Mint Chocolate Mousse
None of us was prepared for this challenge simply because we were under the impression that we would be tempering chocolate all day. Thinking first about the mousse, I knew I wanted to try something new. As if from nowhere, the thought to use mint immediately seized my mind. Luckily Chef had a stash of fresh mint in the fridge--a serious blessing since I definitely did not want to use oils or extracts.
I decided to use a bird-nest-like chocolate bowl made from tempered milk chocolate piped onto a blown-up water balloon. For the chocolate mousse, I infused the mint into the heavy cream folded in to the chocolate mousse base. I scaled a portion of the cream and threw in a generous amount of fresh mint. After 20 minutes, I strained the cream, cooled it, and whipped it before folding it into my base. While the mousse cooled in the fridge, I started on the sauces. I created a clear caramel sauce by following our class recipe for thick caramel, but substituting water for milk to create a more translucent, runny sauce. Before adding the water, I decided to flavor it with mint and a little bit of cayenne pepper. The result was parfait (that's French for perfect). The sauce turned a beautiful amber and the taste was superb--warm and minty with a surprising kick from the cayenne. For my second sauce, I chose a tart berry gastrique to complement in color and flavor.
Starring at my dessert, I knew I needed a garnish that would give me more height. Isomalt? No, too much work (at this stage in the game) and somewhat ill-fitting. Tuile? No, boring. Mint leaves? No, predictable. I asked Chef what I could do to the mint leaves to make a more attractive, yet unexpected garnish. After mentioning a few options, I decided to deep fry them. The first few mint leaves I fried turned brown, but Chef came to the rescue teaching me that I cannot fry them beyond 350 degrees otherwise they lose their greenish hue--duh! Ha! Once the oil cooled, I was able to fry the mint leaves for about 30 second or so resulting in a crisp, gorgeous, and somewhat transparent green leaf. It was awesome!
I hurried and made creme chantilly to which I added finely chopped mint leaves. With five minutes left before presentation, I quickly assembled my dessert gluing down the chocolate cage with a bead of mousse, filling the cage with more mousse, garnishing the mousse with a canel of chantilly and the fried mint, and drizzling the two sauces in a fancy design around the main item.
Close Up of the Cage and Mousse
The Two Sauces
I took the leftovers home and replated two more desserts for photographing (I wasn't prepared with my camera at school) and sharing with my family. The 30-minute process of photographing was interrupted every two minutes by my nephew's request for a bite.
"Some? Some? Can I have some?"
After capturing the shot I gave in and after his first bite I asked,
"So, do you like it?"
"What exactly do you like about the dessert?"
He refused to share the dessert with anyone so I, being the push-over uncle I am, allowed him to down the entire plate--all the while thinking, this child has been spoiled rotten with the most elegant desserts! The poor boy will have a more refined palate than anyone his age. A blessing? A curse? I don't know. One thing is certain, he's definitely a Wing. He LOVES chocolate (or should I say chalk-wit?).
So Sweet! Yeah, he finished it all!