When the April Daring Cooks Challenge was announced as a dual challenge with the Daring Bakers, I was intrigued. When the cooks challenge was revealed as savory edible containers, I was excited. And when I thought about the idea of sweet edible containers, I was even more excited. While trying to think of ideas for my savory containers and their accompanying fillings, I also began trying to think of sweet containers and appropriate fillings, as well.
And soon enough, came the full announcement.
The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!
Hmm... I had to start re-thinking some of my ideas. Maple mousse sounded delicious, but was definitely a limiting factor for the edible container aspect of the challenge. I had to think of a container that could balance the sweetness of the mousse and that would complement its maple flavor.
I started by making the mousse. The key ingredient, of course, is maple syrup. Evelyne specifically stressed the importance of using pure maple syrup. She is, after all, Canadian, where maple syrup is more than a syrup, it is practically a religion. And, hey, that fake stuff is nothing more than flavored high fructose corn syrup, so I don't at all disagree. I did find it interesting, reading the comments on the forum, to see how regional maple syrup is, globally speaking. There were many who do not have access to real maple syrup, and had never even tasted it. Shows how tucked into my little Northeastern US mind-frame I am!
Anyway, the mousse recipe was different from any other mousse I have tried, more resembling a gelatin-stabilized custard. The first step was to bring the maple syrup to a boil. Meanwhile, I separated four eggs and softened some gelatin in some heavy cream. Once the syrup was boiling, I beat the egg yolks and tempered them with a bit of the hot syrup. The important thing when tempering eggs is to go slowly (when incorporating the heat), yet to keep whisking the eggs (or, in this case, yolks) briskly. The idea is to keep the eggs from turning into an omelet. Once the eggs were fully incorporated with the maple syrup, the whole thing was combined with the softened gelatin.
The last step of the process, once that combination rested for an hour, was to fold in fresh whipped cream. I started out by hand, using a silicone spatula to carefully fold the whipped cream into the thick maple mixture. This actually proved to be much harder than I'd expected. So after a couple of minutes, I transferred the whole thing into my KitchenAid mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, and let it mix on its lowest speed for a couple of minutes. That certainly did the trick, and I soon had a beautiful bowl of maple mousse, all ready to set in the fridge.
As the mousse cooled, it was time to think about the container. The mousse was very sweet, so I wanted to choose container that could balance both the sweetness and richness of the filling. Evelyne had given a couple of suggestions, including making cups out of bacon and out of nuts. I liked the idea of the saltiness of bacon, but wasn't sure how they would go over with the family. I mean, we all love bacon, but for dessert? I know that isn't for everyone. So, combining the recipe for the nut cups and the salt-factor of the bacon cups, I decided to make cups out of pretzels.
I started by crushing mini pretzel twists into crumbs, though I did leave some bigger pieces for added texture. I combined the crumbs with a touch of brown sugar and an egg white (one of the four left over from the yolks used in the mousse). I then added another egg (beaten), as the mixture was nowhere near the right texture to shape into cups. I then lined the wells of a muffin tin with foil and pressed the mixture into them to form the cups and popped the whole thing into a 350 degree oven. After about 20 minutes or so (checking regularly after the first 15 minutes), they were ready.
The hardest part about these pretzel cups was separating them from the foil. I seriously should have sprayed the foil with cooking spray. It became our pre-dessert activity, trying to peel the foil away from the cups. It was pretty funny, actually. We managed to un-foil all but two of the cups, though, and were soon able to fill them with the delicious mousse. The salty pretzel cups were the perfect pairing for the rich, sweet mousse, and the cups were the perfect single-portion size. Everyone enjoyed them, and most of us found ourselves dipping pretzels in the extra mousse after finishing our portions.
But I wasn't done. The mousse recipe made a huge batch, so, even after filling six individual sized pretzel cups, I had more than half of the batch left over, so wanted to come up with another edible container to pair with it.
One idea that I'd had when I knew that we'd be making sweet edible containers this month was a chocolate cup. I have seen them before, and had even seen (online) demonstrations as to how they are made, but had never had the nerve to actually try. Well, half a batch of maple mousse was all the motivation that I needed!
The preparation of chocolate cups is actually quite simple, considering how elegant they look. You really only need two things.
These were the smallest balloons that I had. Water balloon sized balloons would have been perfect, but these were as close as I had on hand. And, yes, I actually washed off the balloons (very carefully) after blowing them up.
Making the chocolate cups is very straightforward. Simply melt the chocolate (either with or without a tablespoon of shortening - there are differing opinions on that...) and use it to coat the bottom of the balloons. It is important to melt the chocolate carefully so that it is smooth, but to let it cool a bit so that it is not so hot that it pops the balloons. Most people dip the balloons into the chocolate to make a smooth and sleek cup or bowl. I went for a different approach. Using my silicone basting brush, I brushed the chocolate onto the balloons, giving the cups a striped look and texture. Even little miss got in on the fun, and had a great time painting her balloon. We gave each balloon two coats of chocolate and then let them rest in the refrigerator to cool completely.
Once the chocolate was fully set, it was time to remove the balloons. I was actually a little nervous about this step - if you let the air out of the balloon too quickly, the cup could collapse. But handling the cup too much while deflating the balloon causes it to melt, simply due to the heat of your hand. I snipped a little hole near the knot of each balloon then carefully pulled the balloon away from the chocolate. I then put them back into the refrigerator until I was ready to fill them with the maple mousse.
Since these bowls were larger than the pretzel bowls, little miss, daddy and I shared one bowl. The semi-sweet chocolate paired very well with the maple mousse, and the whole dessert (including the little chocolate garnish that I made with some of the extra melted chocolate) just felt fun and fancy to eat.
And, in case you are curious as to what I did with the extra egg whites from making the mousse, I made one more edible container that I'd been wanting to try - a meringue cup. I almost didn't, since meringue is pretty sweet, and I knew that it would not be a good pairing for the mousse, but hey - I had the egg whites and was in the edible container zone, so I went ahead and made them anyway. But I filled them with fresh strawberries instead of the mousse. And used another chocolate garnish for decoration. This one, if you couldn't guess by the fairy, was for little miss.
And this is how you know that little miss notices everything I do regarding food-blogging:
Evelyne, thank you very much for hosting a great challenge and for sharing this delicious maple mousse with us!
To see the other amazingly creative edible containers concocted by the other Daring Bakers, check them out here.
11 hours ago