Perhaps I was a touch ambitious with my plans for the Paris Pastry Crawl. Eating all that pastry is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for people who are used to working in kitchens but now find themselves leading a much more sedentary lifestyle, nor is it for people who are trying to write their own baking books and therefore need to be baking and recipe testing (read: eating) at home, nor is it for anyone who can’t afford to replace her entire wardrobe with bigger clothes. Which is not to say I’m quitting. But I think the monthly format might be a bit too much, despite my slowly increasing jogging and yoga habits.
I had wanted to talk about chocolate mousse for February, because of Valentine’s Day, but I think I was a little pastried out, and then that holiday came and went, and a few others, and here I am, two months later, finally ready to write about this incredibly versatile dessert.
You see, chocolate mousse is rarely seen as a stand-alone dessert in Parisian pastry shops. (It’s a different story in restaurants.) But it plays an important role in many of the elaborate tarts and cakes for which French pâtisseries are known. The one where I used to work, for example, had at least five different chocolate mousse recipes – not counting the milk and white variations – all with specific destinies as parts of various entremets. But we’ll talk about recipes another day. Today we’re playing catch up with the handful of chocolate mousse-based treats I’ve eaten over the last few months.
I wasn’t too impressed with Laurent Duchêne’s éclairs, but this chocolate-caramel tart went some way towards redeeming his work. The artful swoop of mild, smooth milk chocolate mousse concealed a filling of gooey caramel, cooked nice and dark, just like I like it. The crust was firm and crisp, but didn’t bring much chocolate flavor to the party. At 4.50, it’s one of the more expensive pastries in Duchêne’s shop, but still very reasonably priced.
I’ve tasted Sadaharu Aoki‘s pastries on a few occasions before, but this was my first visit to his shop on rue Pérignon in the 15th. I was pleased to note that there are a few tables there, the better to stop in for an afternoon pastry break. Aoki is probably best known for the way he incorporates Japanese flavors into French pastries – I loved his matcha green tea croissant – but I was looking for mousse, so I picked up a milk chocolate-caramel tart. (Another one.)
Sadly, I found this tart a little disappointing. Sure, it’s gorgeous, with that meticulously piped swirl of mousse on top, admirably thin (and beautifully formed) tart shell, and tiny flecks of vanilla bean visible in the pleasantly chewy caramel. The overall impression it left me with, though, was SWEEEEEEET. The milk chocolate mousse didn’t do much to contrast the caramel, which was definitely on the lighter (i.e. sweeter) end of the spectrum. Like a Milky Way bar in tart form, I think this would have appealed immensely to me as a child. Not so much now.
I know you’ll excuse the crappiness of this photo when I tell you that Nick bought me this cube of chocolate mousse and cake for my birthday. It was my birthday. And there was a cube of chocolate mousse and cake from Pierre Hermé in front of me. I think my impatience is understandable. The Carrément Chocolat, as it’s called, is composed of several layers of soft chocolate cake interspersed with rich ganache and creamy dark chocolate mouse, punctuated with crunchy bits throughout and a square of tempered chocolate on top. My tasting notes read as follows: yum rich
It was my birthday and I inhaled the thing. The end.
On this day in 2010: Saying Goodbye to my Kitchen (Looking back at it, I’m still not over that apartment. The light!)
Originally published on Croque-Camille.