Chocolate triumphs in chilled desserts (5 Recipes!)
By Faye Levy
Summer is a great season for making desserts with fine chocolate. Flour can mute the distinctive taste of fine chocolate, so cakes are not always the best way to showcase it. Chilled desserts such as mousse, ice cream and cold souffle do a better job, and they also happen to be what people crave when the weather is warm. They require no baking, and most need only a few minutes of cooking or none at all.
If you need to make a dessert in a hurry, it's easy to put together a chocolate sundae pie in a simple nut crust topped with a luxurious chocolate sauce made of two ingredients -- chocolate and cream. For an even quicker option, dress up ice cream with chopped fine chocolate, toasted nuts and tender summer fruit. Instead of grabbing a bag of chocolate sprinkles or chocolate chips for the garnish, try something a bit more exotic, like dark chocolate with crystallized orange peel, or chocolate accented with green tea and ginger or with acai.
When I'm using fine chocolate in an ice cream, I keep the secondary flavors delicate. Infusing flavorings in milk or cream is a good technique for doing this. Vanilla beans are the classic partner for the chocolate, but there are many others. For cappuccino chocolate ice cream, I steep cinnamon sticks and coffee beans in the milk and cream, and then strain it to make the custard base for the ice cream. I use fresh mint leaves and toasted almonds the same way, to make subtly flavored bases for chocolate mint and chocolate almond ice creams.
Just about any nut makes a good mate for chocolate, as do most seeds. Peanut butter chocolate chip gelato is on the menu of my friend Akasha Richmond's restaurant, in Culver City, California. So is chocolate hemp gelato, made with chocolate hemp milk, a cocoa and hemp seed beverage that is new in our markets.
Ice cream may top most lists of summertime chocolate favorites, but chocolate mousse is surely a close second. I like to combine both concepts to make frozen chocolate mousse. Rich as well as refreshing, it tastes even more chocolaty than ice cream. Besides, frozen chocolate mousse is easy to prepare and doesn't need an ice cream machine. Turn it out of a ring mold and spoon fresh berries into the center for a festive presentation, or simply serve it straight out of cups or ramekins.
Dark chocolate may be labeled semisweet, bittersweet or extra-bittersweet, but the more precise labels list percentages such as 60, 70 or higher. These percentages indicate how much of the pure cocoa bean is in the chocolate; the rest is sugar and sometimes milk solids. Chocolates with a higher number therefore tend to be less sweet.
I find that 60 percent dark chocolate works well in recipes calling for semisweet, and 60 to 70 percent in those that call for bittersweet.
White chocolate has a sweet taste with no characteristic chocolate bitterness because it contains no cocoa powder; it is made of cocoa butter, milk and sugar. 2)
• Chop the chocolate into small pieces. You can use the top of a double boiler, but it works just as well to put the chocolate in a bowl set above a pan of hot water. Do not cover the chocolate. Set the pan over low heat. Stir occasionally as the chocolate melts, and remove it from above the hot water as soon as it melted.
• To melt chocolate in the microwave, put the chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave it uncovered on 50 percent power. Check it frequently -- microwaved chocolate pieces hold their shape and don't look "melted," even when they are, and thus can easily scorch. When the pieces feel soft to a spoon, remove the bowl from the microwave and stir the chocolate until smooth.
• If you are melting chocolate in liquid, as when making sauce, you can heat the chocolate in the liquid in a heavy saucepan over very low heat.
FROZEN CHOCOLATE MOUSSE RING WITH FRESH BERRIES
A kirsch-scented chocolate mousse encircling a medley of blueberries, blackberries and strawberries makes a colorful summer dessert. You can keep the mousse, covered, 2 weeks in the freezer
MAKES: 8 servings
Melt chocolate in a medium bowl over nearly simmering water. Stir until smooth. Remove from water.
Whisk yolks with 4 tablespoons sugar and water in a small metal bowl. Set bowl in a pan of nearly simmering water. Heat, whisking constantly, until mixture reaches 160 F on an instant-read or candy thermometer. Remove from heat and immediately whip with electric mixer until cool. Add to chocolate all at once; stir until smooth. Add kirsch.
In a large chilled bowl whip 1 2/3 cups cream with 1 tablespoon sugar until nearly stiff. Fold into chocolate mixture. Pour mousse into oiled mold. Smooth top. Cover and freeze at least 6 hours or until set.
To unmold mousse, run a metal spatula or thin-bladed knife around dessert's edge and around center of ring. Dip mold in room-temperature water to come halfway up its side about 5 seconds. Dry base of mold. Set a platter on top of mold. Holding firmly together, quickly flip so dessert is right-side up. Shake bowl gently downward; mousse should slip onto platter. If mousse remains in mold, put a hot damp towel on top of mold for a few seconds and, holding mold and platter together, tap mold on a folded towel set on work surface until dessert comes out. Carefully lift up mold. Smooth top of mousse with a metal spatula. Return to freezer 5 minutes or until ready to serve.
In a large chilled bowl whip remaining 1 cup cream with 2 tablespoons sugar until very stiff. Set aside several of each type of berry for garnish. Gently mix remaining berries. Spoon fruit mixture into center of chocolate ring. Using a pastry bag with a medium star tip, pipe whipped cream in a ruffle around outer base of dessert. Garnish ruffle with reserved berries. Serve any remaining cream separately.
SPIRITED COLD CHOCOLATE SAUCE
The flavor of the liqueur seems strong when this sauce is tasted plain, but it beautifully complements creamy desserts, ice cream and slices of plain cake. You can keep the sauce, covered, up to 1 week in the refrigerator. It thickens when refrigerated and should be heated slightly and then cooled to room temperature before serving.
Makes 1 1/3 cups
If you have refrigerated the sauce, reheat it in a bowl set in a pan of hot water over low heat. Cool sauce to room temperature.
CAPPUCCINO-CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM
Like some versions of the famous beverage, this ice cream combines a favorite flavor trio: chocolate, coffee and cinnamon. Coffee and cinnamon are introduced by the technique of infusing coffee beans and cinnamon sticks in the milk. This keeps the tastes delicate and the ice cream satiny-smooth.
Although ice cream keeps for several weeks in the freezer, when it is fresh it has the most wonderful soft creamy texture. If you prefer a firmer texture, the ice cream can be left in the freezer for 2 to 4 hours and will still be at its best. To store the ice cream up to 1 month, transfer it to a chilled bowl and cover it tightly. Let it soften slightly before serving.
Makes about 3 1/2 cups
Bring flavored milk to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan. Whisk yolks in a large bowl. Add sugar; whisk until blended. Gradually whisk in hot milk. Return mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring and scraping bottom of pan constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture thickens slightly and reaches 165 F to 170 F on an instant-read or candy thermometer, about 7 minutes. To check without thermometer, see note below. Immediately pour into a bowl; stir about 30 seconds. Cool 10 minutes.
Melt chocolate in a medium bowl over nearly simmering water. Stir until smooth. Remove from water; let cool. Stir custard mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time, into chocolate. If mixture is not smooth, strain into a bowl. Return cinnamon sticks to mixture. Cool completely, stirring occasionally. Remove cinnamon sticks. Stir in cream.
Pour custard into ice cream machine. Churn-freeze ice cream in machine until set. Serve soft ice cream immediately. Or remove dasher and replace lid. Cover lid with foil. Place ice cream in freezer 2 to 4 hours or until firm. Serve ice cream slightly softened.
Note: To check custard without a thermometer, remove pan from heat. Dip a metal spoon in sauce and draw your finger across back of spoon. Your finger should leave a clear path in mixture that clings to spoon. If it does not, cook 30 seconds more and check again. Do not overcook mixture or it will curdle.
TRIPLE CHOCOLATE SUNDAE PIE IN A PECAN CRUST
This easy sundae pie features ice cream and thick chocolate sauce in a crunchy, nutty crust, which needs only a few minutes of baking to toast the nuts. The sauce sets upon contact with the ice cream. If you like, substitute chocolate chip, vanilla, coffee or rum-raisin ice cream for the chocolate. Instead of topping the pie with a sauce, you can serve it sprinkled with chopped flavored chocolate. You can keep the pie, covered tightly, up to 1 month in the freezer.
MAKES: 6 to 8 servings
Reduce oven temperature to 350 F. Toast pecan halves for garnish in a small shallow baking pan in oven 7 minutes. Remove and cool. Slightly soften ice cream in refrigerator until spreadable. Spoon into crust in pie pan, mounding ice cream slightly towards center and quickly spreading it smooth. Freeze about 2 hours or until firm. Cover if not serving immediately.
For chocolate sauce: Melt chocolate in cream in a small heatproof bowl over nearly simmering water. Remove from water; stir until smooth. Cool sauce to room temperature or until thick enough to pipe. Using a pastry bag and small star tip, pipe a little sauce in center of pie, then in lines radiating outward like spokes of a wheel. Pipe a ribbon of sauce about 1/2 inch from border. If any sauce remains, pipe a dot of sauce between each "spoke."
Set toasted pecans on pie at equal intervals near edge and 1 in center; press so they adhere. Serve immediately; to serve later, freeze about 15 minutes or until sauce is very firm, then cover.
COLD CHOCOLATE-RASPBERRY SOUFFLE
Chocolate and raspberries are a favorite American combination. In this cold souffle, the vivid pink layers of fresh raspberry mousse provide an exciting color and flavor contrast to the ribbon of dark chocolate mousse running through the center. To show off the beauty of the colors to their greatest advantage, assemble and present this dessert in a glass souffle dish and include all three layers in each portion when serving. You can keep the mousse, covered, up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
Sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup water in a small cup. In a small saucepan thoroughly mix sugar and remaining 1/4 cup water. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves completely. Increase heat to medium and bring to a boil. Simmer 30 seconds without stirring. Remove from heat; immediately whisk in softened gelatin. Cool 3 minutes, stirring often. Gradually whisk mixture into raspberry puree.
Refrigerate mixture about 30 minutes, stirring very often, or set bowl of mixture in a larger bowl of iced water about 15 minutes, or until mixture is cold and thickened to the consistency of unbeaten egg whites but is not set.
In a large chilled bowl whip cream until nearly stiff. Gently fold into berry mixture. Pour 2 cups mousse into a 1-quart souffle dish. Cover and freeze 30 minutes. Keep remaining mousse at room temperature.
Chocolate Mousse: Sprinkle gelatin over 2 tablespoons water in a small cup. Melt chocolate with butter in a medium bowl in a shallow pan of nearly simmering water. Stir until smooth. Remove from water. Set cup of gelatin in pan of simmering water. Melt gelatin, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Stir into chocolate mixture.
Whisk yolks with sugar and 4 tablespoons water in a small metal bowl. Set bowl in pan of nearly simmering water. Heat, whisking constantly, until mixture reaches 160 F on an instant-read or candy thermometer, about 1 minute. Immediately remove from water and whisk 2 minutes to cool. Gently stir into chocolate mixture. Stir in brandy.
In a large chilled bowl, whip cream until just stiff. Fold about 1/4 of cream into chocolate mixture. Spoon mixture over remaining cream; fold gently until blended.
Cut a 25-inch-long sheet of waxed paper; fold in half lengthwise. Wrap paper around souffle dish containing raspberry mousse so it extends about 3 inches above rim to make a collar. Fasten tightly with tape. Pour Chocolate Mousse into souffle dish; gently spread smooth. Freeze 10 minutes. Gently pour remaining Raspberry Mousse over Chocolate Mousse. Refrigerate 6 hours or until completely set.
Garnish: In a small chilled bowl whip cream until very stiff. To serve, carefully peel off paper collar. Using a pastry bag and large star tip, pipe rosettes of whipped cream at top edge of dessert. Top rosettes with raspberries. Sprinkle center with grated chocolate.
(Faye Levy is the author of the award-winning book, "Chocolate Sensations.")
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