Friday, February 25, 2011

Chocolate Mousse with Szechuan Peppercorn Sabayon

Sometimes when you try to get to the bottom of things, you find you can’t!  Take chocolate mousse (not hard to take by any means), for example.

I decided to do a favorite recipe for chocolate mousse with a Szechwan peppercorn sabayon as part of the Marx Food’s Ridiculously Delicious Challenge (we were given a box of ingredients to use to make a dish with… I chose the peppercorns and coconut sugar…mmm).  Coming up with the recipe was easy… it’s based on my favorite Julia Child mousse recipe from her 1989 The Way to Cook.   Julia’s is a never-fail recipe… but not her first effort at chocolate mousse.  Her original in Mastering the Art of French Cooking was more in the style of a chocolate pot de crème -- without cream -- all rich eggy goodness with butter supplying the necessary oleaginous component for that luxurious mouth-feel we all crave.   As I whipped up my divine chocolate cloud I got to thinking -- who made the first chocolate mousse, where did it come from? 

Chocolate dessert only goes back to the mid 19th century as far as I can see.  Originally, chocolate was a very hot spicy drink from the New World made with water and not milk.  This continued through the 18th century with cream and other additives coming into the mix (like jasmine and ambergris!).

I found this gorgeous innovation for drinking hot chocolate called the mancerina on the blog Potsdecreme.  It was invented in the mid-17th century by the Marques de Mancera,Viceroy of Peru from 1639-48 (said The Oxford Companion to Food).  The stationary cup holder kept the hot beverage from tipping over and scalding the guest. I can see why it was so popular for so long (you can see more chocolate cups and history HERE and HERE ) with such gorgeous vessels to carry your chocolate in... why mess with success? Aren't we glad they did??

The blog Extreme Chocolate  said “The first written record of chocolate mousse in the United States comes from a food Exposition held at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1892. A "Housekeeper's Column" in the Boston Daily Globe of 1897 published one of the first recipes for chocolate mousse. The recipe yielded a chocolate pudding-type dish, instead of today's stiff, but fluffy, mousse.”

I’d like to believe the legend that the artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1854-1901) invented chocolate mousse.  He was a great cook and gourmet and after his untimely death at only 36, his boyhood friend, art dealer and tireless supporter, Maurice Joyant, collected his recipes in a cookbook in the early 20th century (translated into English in a 1966 edition).  Included was ‘Mayonnaise au chocolat’*… evidently his creative take on the newly popular savory mousses of the day.  Luckily the name didn't stick even though the mousse went on to be nearly as famous as its creator (don’t worry, I will revisit this cookbook again).  It has been said that Lautrec created the chocolate mousse and the cocktail snack (he loved the American cocktail), now that is brilliant!

 Perhaps if he had stayed with food and away from absinthe, he might have stayed around longer.

Like Julia’s original, the first recipes had no cream (although hers is served with a creamy sauce).  I read Robert Carrier had the first cream version in the 1960’s and by the 1980’s chocolate mousse was ubiquitous, although often little more than chocolate flavored whipped cream.  My version is far more than that -- good chocolate is the key and the rum, coffee, star anise and orange add warm, spicy notes (and Aftelier’s Petitgrain or bitter orange essence if you are lucky!). The Szechuan peppercorn sabayon I’ve had for 20 years in my ratty handwritten recipe book so I can’t tell you where it came from.  I do recommend using good eggs... pasture raised are my favs (from my pals at Grazin Angus Acres.  Remember you don't cook them so the fresher the better

Chocolate Mousse with Coconut and Szechuan Peppercorn Sabayon

Chocolate Mousse inspired by Julia Child

8 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 T strong coffee
2 T dark rum
finely grated zest of 1 orange (microplane is best for this)*
1 star anise, crushed into pieces (from Marx Foods)
3 oz softened unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
1 c heavy cream
3 egg whites
¼ cup ground fine coconut sugar from Marx Foods
*for special flavor you could add a drop of Aftelier’s Petitgrain (from the leaves of bitter orange) or bitter orange essence 

Soak the star anise in the rum and coffee for a few hours till it has released its scent in the liquid then strain, reserving the liquid.  Melt the chocolate with the coffee, butter, rum and zest.  When chocolate is melted, add the yolks… whisking constantly (if you add the butter to the chocolate too soon it could separate).  Allow it to cool a little then beat. Whip the egg whites and when stiffened add the sugar slowly.  Fold this into the chocolate.  Whip the cream till stiff and fold into the mousse and add the drop of orange oil now if you wish.  Chill

Szechuan Sabayon

3 T water
1 T honey
4 egg yolks
16 toasted Szechuan peppercorns from Marx Foods

Whisk the yolks, water, honey and peppercorns (I used a hand mixer for maximum volume) over a low heat till creamy and foamy.  Add the cream and chill.  Strain the peppercorns after they have perfumed the sabayon if you would like, pressing on the solids.  If you really like the peppercorns, as I do, toast them and grind them in a spice grinder and add to the sauce… it leave a wonderful tingling sensation on your tongue that is delightful and a contrast to the richness.

Plate the mousse and spoon the sabayon around it… add extra orange zest if you would like… I love the bitter orange flavor!

*Toulouse-Lautrec's Mayonnaise au Chocolat

In a saucepan put 4 bars of chocolate with very little water and let them melt on a very gentle fire. 
Add 4 large spoons of granulated sugar, half a pound of good butter, 4 yolks of eggs and mix carefully.

Let cool and you will have a smooth paste.  Beat the whites of eggs to a snow and mix them, while stirring, into the paste

Thanks to Gollum for hosting Foodie Friday.... having an anniversary today!!!


Stella said...

Hey Deana! I love chocolate mousse, and your peppercorn szechuan sauce sounds like a perfect spicy friend to enhance the lusciousness of your mousse (and it does look luscious!).
Oh, and I would also like to think that Toulousse-Lautrec is the original creator of chocolate mousse. I don't know why though. Maybe I associate all things perfect, rich, and creamy with Frenchmen (smile but seriously;-)

Diane said...

What an interesting post but then yours always are. I love chocolate full stop and this just sounds so yummy. Next time you make this let me know and I will be there LOL Diane

Federica Simoni said...

mmmmmmmmm...davvero ottima!!!baci!

Linda said...

Deana not only does this look amazing and soooo delicious...but I really love the plate...LOVE IT!

Anonymous said...

I love your presentation and the idea of the szechuan peppercorn sabayon, very unique!

Marjie said...

The thing on the presidents last Monday said Ronald Reagan's favorite dessert was chocolate mousse. I understand why! Yours is beautiful. I never make such nice presentations.

Tanya said...

That is a nice legend, perhaps the original name kept people at bay and 'helped' forget Toulouse's name.
The peppercorns, toasted and ground up, are in intriguing touch. I will definitely be trying it.

La Table De Nana said...

Huge fan of these peppercorns..ingenious way of using them..again thanks for all the history..You are so good at this!

Joanne said...

What a beautifully creative Marxfoods entry! I love chocolate and learning about the history of the chocolate mousse was a lot of fun. The sweet and spicy here must have been fabulous!

Chef Dennis Littley said...

hi Deana'
you did such a wonderful job with the Marx challenge, your chocolate mousse looks divine in that lovely sabayon! I can't believe chocolate Mousse is a relatively new creation, I would have thought it much older....
Again you are a fount of knowledge, thank you so much for passing it on to us!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Oh Deana, your French knowledge is impeccable. We choose to find what we need because it is already within us. How wonderfully equipped we are, if we would just look....and what a fine way to stop and savor life via a chocolate mousse with a ZIP TO IT! LOOK AT YOU...this is remarkable. The sign of a culinary talent is when one pushes the envelope to combine unlikely partners to create ONE fabulous dish. You know, I guess it is not unlike Mexican cuisine, where you find chocolate combined with interesting things. My brother in law made THEE BEST MOLE on Thanksgiving to pour over the turkey. CHOCOLATE SHAVINGS, ground peanuts, VANILLA???? and of course CHILI...unbelievable. When I smell any of these aromas TOGETHER, the memories flood in. Now there is a start to finding peace and the senses, if one only makes the time to listen....stay well dearest and have a splendid day, Anita

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I vote for the Toulous-Lautrec legend! What an elegant dessert, and a really intriguing combination of flavors you put together.

El said...

WHo doesn't love chocolate mousse? Julia definitely knew what she was doing. I love the dishes too. I'm always on the hunt for unique items and these are wonderful for chocolate!

Barbara said...

I must say, Deana, combining chocolate, orange, coconut and coffee is pure ambrosia. Your plating is spectacular and the sabayon with peppercorns is inspired.
And what fun about Toulouse-Lautrec's cookbook...I do hope you're going to tell us lots more about that. If indeed he invented chocolate mousse AND cocktail snacks, he was definitely a man after my own heart.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Deana I think this version would make any other version that I've had in my life thus far pale in comparison! :D

Fresh Local and Best said...

I'm imagining what star anise soaked rum and coffee tastes like. Exotic I'd imagine, and luxurious in this rich chocolate mousse. This is such a creative combination!

tasteofbeirut said...

I grew up eating chocolate mousse the housewife's French way: just eggs and chocolate, no cream. Now I would want some spice and yours with the cream to lap it with oh what a dream...Just reminded me of a blog I was reading an hour ago written by a French who wrote a cookbook called Poivre; only about pepper.
I love Toulouse-Lautrec like you would love a sickly child, knowing he could not help himself, he had as we'd say today "issues".

Tasty Trix said...

This is so smart! I love the spices added to the mousse, and only you could plate it so prettily. Sometimes mousse can look ... well, you know.

Deepa Praveen said...

I have tried mousse only once and that was not an easy task for me..but will try this soon

Unknown said...

oh wow, definitely a great combo of those spices!! lovely entry :)

Donna Currie said...

I never met a chocolate mousse I didn't like, and this is no exception. Nice job working in the secret ingredients! Good luck!

Megan @ FeastingonArt said...

Yum chocolate! I always love it when you add in artwork to your posts. Lovely as always.

Unknown said...

What an incredible flavour combination, and one that I don't think I've seen before. Chocolate and pepper sounds absolutely inspired.
*kisses* HH

Karen from Globetrotter Diaries said...

What a wonderful dessert! and the Szechuan peppercorn sabayon I've never had but you have me very curious now. I'd also like to think Lautrec invented chocolate mousse-- makes for much more interesting history eh?

Magic of Spice said...

This is so beautiful and what a lovely compliment of flavors, wow!

Erika Beth, the Messy Chef said...

I love mousse and Lautrec! I can't believe you threw all those flavors into one mousse. Nice job!

Amy said...

Yum. I wish I had one of these to polish off my day. Thanks for the post.

Leslie Uhl said...

Beautiful, and love the history of it all, too, being both an art lover and a history buff. Delicious recipe indeed!

2 Stews said...

Even though my chocolate of choice is pure bittersweet, I think something slightly sweet and creamy is a must to sit beside it. And I love a little pepper in my chocolate, which makes this a 4 star recipe in my book.

Thanks, Deana.

Sue said...

Fascinating flavour combination Deanna - wow! And most interesting re Toulouse Lautrec! I need to do reading up on this :-) You really ought to think about writing a book you know, you have such talent :-)

Needful Things said...

Bitter orange & chocolate must make an awesome combination. I love how pretty your presentation is. Sue is right - you must write a book! You certainly have intriguing subject matter & you say it all so well.

Trevor said...

Deana not only does this look amazing and soooo delicious...but I really love the plate...LOVE IT!