Friday, May 3, 2013

Recipe: The Chocolate Rum and Raisin Mousse of All Good Dreams

Mr Tabubil tells me that my chocolate recipes are my dowry, and dreamily recounts the way I came to him with a notebook: a fat cardboard portfolio bursting with photocopies and handwritten recipes, all heavily smudged around the edges with egg, cream and chocolate – and rum.       
            I’m a boozy sort of cook. The recipes that Mr Tabubil counts among his favorites are a chocolate almond cake – with rum; a chocolate raisin mousse – with  lots of rum; and a boozy chocolate fondue sauce that kicks your teeth down the back of your throat and puts you to sleep at the table. If I could find a way to put rum into a cookie I'd try it, but philosophically speaking, an alcoholic cookie, doesn't feel quite right.  A cookie's a wholesome thing, and rum is hot and thick and dances on a tropical beach at midnight with its shirt off.  For cookies, dark chocolate alone (85% caffeine!) is as far as I dare go. Caffeine leave me dancing on a beach at midnight with my shirt off and bongo drums banging in both my ears, so I reckon that is sufficiently damned decadent.
             Chocolate, done properly, is a mouth full of silk and black velvet – with that lingering caffeine buzz.  Alcohol is a mouth full of fist and somebody else’s teeth.  Chocolate and alcohol, together, are a pairing that is divinely inspired, in which the alcohol ceases to be boozy, and becomes something intangible, a sensation that hovers, ghost-like, at the edge of your plate.  Try to pin it down and you won’t find it, but if you let go and return your attention to your plate and your fork, it will sneak sideways around the edges of your palate and lift the chocolate up into the realm of the sublime.
             Mr Tabubil has come over to the computer and snorted hugely and said that I wouldn’t know what to do with an elusive alcoholic essence if it came up to me on the street, wrapped its arms around my knees and begged me to take it home.  My recipes, he says, use alcohol in quantities that resemble a one-two punch, a knockout blow that leaves the eater flat on the floor with the carpet wrapped around his head.
             To which I replied that a dessert that isn’t intended as a showstopper is a waste of time and chocolate for both guest and baker, and referred him to the chocolate mousse I made for a party last Saturday night – a chocolate mousse that broke two diets, left four guests under the table (albeit smiling) and sent everyone home in taxis.
            Mr Tabubil snorted again and said it was a fault of my upbringing, and went away. 
            Mr Tabubil is not entirely wrong.  I was raised in a household both sozzly and decadent. Not to drink- my parents never drank, but they kept booze on hand for guests who did, and after the really good dinner parties there were always half-bottles by the score that needed using up - so we cooked with them. And my mother, an almost-teetotaler, tippled while she cooked, and dinners that started with beef bourguignon went down deep and twisting rabbit holes to places that were extremely interesting indeed.  
             Her magnum opus was the evening, two days after a really good party, when I came home to find that she'd used the leftover red wine in a cabbage stew, soaked the cucumber salad in chardonnay instead of vinegar (I don't recommend the substitution) and, halfway down the second half-bottle of the stuff, she'd had a brainwave and boiled the rice in champagne.
             It wasn't a meal that was precisely edible, but it got us through all of the leftover bottles, all right. The liqueurs and chocolates that we ate for dessert were almost conventional - except for the moment when someone giggled and cried 'whoops!' and sat down and missed her chair - with a carafe of hot coffee in her hand.  The next morning was all about caffeine - believe me- but the bongo drums came first.
             In her honor, and in the honor of the six sozzly guests of Saturday last, I present to you my mother’s own recipe for Chocolate Mousse.  You can work with the given amount of rum, or you can go the whole Tabubil and magnify it.  I leave the choice to you.  I will only note that dinner invitations to our house are a highly sought-after commodity, and a guest who doesn’t have a headache after the dessert course is a guest we haven’t yet satisfied. 

Chocolate Rum and Raisin Mousse

Begin Marinating raisins 2 days ahead of serving.

Make the mousse 1 day ahead of serving.  

You need at least twenty-four hours to soak the raisins (a full week is even better), and the completed dessert must rest in the fridge for another twenty-four before you serve it so that the flavors can blend and mellow.  Serve it early and you will be astonished by its insipid banality.  Wait a day and you will be hit with a bolt of pure chocolate goodness.

225g semi-sweet chocolate (substitute for 112 g dark chocolate and 112 milk chocolate)
1/2 cup sour cream
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup loosely chopped raisins (slice them open to allow entree to the alcohol)
3 tablespoons dark rum (start with 1 1/2 and add the rest as and when needed)
300ml thickened cream
2 tablespoons castor sugar

The day before you plan to make the mousse:  
 Put the rum and raisins together in a shallow bowl.  Cover and leave to soak.  Add more rum as and when necessary.  Use as much as you like!

The day of the cooking:   
Bring the sour cream and egg yolks to room temperature.  Melt the chocolate.  Add the melted chocolate to the sour cream and egg yolks and stir until smooth; add the raisins and all the unabsorbed alcohol.  Lightly whip the cream and fold it in. 
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, gradually beating in sugar.  Fold beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture. 
Spoon into serving glasses (keep portions small!) and refrigerate overnight.


(Important note – you must always add melted chocolate TO the eggs and dairy – and not the reverse.  There’s a complicated chemical reason for this that I can’t precisely recall  – but I can tell you from extensive personal experience that if you do it wrong the chocolate tends to seize and solidify and ruin, and you have to start over!)

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