Wednesday, April 27, 2011

April Daring Bakers' Challenge - Maple Mousse in an Edible Container

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.

Chocolate:










And balloons:










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.

26 comments:

  1. I really loved your creations ever since I saw them on th forum..especially that cute fairy... great job on the challenge and thank you so much for stopping by my blog

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  2. I fell in love with your pretzel cups as soon as I saw them! It sounds absolutely perfect - salty pretzels with the super sweet mousse make balanced tasty combination. And then I saw your beautiful chocolate bowl and I started falling in love once again :D Great job on the challenge, really!

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  3. I love how daring you were on the challenge, you made three versions! I specially like the pretzel cup idea, that was brilliant!
    Reading your post is always a joy! Thanks for your lovely comment on mine :o)

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  4. Well I'm one of those people who had trouble getting maple syrup. I live in Croatia and maple syrup isn't very popular here and it's very expensive. Fortunately I managed to find some at reasonable price. ;)
    I agree that this mousse tastes like nothing else, it's really special and I loved it.

    Your bowls are wonderful and so creative, I love both ideas. Pretzel cups especially sound delicious. :)

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  5. That fairy is adorable! The pretzel cups were a great idea :)

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  6. Love these brezel cups! and the chocolate ones, and the meringue ones! all of them looks really good!

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  7. I'm in love with the pretzel cups idea. Salty and sweet always make for a great combination. The chocolate bowl is beautiful too.

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  8. Oh my god, those look soooooo good. Real maple (syrup, candy, yogurt, whatever!) is one of my favorite things in the entire world. Aren't you glad we live where we live? :)

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  9. I love your chocolate fairy garnish. Isn't that the doodle from your joconde entrement dessert? It could be your logo!

    You've done such a wonderful job on this challenge. I love love love the sound of pretzel cups and they really look the part too. I didn't know you made the chocolate bowl by painting a balloon. What a cool idea and so much fun!

    That photo of Little Miss is so cute. :)

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  10. Your pretzel cups are one of my favorite this month, well done!

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  11. You done perfect, love variations of your edible containers.

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  12. oh yum, those pretzel cups sound perfect for a sweet mousse! delicious!
    and i absolutely love how you made the chocolate cups with the balloons, that is so fun! what a fantastic idea!

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  13. Talk about sweet and salty! those preztel cups would be divine with the mousse. Great idea. I have used a crust like this for key lime pie which cuts the sweetness. Great job. Best, Sandie

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  14. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. The pretzel cups are beautiful. The amazing creativity and fun you have in the kitchen is so inspiring. I completely agree with the ' spraying the foil' step :)

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  15. So THAT'S how you make the chocolate bowls! I was wondering. Your challenge looks so pretty and delicate. I think I'm going to try the chocolate containers tonight.

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  16. YOU DID SUCH A GREAT JOB, A LOT OF WORK, AND WONDERFUL IDEAS. I LOVE YOUR PRETZEL CONTAINER, I THINK THE PRETZEL PAIRS WELL WITH THE SWEETNESS OF THE MAPLE. YOUR CHOCOLATE ERSION, TERRIFIC, CONGRATULATIONS!!!!

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  17. I like Little Miss's shoes/ slippers!!! What a fabulous take on the challenge, I really like the idea of the pretzel cup, as I wasn't too sure about the bacon either. And I'd never heard of the balloon method for chocolate cups either, what fun!

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  18. Bravo to your full effort in carrying out this challenge :-)

    I particularly love your pretzel bowl and topping while admiring the chocolate and meringue bowls. Time was tight for me, I only got to make almond bowls....

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  19. Wow so impressed by your creations, pretzels is a fabulous idea. And yes 100% maple syrup is the only thing you can call maple syrup lol. Evelyne xoxo

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  20. You did such a fabulous job on this challenge. I love the pretzel cups and bet that the saltiness was such a perfect counter to the sweetness of the maple mousse. Also loved the texture of your chocolate bowls. :) Thanks for stopping by my post and leaving such kind words. hugs!

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  21. All your edible containers looks lovely. Like the pretzel and chocolate angel particularly.
    Btw, I'm one of those DBs who has never tasted or seen maple syrup. :)

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  22. Pretzels, chocolate, meringue?? I would have LOVED tp be at your house in April! They all look fantastic, Shelly! I can barely get one done, and you get three with a baby and a little girl. You are a rock star, my dear :)

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  23. Great job on this months challenge! I like the pretzel idea, that would definitely be good! I, too, had a hard time removing the foil from my cups. Great job on the meringue and the chocolate bowls, too, they look great!

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  24. There's a reason I have a love/hate relationship with your blog and this post is the perfect example. I love to see what you do, but always leave starving!

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