Every year when our birthdays roll around, OCT and I prefer to stay low key and spend our days quietly in each other's company. Sometime we go out for dinner, sometime when we are too lazy or tired, we stay home and eat in. As much as I love to be around friends and having dinner parties, birthday is the one day which I like to just sit quietly and reflect on the things I have done in the previous year, the books I have read, the milestone I have achieved, the new foods I have discovered, the recipes I have tried, the loved ones I have lost, the places I have travelled, the new friends I have made, and all the blessings and good things that come my way. Most importantly, on my birthday every year, my heart is filled with gratitude for the woman who gave birth to me. This year marks the 30th anniversary of her bravery.
Because being emotional is not something our family is accustomed to, I feel terribly awkward to utter simple words like "I love you mum" & "thank you for giving birth to me all those years ago". Instead, I decided to make a pretty cake to pay tribute to mum.
The Chocolate Raspberry Charlotte from Alice Medrich's " Chocolate & The Art of Low Fat Desserts" sounds like a good idea. I love all the recipes I tried from that book. What is more importantly, as I've always told my tasters, they don't taste "low fat" at all.So that's the plan. I will make the cake a day before my birthday and post a nice tribute on the actual day to mum.
The cake was made, but my hopeless piping skill left the homemade lady fingers a lot to be desired for. As for the mousse, instead of using the recipe provided, I swapped it with another from the same book which I have tried and liked. Big mistake! Although the flavors were compatible, the recipe I used yield less mousse, and left the charlotte looking awful. I had to trim the lady fingers which explains the jagged/rustic look of the lady fingers wall. Despite of all the mishap, the lady fingers tasted 100 times better than the store bought ones. I think I will make them again and fill the charlotte with lemon mousse and berries next time for a summery dessert.
I called home on my birthday, too embarassed to mention about the unfortunate cake, and too shy to say "thank you mum for giving me life".Instead, I found myself sobbing, and stammering. And I confess to my parents about my fear of being 30 and that my friends teased me about still liking Mickey Mouse at 30 years old....
As for the cake, if you can look past its wretched shell, it tastes really great! I am sure the Varlhona cocoa powder and chocolate bar used certainly made a difference. You may not be able to see in the picture, but there were lots of raspberries buried in the rich chocolate mousse. The next time I make this, I will try the original mocha mousse recipe from the book. But this chocolate mousse recipe will certainly make appearance in my future cakes. I still can't believe it's a low fat recipe!
Chocolate Raspberry Charlotte
adapted from "Chocolate and The Art of Low Fat Desserts"
ladyfinger charlotte liner (see recipe below), baked and cooled
chocolate truffle mousse (see recipe below)
2.5 to 3 cups raspberries, rinsed and well dried
Line the 8 inch springform pan with a disk of lady finger circle, cut to fit. Next, line the side if the pan with the liners made earlier. Arrange raspberries on the circle and pour in half of the mousse, or enough to cover the raspberries.
Fit the second lady fingers disk in, and lightly press it against the mousse. Pour the remaining mousse on top to cover, and decorate with the remaining raspberries.
To make the ladyfinger charlotte liner:
4 eggs, separated
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sifted cake flour (3.5 ounces)
2 to 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
Position the rack in the lower and upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375F. Trace two 7 inch circle and two 12x3 inch rectangles on parchment paper. Make sure to have at least one inch space between the rectangles. Turn paper inside out to line the baking pans.
In a small or medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with the vanilla and 1/4 cup of granulated sugar for 2.5 to 3 minutes until very thick and pale.Scrape into a large bowl and set aside.
In a clean dry mixing bowl, beat the eggwhites with the cream of tartar at high speed until soft peak form. Gradually beat in 1/3 cup of granulated sugar until mixture is stiff but not dry.
Using a rubber spatula, fold a third of the egg whites into the yolk mixture. Scrape half of the remaining whites on top and sift half of the flour over them. To fold effectively without deflatting the batter, cut down through the center of the mixture to the bottom of the bowl with the spatula. Scrape a large scoop of batter up the side of the bowl. Lift it above the rest and let it fall gently back on top. Rotate the bowl and continue to cur, scrape and lift batter without mixing, stirring, or smoothing.Don't worry, the different parts will come together. Fold until barely combined.Scrape the remaining whites on top of the batter and sift the remaining flour over them,. Fold again, as described, until combined.
Scrape the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 9/16-inch plain tip (ateco #7) or closed star tip (ateco #7). Pipe disks by starting in the center of a circle and pipe a spiral of batter to the edge of the circle. Sieve powdered sugar on top.
Using the rectangular guides, pipe a series of straight of S-Shaped ladyfingers 3 inches long and only 1/4 inch apart within the guide. They will puff and attach together as they bake.
Repeat in the second rectangle. Sieve powdered sugar over the batter.
Bake for 12-14 minutes, until golden brown. Rotate sheets from back to front and upper to lower racks about halfway through the baking time. Turn the oven temperature to 300F and leave the oven door open for about 1 minutes. Close down and bake for another 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and immediately lift or slide the parchment papers off the baking sheets and turn them upside down. Peel away the paper from the ladyfingers rectangle. Bend one to fit the inside of the 8-inch springform pan with the flat side facing inside. Repeat with the second rectangle, triming to fit snugly against the first. Set aside to cool completely in pan.
*the ladyfinger liners may be stored, well wrapped at room temperature up to 1 day.
Bittersweet Chocolate Truffle Mousse
1 3/4 teaspoon gelatin
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup low fat (1%)milk (I used 1 cup soy milk + 1/4 cup heavy cream)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup of cold water in a small cup. Let stand without stirring for 5 minutes, or until needed.
Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl near the stove and have ready a small whisk. Combine the cocoa, sugar in a 1.5 quart saucepan and stir in enough milk to form a paste. Stir in the remaining milk and bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, reaching all over the bottom and sides of the pan to prevent scorching. Stir the chocolate mixture continuously once it begins to simmer. Simmer gently, stirring for about 1.5 minutes.
Remove from heat and whish a small amount of the hot mixture into the egg yolks. Scrape the mixture back into the pot and whish well to combine. It will be hot enough to be safe. It will thicken without further cooking. Stir in soften gelatin, chopped chocolate and vanilla. Let stand a minute or so and whisk again until chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is perfectly smooth.
Set the saucepan over a bowl of ice water to cool and thicken. Stir and scrape the side from time to time. If mixture set before needed, remove from ice bath, whisk and set aside. If the mixture set, place the pan in a bowl of hot water, and stir until resoftened.
To make the safe meringue:
Bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a large skillet. Combine cream of tartar and 2 teaspoons of water in a 4-6-cup stainless steel bowl. Whisk in the egg whites and 1/2 cup of sugar. Place the thermometer near stove in a mug of very hot tap water. Set bowl in skillet. Stir mixture briskly and constantly with a rubber spatula, scrapping the sides and bottom often to avoid scrambling the whites. After 1 minute, remove bowl from skillet. Quickly insert thermometer, tilting bowl to cover stem by at least 2 inches. If less than 160F, rinse thermometer in skillet water and return it to the mug. Replace bowl in skillet. Stir as before until temperature reaches 160F when bowl is removed. Beat on high speed until cool and stiff.
Fold about a quarter of the cooled chocolate mixture into the beaten egg whites. Scrape egg white mixture back into the remaining chocolate mixture. Use immediately in the mousse cake. Or scape mixture into dessert glasses or a serving bowl, cover and refrigerated for at least 4 hours, or until set.