In the quest for perfection, I made this dessert four times. First time: mousse too soft, sake too weak, no side, no decoration, made too much mixture. Second time: mousse too firm, sake too strong, side didn't work, unsatisfactory decoration, made too little mixture. Third time: mousse too soft again, good sake balance, still not happy with the plate arrangement. Fourth time: ding.
This also means I have a few fails in my freezer to eat at a later date. They all taste good – it's just that I wasn't happy to present them as a final product (and this is for a competition, after all!)
I chose nigori sake for it's creamy taste, which works well with the mousse. Nigori sake is unfiltered, making it a cloudy-white colour from the rice solids. These settle at the bottom of the bottle, so give it a bit of a shake before using it.
|(Also, how freaking cute is the bottle??)|
For crunch, I made some little shortbread biscuits as a base for the mousse. It's a pretty easy recipe, with a 3:2:1 ratio of flour to butter to sugar (and yes, you can scale this up or down). To create the red velvet effect on the outside, I used a coloured cocoa butter spray, sometimes known as a 'flocage' in French cuisine.
I won't lie: it's a bit of a pain to use because you have to warm it in a water bath that's not too hot and not too cold for 20 minutes before using, and remember to store it upside down or the nozzle gets clogged when it sets again. And of course, if you don't spray it in a contained environment it gets everywhere. It was worth it though: I've always wanted to try using it. The velvet effect happens when you spray the melted cocoa butter onto a frozen surface, causing the cocoa butter to seize instantly. This is partially why I freeze the mousse in this recipe – but the main reason is to make it easier to get out of the mould.
It's also the first time I've worked with gold leaf. I've been waiting for an excuse to use it, and what better excuse than attempting to create a professional-looking plated dessert? It's so, so thin though, I was sweating with nerves when I was applying it with a toothpick. I even was afraid to breath near it!
A little note before we get started: notice I call for 50g puréed strawberries for the mousse and 100g for the coulis? Just purée 150g strawberries and divide it as needed. Why? Because trying to purée 50g of strawberries (which is basically just two big ones) with a stick blender is extremely infuriating.
This recipe makes four small 'mousses' (if you don't need two of them, leave them in the freezer – I happened to be serving my parents as well as myself, so it worked out well enough). The competition calls for 'dinner for two' recipes, but for a dessert like this, scaling the ingredients tight down is pretty much impossible. And I really had my heart set on this project.
I used a silicone dessert mould, which I cut into individual parts to make them easier to handle (at least, I cut four off out of the eight because that's all I needed for this recipe).
With all this in mind, let's go!
Total preparation time: 6 hours
Ingredients for Shortbread:
1/2tbsp icing sugar
1tbsp butter, softened
1.5tbsp plain flour
Pinch of salt
Ingredients for Mousse:
50g strawberries, puréed
50ml double cream
1.5tsp gelatin soaked in 1tbsp water
2tbsp caster sugar
75ml Gekkeikan Petit Moon nigori sake
1 egg white (use pasteurised)
Ingredients for Mango Sake Salsa:
1 mango, chopped into small bits
Zest from 1 lime
2tbsp Gekkeikan Petit Moon nigori sake
1tbsp caster sugar
Ingredients for Strawberry Coulis:
100g strawberries, puréed
1tbsp caster sugar
1tbsp Gekkeikan Petit Moon nigori sake
Ingredients for Chocolate Decorations:
50g dark chocolate, melted and tempered
Thin strips of chocolate transfer sheets/ clear acetate
Ingredients for Chocolate Sauce:
Leftover melted chocolate from making your decorations
1tbsp hot water
3tsp glucose syrup
To Decorate (optional):
Coloured cocoa butter spray
1) First, make the biscuits. Preheat the oven to 180°C, and stir your shortbread ingredients together until they form a dough. Roll out between two sheets of baking parchment, stamp out four rounds a little smaller than the circumference of your moulds, and take away the excess dough (make sure you stamp them so they're spaced an inch or so away from each other). If you like, reuse the dough and make more rounds, or just bake them as scraps. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Let cool.
2) Make the mousse next: gently heat the strawberry purée in a small saucepan and melt the soaked gelatin in it (don't let it boil). Take off the heat, and stir in the sake. Whip the egg white until it forms stiff peaks like a meringue, then whisk in the sugar until glossy. In another bowl, whip the cream until it forms very soft peaks. Lightly stir half of the cooled strawberry mixture into the egg white and the other half into the double cream, taking care not to be too rough to keep it foamy. Stir the cream and the egg white mixtures together (I use a small whisk to very gently incorporate everything at this point).
3) Pour the mousse mixture into four little silicone moulds, float a shortbread biscuit on top of each and freeze for at least four hours, until completely solid.
4) Meanwhile, stir all the mango salsa ingredients together, cover and chill to marinate.
5) To make the strawberry coulis, place the ingredients in a small saucepan and just bring to a simmer for five minutes. Turn off the heat, strain through a fine sieve and cool.
6) About an hour before you're ready to serve, place your can of cocoa butter spray in a warm water bath of 40-50°C for about 20 minutes.
7) While the cocoa butter spray is melting, melt and temper some dark chocolate, and paint four strips of acetate/ chocolate transfer sheet with the chocolate. Transfer them onto a lined baking tray so you have clean strips, and leave them on the side. As soon as they stop looking shiny and look a bit matte, shape them into rings and sit them up. Refrigerate until needed.
8) To make the chocolate sauce, stir the hot water and glucose syrup into the rest of the melted chocolate until smooth, and set aside.
9) Carefully unmould your frozen desserts, place them in a deep tray and spray them with the cocoa butter until they have an even coating.
10) Smear a little strawberry coulis onto the plates, pour a little coulis into the crevices of your mousse, and apply gold leaf.
11) Peel the acetate off your set chocolate decorations and arrange them on the plate as you like with the mango salsa, strawberries and chocolate sauce.
12) Let the mousse thaw for a further 20 minutes, and serve.
If you're making both this and my Drunken Hainanese Chicken Rice for the same meal, definitely start making this first. The chicken will simmer happily away for one of those hours you're letting the mousse freeze or faffing around with flocage.
That's it, enjoy – and most importantly of all, have fun.