Monday, March 23, 2015

Me against Charlotte, le Rematch

"Are you sure you want to bring a dessert you've never tried?" asked my husband over breakfast.  I had just told him I wanted to bring the charlotte I'd made last night.  His innocent question spoke volumes.  Hundreds of years of French cooking supremacy had imprinted on my very Gallic mate.  He couldn't help it.  The food imperialism seemed to be passed on genetically for his people.

There was also the ILF- the in-law factor.  My in-laws have a history of being a bit dubious about new food, and some of my desserts which are perfectly fine and tasty have been labeled as "not bad" but a bit "rich" or "my, very sweet".  Maybe my husband was just thinking back about how such casual remarks had hurt me and scared me off from bringing another dessert for the next year(s).

But I countered his foodie chauvinism with decades of watching sarcastic US sitcoms.  I sighed heavily and raised my eyebrows to the roof.   To add a bit of FB-speak I even said the word "Sigh!" out loud.  "It's just a charlotte with chocolate mousse," I said huffily.

My husband didn't know the history between me and Charlotte, as I affectionately call her.  I have been trying for years to recreate that elegant and quintessential French dessert. It's a soft, feminine and often fruity cake that is a delicate explosion in your mouth.  But it's also technically a difficult one to make for me.  Often the fruit versions of this recipe involve using gelatin strips that you must dip in cold water and it never seems to work for me.  But since my mother-in-law (MIL) gave me a charlotte mold for Christmas (at my request), I thought I better give it a try.

So after my past forays into Charlotte's world that had mixed success, I found a recipe that seemed rather fool-proof.  No gelatin, not even fruit this time.  Just basically making a chocolate mousse that you pour into the lady-finger lined mold.  Simple, right?  I forgot that I'm not actually the most experienced chocolate mousse maker.  Something about folding in those egg whites always trips me up. 

But I did put this on my "to do list" for 2015, so I tried my best. Here's how I did it:
  • Line your charlotte pan or a medium-sized saucepan with plastic wrap.  This makes it easier to get the thing out later.  

  • Dip the side of the lady-finger cookies you intend to be on the outside in some water briefly and line the mold with them. Place cookies on the edge first, then the bottom.
Mmmm, smell that chocolate!
  •  Melt a 200-gram ( 7 or so ounces) bar of dark chocolate (or milk chocolate if you prefer) in a bain marie or in a microwave safe bowl.   
  • Once it is all smooth and melty, remove it from heat and combine it with 4 egg yolks .  

  • Now beat the remaining egg whites (yep, four again, go figure!) until they are stiff.

  • Now for the tricky part: delicately fold in the egg whites with chocolate and yolk mixture without totally crushing the fluffy whites.  
  • Hmm.  Isn't that supposed to go up to the top?  I started wondering if there was something wrong with my chocolate mousse.  Maybe it would expand overnight.
  • So I put it on the cold balcony (a minimum of four hours in the fridge is recommended) but the next morning it still looked a bit, well, short. 
  • Never fear, I just cut the excess cookies down and folded them over on the top, which would end up being the bottom after all. 

And I'm happy to say it looked almost decent when I took it out of the mold.  And it tasted, "not bad" and even "good" to my in-laws.  And my husband took a second helping.  

However, my MIL did ask me how I made the mousse and suggested I add some water or milk when I melted the chocolate to make it more liquidy and perhaps mix better with the egg whites.  This time I didn't take her comment badly but just in stride.  She does have a lot of experience making pastries after all.

But I don't think I'll be bringing too many desserts over there anyway.  That was enough stress for one Sunday.
What are the desserts or recipes that challenge you?  Do you dare cook for your in-laws?


Wade Kwon said...

Good job, Milam! I've made charlottes before from scratch, no easy feat, but with practice, they can be both beautiful and scrumptious.

Lindle said...

Tres bien!
Looks very yummy to me!

Jenenz said...

Flourless cake is hard, unless you have an electric beater to fluff up the eggs.

I tried making a flourless cake as a teen, using a manual egg beater. I turned the lever on the egg beater as fast as I could. When the cake came out of the oven, it didn't rise. When I turned it out on a plate, it was a rubbery chocolate egg disc. Not tasty at all. As a frisbee, it was great.

I Say Oui said...

Hmm, inspiring that you tried again! Maybe I'll give your recipe a go...