Thank you to all of you for your well-wishes and e-mails. It means a great deal to me to know there’s so much support coming from all over the web. I go between excited and nervous, often within the space of minutes, and oftentimes simultaneously, so it’s definitely never dull here. I also didn’t mention that while I haven’t been able to report any outlandish food cravings, my sweet tooth has really diminished! Which is weird and disconcerting, and of course not the best news for a dessert-themed blog. I still want to bake, but many times I just don’t know what I want to make. Maybe it’s nature’s way of telling me I’ve already accumulated enough sugar in my system over the years and I need to put some other foods in it?
September 21st, 2012 · 9 Comments · Breads, Cookbooks, Recipes, Reviews
August 27th, 2012 · 6 Comments · Reviews, San Francisco, Sweet Spots, Sweet Spots
While the macaron craze may have have subsided slightly in the blogosphere, they’re still popular here in the Bay Area – no self-respecting patisserie would be without a rainbow-hued selection of these little sweets. My choice for satisfying my macaron cravings is Chantal Guillon – a little shop tucked away in San Francisco that featured some of the most elegantly formed and decorated renditions of this French confection. I loved her version so much I even had ordered them for my wedding reception, a highlight I still remember fondly.
So I was thrilled to receive notice that Chantal Guillon had opened a second store down in Palo Alto, and even better, I was invited to visit the shop and chat with Mme Guillon herself! I sped down the Peninsula on a sunny Friday afternoon get a look at the brand new store.
July 9th, 2012 · 10 Comments · Cookbooks, Fruit, Recipes, Reviews
When a great deal of your personal and professional life revolves around baking, you forget how much of the vernacular you’ve absorbed over time. When I taught a few enthusiast classes at Tante Marie’s, it was a reminder of how easy it is to take all I’d learned in pastry school and over the years for granted. That you need to have butter at room temperature before attempting to cream it. That you use the beater attachment for creaming and the whisk attachment for whipping (doesn’t sound quite as obvious when spelled out that way, does it?)
Although I try to gear most of the material on my site towards home bakers with at least some baking experience, it’s always good to have a reminder to look at the craft through a neophyte’s eyes, and refresh my perspective. Sometimes I get asked how I come up with the recipes for my site. Well, of course, when I started, I made recipes straight out of cookbooks I admired. It wasn’t until I became more confident in my baking skills that I became brave and curious enough to experiment. To me, if a recipe is tricky or difficult, it doesn’t necessarily turn me off. It means it’s a challenge to see if I have the skill to execute it. But I realized for many people who aren’t perhaps as baking-obsessed as me, that baking can seem like a stressful, dry venture where if you don’t have your ingredients in exactly the right amounts or the oven at the right temperature, you’ll end up with a flat cake, tough crust, burned custard – or worse. Being creative? Who knows if you add that extra ingredient to a cake, that it won’t deflate? or explode?
Since it’s just about pie season, I thought it would be a good time to review a cookbook that’s been on my to-do list for a while: Gesine Bullock-Prado’s Pie It Forward: Pies, Tarts, Tortes, Galettes, and Other Pastries Reinvented.
April 24th, 2012 · 4 Comments · Chocolate, Cookbooks, Recipes, Reviews
Before I finish off my mousse experiment, I want to remind all you faithful readers that this Saturday is the big Food Blogger Bake Sale! We have had a location change since my first announcement: the bake sale will be this Saturday, April 28, at Omnivore Books from 11-4.
Omnivore Books was the location of our first bake sale so I’m really excited to be back here! And, to continue a very fine tradition that started when Rose Levy Barenbaum was speaking the day of our first bake sale, Alice Medrich will be at Omnivore from 3-4 to talk about her new book, Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts! I can’t think of a better agenda: stop by for a treat and then listen to a pastry master speak. If you’d like to see who’s participating in this year’s bake sale, go on over to the official website and see all the volunteer bakers listed on the side.
I really hope you all can come out – please Facebook/tweet/spread the word about our bake sale so we can get a great turnout! If you don’t live in San Francisco, check out the national list of blogger bake sales to see if there’s one near you. Thanks so much!
Now, onto the final mousse of the taste testing!
Chocolate Mousse #5: Sabayon based
Unfortunately I have to start off my notes about this last mousse with a little disclaimer: this recipe is called Pâte à Bombe chocolate mousse in the cookbook but I don’t think that’s correct. Pâte à bombe is made from combining hot sugar syrup with whipped egg yolks – the resulting ultra-rich and airy base can be used for everything from mousses to ice cream. It would undoubtedly have made an excellent chocolate mousse, but the recipe I made instead is really a sabayon based mousse, which is also a perfectly valid mousse method, just different.
Sabayon is also another wonderful pastry staple that has near-endless uses: it’s basically the French version of the Italian zabaglione, and is little more than eggs and sugar whisked and cooked into a buttercup-golden custard that can be layered in desserts or just eaten by the spoonful. In the case of mousse, it lends a gorgeous creaminess and fullness of flavor. This is the one other mousse recipe in my lineup that uses cooked eggs, and the extra steps in this method are indeed worth the effort, in my opinion.
You might be thinking that this method seems similar to the creme anglaise mousse #4 I made, and in principle they are very similar. But if you compare the ingredient ratios you’ll notice there is much more egg in the sabayon recipe. This makes for a much thicker and darker mixture. There’s also less dairy in this recipe, so the chocolate flavor is more pronounced, with less cream to soften out the edges. I found the mousse to be sweeter and creamier than #4 as well. Zabaglione is traditionally made with Marsala, so it seems perfectly reasonable to splash a bit in this sabayon as well.
I really enjoyed this mousse – along with the first mousse, these two seem the most suited for straight eating. Just a couple more mousse-making tips – these apply to all the mousses I’ve made:
- Temperature is key. You’ll notice a temperature range for the melted chocolate in every recipe. When you are combining chilled whipped cream into warm chocolate, if the temperature difference is too great the cream will set the chocolate, creating little hard chips that ruin the texture of the mousse. You want the chocolate to have cooled down enough to avoid this temperature shock.
- Folding technique is also crucial. You’ve incorporated all this lovely air into the various mixtures – the last thing you want to do is mash it all out with over-vigorous mixing. That’s why most of the recipes feature steps where you incorporate a small bit of one mixture into another – for example, folding a third of the whipped cream into the chocolate – to help balance out the densities and make it easier to fully combine the two component together. Fold quickly and smoothly, and with as few strokes as possible – the more melt-in-your-mouth your mousse will be.
I hope this was a interesting tour of how many different ways mousse can be made. I would say that I could see uses for all of the five mousses I did try: #1 and #5 are great for eating, #2 is also good for milder palates, while #3 and #4 work well as dessert components. There’s still so many other methods I didn’t explore: pâte à bombe, meringue, Bavarian, or even the water-based mousse. I guess a second round is in order in the future? I’m going to take a little break from mousse right now, though, and let you all try and hand and tell me which one you like best.
Happy mousse making!
Chocolate Mousse, Sabayon Based
- adapted from Cooking with Chocolate
- 3/4 cup (200 ml) whipping cream, chilled
- 6 oz (170 g) bittersweet (60-68%) chocolate, finely chopped
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup (45 g) sugar
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) water
- Place whipping cream in bowl of a stand mixer and whisk with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Set aside.
- Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt over a pot of simmering water. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Make sabayon: Whisk egg yolks, egg, sugar, and water together in a large bowl until combined.
- Place bowl over a saucepan filled with simmering water and stir until mixture reaches 180 degrees F. Remove from heat and set aside.
- When the chocolate mixture has cooled to 113-122 degrees F, fold in one-third of the whipped cream with a flexible spatula to lighten.
- Fold in the rest of the whipped cream, and then fold in the sabayon.
- Divide mousse among dessert glasses and chill for 12 hours. Mousse will keep for up to 2 days.
Remember back with mousse #1, where I discussed how eggs enriched a mousse like nothing else? The only issue was that the eggs in the classic French style mousse weren’t cooked, so it should be avoided by those with health concerns. However, the next two mousses use eggs that are cooked, so you don’t have to worry about anything – except perhaps your waistline! I think they’re worth the extra effort.