I made a Frozen Chocolate Mousse Cake to take to a grown up dinner party. A Chocolate Mousse Cake by its name alone seems well-suited to grown up affairs. That’s because of the word mousse. Whether children read it as mouse cake or they hear it as moose cake – most kids won’t munch on mousse without knowing what it is.
That’s too bad for them. Because I have a confession, despite my mention of mice, this Chocolate Mousse Cake is actually closer in taste and texture to a plain old ice cream sandwich than it is to any boreal brute or rascally rodent.
The older I get the more I realize the most satisfying desserts are the sugary treats we craved as kids: cookies, sundaes, and anything at all with pudding. I’d have to add ice cream sandwiches to that list too. They’re one of those childhood classics that I find myself reinventing time and time again. Most of my grownup versions have stayed pretty close to the original: ice cream slathered between two cookies. It’s a familiar presentation that gets its grownup appeal through innovative flavor combinations. I’ve churned orange peel, rosemary and even eucalyptus to great success.
So for this Chocolate Mousse Cake I’ve decided to alter my thinking a little when it comes to a presenting a grown up ice cream sandwich.
First I’ve called it a cake. A Frozen Chocolate Mousse Cake. Cakes are acceptable at grown up affairs.
To keep with the grown up theme, I’ve subbed frozen mousse for ice cream. I’ve layered that frozen mousse on a dense, cookie-like cake base. The result is an elegant open-faced presentation. I’ve certainly mentioned my childhood fascination with open-faced sandwiches on this blog before.
Which still leaves me needing to discuss the 800 pound moose in the room. I’m talking about black pepper. This Frozen Chocolate Mousse Cake packs a pretty powerful pinch of pepper.
Hawk and Horse Vineyards ‘Latigo' Dessert Wine 2010
Price $45 for a 375 ml bottle, $85 for a 750 ml bottle
Pairs well with chocolate, caramel, butterscotch, toffee, coffee, chocolate mousse, chocolate pot de creme, cigars (I’ve heard).
Occasionally, I’ll stumble upon some ingredient or concept or technique that makes me completely re-evaluate my approach to cooking. Black pepper is my most recent epiphany. Of course, I’ve always used it in savory dishes. I tend pepper with abandon. Whereas I’d frown at you if you salted without tasting, I tend bring a pepper grinder to the table at every meal.
Although it’s used predominantly in savory cooking using black pepper in sweets is an approach I think we should discuss.
The concept is not entirely new or foreign to me. Ever since my first sip of Mexican hot chocolate I’ve known that chocolate and the bite of pepper belong together – but by pepper I’ve always meant chile peppers. I’ve added chili powder to chocolate cookies and dipped strawberries into chili-chocolate sauce.
But everyday, common black pepper? What’s so special about that? Well I’ve discovered that the pungent heat from a fleck or two of coarsely ground black pepper is enough to jolt even the most palate numbing of rich sweets back to life. Black pepper is particularly lively against a mellow backdrop of vanilla and cream. I love it with blueberries.
I’m hoping that this Frozen Chocolate Mousse Cake with Black Pepper will also prove that that your pepper mill is a good partner for chocolate flavors. However, as with all things culinary, there’s no point muddying a good mousse with the gray tinge of the previously ground stuff: always grind it fresh, and do so with a generous hand. GREG