About thirteen years ago, after rather hair-raising months of unbalanced behavior, I received a diagnoses as bi-polar. Very few of my friends and even members of my immediate family know this (surprise!), although the few I’ve told suddenly understood why I was at times throughout my life utterly less than normal. I actually think bi-polar is thrown around too much–real bi-polar deserves respect because it’s too horrible to live through and witness to do otherwise (see the biography of the great poet Robert Lowell). For me, it only means I can be dangerously depressed with a few short manic bursts thrown into the mix to make it all interesting. I wish with all my heart someone had recognized what was happening to me the forty plus years before but, then again, I firmly believe those years of wandering through pain and darkness have given me strength, empathy, and compassion I may not have developed otherwise.
What does this have to do with a chocolate mousse pie? Because, while all is under control–thanks to therapy, lamictal, and sharpened coping skills–I still have periods of deep anxiety that often result in depression and an inability to complete the simplest tasks in a rational manner. Today set off a tiny burst when I stupidly read an article in which a former Republican senator observed, “I think this [impeachment acquittal] is going to empower him [Trump] to be much bolder. I would expect to see him even more let loose.”
The nation as a whole seems to me to be griped in collective despair, anxiety the least of it. It doesn’t help we’re so beat up and drenched with reasons why. But here to the rescue comes The New York Times with a recipe for chocolate mousse. The kitchen is my safety space, cooking a major coping skill. Chocolate, of course, an effective mood enhancer. I did plan to make a pie for Monday so I said to myself, I’ve made mousse before! I’ve written a book about pies! I have all the ingredients! So let’s go!
The directions below swing back and forth from crust to mousse making. This is because I wanted the crust to be baked and cooled when the mousse would be finished.
Or this was the plan. Trouble raised it’s ugly little head from the start and I had to come up with a couple of fixes. (I created a shortcut cheat sheet at the end of the post.)
PRE-BAKED PIE CRUST
I decided to make a butter/lard dough because it’s sturdy yet flaky. It’s also less sweet than a pure butter dough and that’s a perfect foil for this kind of filling.
3 cups flour
8 tablespoons chilled butter
1/3 cup cold lard
Pour the flour into the bowl of a food processor and sprinkle the cold butter and lard around. Begin to pulse until the butter and lard are broken into tiny pieces and the flour looks course. Turn processor on low and begin to add cold water. Usually this means about 8 to 10 tablespoons but, if the dough is not fully coming together, add a few more. Keep an eye out for not over doing the processing.
Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Quickly wrap the plastic around the dough, forming it into a disk. Refrigerate while you make the mousse.
Chocolate Mousse from The New York Times
(NOTE: The Times recipe makes 8 servings. I doubled the ingredients to have enough to fill a 9″ deep dish pie plate.)
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
24 ounces dark chocolate, roughly chopped
8 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup strong espresso or very strong brewed coffee
1/2 tablespoon rum (I was out of rum and used Grand Marnier instead)
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
In a large bowl, whip the cream to glossy, medium peaks. Set aside.
RETURN TO CRUST
Preheat oven 450 degrees.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator. It should be firm. Flour the surface where you will be rolling out the crust.
Trouble # 1
Seems like when I was adding ice water that a couple of chunks of ice went in as well and now the dough is wet in places. FIX: Pat just enough flour into the wet spots to soak up the water. It should now be ready to roll out.
Roll the dough to an even thickness then carefully lift it and line the pie plate. Gently press down along the sides to make sure there are no air pockets. For those of us who do not have pie weights, prick the bottom of the dough with a fork then lay a large piece of aluminum foil over the bottom and sides. Place a smaller pie plate on top.
Bake in oven for 10 minutes.
BACK TO THE MOUSSE:
In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the sugar with 1/2 cup water to dissolve. Bring to boil and immediately turn off the heat.
FINISH BAKING CRUST:
Lower the oven to 350 degrees. Take out pie crust, remove the top pie plate and foil, return crust to oven and bake for 12 more minutes or until the edges are golden brown.
THINK YOU’RE ABOUT TO FINISH THE MOUSSE:
Add chocolate and eggs to a blender and blend on medium-high speed.
I don’t have a blender so I put the chocolate and eggs in my low-end Cuisinart. Unable to handle chopping the chocolate, it began waddling all about. Still, I stupidly persisted and, as directed, poured in the sugar syrup. The processor continued it’s dance and began to leak chocolate all over the counter. I stopped the machine and drained the liquid through a sieve to collect the chocolate pieces then dumped the chocolate in the top of a double boiler. Melt until smooth, then pour chocolate back into the Cuisinart with the liquid.
(The smoke alarm went off about this time, singling the crust was ready. I took it out and set it aside where it would be safe from me knocking it over while I returned to the mousse.)
REALLY FINISHING THE MOUSSE:
Process the chocolate mixture until very smooth, then pour in espresso/coffee, liqueur, vanilla and salt (I forgot the salt), pausing to scrape the sides as needed.
Fold 1/3 of the chocolate mixture into the whipped cream until well incorporated, then add the rest of the chocolate mixture. Set in the refrigerator until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
TROUBLE 3 & 4
Not only did I have a little too much chocolate mixture for the remaining whipped cream, I also eye-balled the mousse and came to the conclusion I probably wouldn’t have enough to nicely fill the crust. Then I realized that if I was hoping to serve the pie during the Super Bowl there might not be time for the mousse to become sufficiently firm to hold together when sliced.
FIX FOR 3 & 4
I put the bowl with the chocolate mousse mixture in the freezer and let it sit for about an hour. In the meantime, I beat up more whipped cream and mixed in the rest of the chocolate sauce. The freezer mousse was stiffening nicely when I took it out and folded in the additional chocolate whipped cream.
With everything coming together, I spooned the chocolate mousse in the cooled pie crust. Pie went into the refrigerator to hopefully set and I started washing the dishes.
Super Bowl started. The half time show came and went (honestly? pole dancing? crotch shots? A half blip of a second shout-out to Puerto Rico? Women and Latinos are in trouble, ladies, with this administration! We need stronger statements than these! Do better!).
The much needed pie was sliced, promptly spilled across the plate but I served it anyway.
I went up stairs to my computer and signed up to canvas for one of the democratic candidates, then took a long lavender bath, meditated and settled into my dad’s old club chair to read. After the game was over, the husband came up and hugged me, assuring that the pie was delicious and the country is going to be just fine. Anxiety subsided, he tucked me into bed and I kind of fell asleep.
The next day, I scraped the mousse off the crust and divided it into several containers then offered them to a couple of neighbors and the hungry sons. It made them happy.
Troubleshoot Cheat Sheet
Pie crust fixes
Too wet: Gradually add a little flour to your board as you roll out. Add just enough to make the dough less sticky.
Too dry: Before you roll it out, wrap the dough in a dampen clothe or paper towel. Put it back in the refrigerator to rest for about 10 minutes. Take it back out and begin to roll. If it’s still too dry, lightly sprinkle water over the surface. This is very tricky and you have to watch carefully. Your dough is salvageable if you’re watchful.
Equipment substitutes or outright failures
There’s always something else that will do that doesn’t involve running out and buying what is recommended. Think about what you are trying to achieve. In this recipe, the goal was to make a smooth chocolate sauce. Knowing my cheap Cuisiart is a lousy chopper, I should have melted the chocolate first. I could have also finely grated the chocolate.
If you don’t have a particular pan (see recent posting on crepes), use whatever closely mimics the suggested pan and adjust the cooking instructions accordingly. This is one of the reasons I have different size dutch ovens. They can pretty much handle anything you have to bake, sautee, or stew.
A great pastry chef taught me to use the freezer. It quickly cools down sauces, rest dough, and firms various creams and gelatins. As with all fixes, be sure to watch carefully–the goal is to not freeze but to hurry up the process.
Raise your voice. Put yourself on the line. Don’t be afraid. Remember Thomas Paine: “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”
Your own anxiety
Be kind to yourself and others. Cook too much and share with your neighbors.