Sunday, 15 April 2012

Failsafe Chocolate Mousse Panacotta

Originally presented with strawberries and cream...
I say failsafe because I didn't use a recipe to make this first time and it still didn't fail.  There is a lot of literature out there which says that if you do the Wrong Thing to anything which involves chocolate, you are a Bad Person and your concoction will be a Désastre.  They then give a lot of proscriptive instructions.  I will try to make my instructions as much 'stir-it-and-see' as I can get.
The literature also generally involves a lot of 'milk or tea first in cup'-type arguments about whether to have hot chocolate and cold cream, or hot both, or hot cream and cold chocolate.  I went for the latter simply because my 'recipe' involves melting gelatine, and this seemed easier to do in cream than choccy.
People also talk a lot of guff about Valhrona and the importance of using 'really GOOD QUALITY' chocolate for any and all things.  I may be very middle class, but Sainsbury's cooking, Dark, has always been good enough for me and mine.

For the moulds I cannot recommend silicone cupcake cases highly enough - they give such a lovely even shape. But you can always serve mousse in little pretty cups (or even ugly cups) if occasion calls.

Chocolate Mousse Panacotta
  - to make well in advance of eating
You Will Need: sharp knife, chopping board, measuring jug, small saucepan, wooden spoon, 2 cups, small bowl, fork, whisk, large bowl, moulds/serving dishes.  If using silicone moulds, plates.  Serving platelets.

100g dark chocolate
150-160ml double cream, plus dribble to decorate
1 leaf leaf gelatine
2 eggs
fruit to serve

1) Break the chocolate and chop it into small slivery pieces.   Put in the larger bowl.  Soak the leaf of gelatine in a cup of cold water for about five minutes.  Meanwhile,
2) heat the cream gently in the saucepan until hot-bath-hot to touch.  Separate the eggs, with the whites going in the small bowl and the yolks into the second cup.  Beat the yolks with the fork and mix them into the hot cream to make a quick custard.  Fish the gelatine out of the water and add to the cream.  Stir to dissolve.
3) Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and stir until the chocolate is all melted.  If choccy lumps give you trouble, rinse and refill your saucepan with water, plonk the bowl on top of the saucepan, and heat again, stirring continuously.  This gentle method will stop the mixture from curdling.*
4) Whisk your eggwhites to a stiff-peak stage, and gently whisk them 1/3 at a time into the chocolate mixture.
5) Fill your bowls or moulds with mousse mix.  If using floppy individual silicone moulds, you may find that sitting them on a plate stops them from wibbling EVERYWHERE as you move them to the fridge.
6) Allow to set in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
7) Cut your fruit decoratively; dismount your puds onto little plates, garnish with fruity pretentiousness and drizzle with cream á la Michelin.  This pudding should have a Faff -to- Posh ratio of about 1:5.

*This is as close as I get to telling people what to do to their chocolate.  Provided you heat it using the gentlest methods, especially when adding more fat (i.e. cream), it is much more forgiving than you might think.

ProTip: I did mention to my boyfriend (after he puzzled over the ingredients resulting in the stipple-effect look) that there was gelatine in these, and he made a face. 'I know it's fine, and you can't taste it, but...' Gelatine still means packets of cubular strawberry jelly to many people, and even though I was using leaf posh stuff (which is both a ProTip in itself and tasteless) negative associations are strong.  So if you want to keep your choccy-beneficiaries out of the loop and act all mysterious, feel free not to share the recipe too widely.

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