of holiday baking – a flight of fancy from Pierre Hermé’s Desserts that he dubbed Mozart. The alluring picture in the cookbook has made me stop at this recipe many a time, but the complicated assembly, as well as the unorthodox combination of apples and cinnamon in chocolate gave me pause. It was always filed away on the project list, something to try when I had time and adventurousness to spare.
Finally, right before the year marking Mozart’s 250th anniversary is about to run out, I’ve managed to strike this item off my miles-long baking list. And I’m certainly glad I finally took up the challenge. Like many of Mozart’s pieces, it is easy to be beguiled by the delicate, sweet appearance of the dessert, and it is not until you bite into it that you realize the complexity and genius contained within.
The Mozart is composed of three layers of crisp, cinnamon-almond pastry alternating with a dense chocolate mousse studded with sauteed apples. While I am a fan of cinnamon, chocolate, and apple, their forms in this dessert intrigued me. I was unsure how I would feel about having bits of apple strewn in my chocolate, and how the tastes would mingle in my mouth.
Allegro. The first sensation is of the outer pastry layers crackling beneath your bite. As a tribute to the Austrian composer, the cinnamon-scented dough is made with a sieved hard-boiled egg yolks, a common ingredient of Austrian pastry chefs. The egg yolks give the pastry an ephemerally crumbly texture – as well as making frustratingly fragile to work with. The recipe warns the the baked pastry cracks easily, making any manipulation a high-risk process. Fortunately, only one layer – the top - has to survive intact for display!
Andante. The crunch of crust gives way to a rich, dark chocolate mousse. This is the part in which to luxuriate, the smooth, velvety mousse laced with hints of cinnamon and rum, and the surprise of bits of caramelized apple. I found the apples to work much better than I imagined they would – the overnight chilling of the cake allows the flavor of the apples to subtly blend with the chocolate, turning into an interesting supporting undertone. The apple pieces also add textural interest to the mousse, keeping it from becoming too one-note boring.
Finale. As the bite of cake is finished, a bevy of impressions – crisp crust, creamy mousse, cinnamon and almond, chocolate and apple, swirl into a crescendo of perfectly balanced deliciousness. I was impressed with how all of the elements of this dessert had been thought out and calibrated to harmonize with each other. This is an interesting riff on the layer cake motif – I found myself thinking I could use the format of alternating crisp pastry with rich filling in a variety of flavor combinations. So if the idea of apples in chocolate is not to your fancy (although I would give it a try before you completely dismiss it) there are still innumerable ways to use this dessert template – just as Mozart was able to write divine sonata after sonata.