March 18, 2013
mousse à la menthe
My first choice for a title was mousse de magie (magic mousse). Why so? Because I’ve discovered a recipe that can make a mousse out of any ingredient that can be made into a syrup. Here’s what brought this about.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been faithfully watching the public lectures from the Harvard University Science and Cooking Series
. Each fall there’s about a dozen lectures from various authorities, mostly chefs, many from Spain. Each lecture starts with a science section presented by one of the two Harvard professors that organize the course. They present the equations that explain what the chefs will supposedly be talking about but in reality rarely do.
On September 17th, 2012, Bill Yosses, the White House pastry chef, was the chef presenting. He demonstrated a chocolate mousse that was made without eggs or cream, two traditional ingredients used in chocolate mousse. His recipe was simply 150 g (51⁄4 oz) of small pieces of chocolate coverture with a cocoa mass of 60% or greater, 200 g (0.85 c or 131⁄2 T) water, and 2 g (1⁄4 t) powdered gelatin. The gelatin was bloomed and then added to boiling water, which in turn was poured over the chocolate. The bowl with the mixture was then placed over a water‑ice bath and agitated with an immersion blender for 15 minutes. Then it was refrigerated until solid. I had to try this.
And I did. I bloomed a sheet of 160‑bloom strength gelatin in some cold water and added it to the water as I brought it to a boil in my microwave. I poured this over some 72% cocoa‑mass chocolate pieces from Guittard. The chocolate quickly melted, and I foamed the mixture with the foaming tip on my faux‑Bamix immersion blender while the whole bowl rested in a water‑ice bath. When the mixture was well chilled—it only took a couple of minutes—I divided it into 30 ml (1 fl oz) portions and set them in the refrigerator. I periodically checked the mousses to see how firm they were. By dessert time that night, they were ready to test. The result: They tasted like a firm but foamy, gritty, cocoa. There was some familiarity to a chocolate mouse made with egg whites or cream, but nothing, in my opinion, worth repeating.
Even though the preparation was less than desirable, it did plant an idea in my mind. The mousse consisted of just three ingredients: chocolate, water, and gelatin. Could I do something similar using a syrup and gelatin?
A few days later, my wife and I were driving somewhere, or back from somewhere, and our conversation went to the chocolate mousse from a few days earlier. She had liked it better than me. I still wanted to make a mousse, but I was interested in it being both usable as an intermède and a bit different. Mint came to mind as the desired flavor. But how to make it?
So later that day I made a trip to a local health‑food store that I knew stocked various dried herbs and teas in bulk. Home I came with a small bag of dried spearmint leaves. I placed the leaves in a spice grinder, and ground away until it was mostly powder. I strained the powder to removed any reluctant pieces. I wanted my finished mousse to be white with small flecks of mint floating in it. I added 1 g (about half a teaspoon) of the mint powder to 100 ml (31⁄3 fl oz) water, and placed the glass in my microwave. I blasted the water until it boiled. I then left the mixture alone to steep 5 minutes.
In the meantime, I measured 100 g (1
c) granulated sugar and 1 g (about 1
t) Versawhip 600K
into a small saucepan. I also set a 2.5‑g sheet of 160‑bloom strength gelatin in a glass of cold water to bloom. When the “tea” was finished steeping, I strained it into the sugar and placed the saucepan over high heat. When the sugar and water were warm, I drained the gelatin and added it to the saucepan. I cooked the mixture until all of the sugar was dissolved and the mixture was clear.
I transferred the hot syrup to a metal bowl and set it into another, larger bowl with ice and water in it. Using the foaming tip on my Bamix, I foamed the mixture until it was cold to my touch. I finished by ladling 30 ml (1 fl oz) portions into 60 ml (2 fl oz) glasses. I set these in my refrigerator to finish firming up.
I couldn’t believe it, but I hit my goal for flavor and texture on the first try! When I served the mousse to guests, they all pronounced it a winner.
Since then, I have had a couple of thoughts about the mousse. I think, like magic, it could be made with any simple syrup. How about a maple mousse? Or maybe a bacon
mousse? Is the high concentration of sugar necessary? Could any juice be turned into a mousse? How about an onion‑juice mousse?
For vegans, could the gelatin be eliminated? Could agar be a straight one‑to‑one substitute? Some websites promote using Versawhip along with xanthan gum as a gelatin substitute. In that case, I would double the quantity of Versawhip and add 0.4 g of xanthan gum.
One last thought. Since all the ingredients are self‑stable, I wonder if the mousse would be shelf stable? I’ll have to leave some out of the refrigerator for a few weeks and see if anything noticeable grows on it. If it doesn’t, this mousse is truly magic.