St. Patrick’s Day, 1997. It’s spring break of my freshman year of college. I’m at a party with my boyfriend in his hometown, surrounded by his friends from high school. I’m halfheartedly sipping a Budweiser, as someone had given it to me and I didn’t want to seem stuck up by not accepting. You see, at the time, I didn’t think I liked beer. My boyfriend comes into the room holding a green plastic cup filled with a dark liquid. There is thick foam on top. It’s a Guinness Stout – a beer I’ve never seen, in a style I’ve never heard of. He offers me a sip. Hey! This is good! Really good! And all of a sudden it dawns on me why people like beer. I finally understand what Homer Simpson is talking about when he refers to “delicious, frosty, beer” and I want to know more. And I want more. And for the next few years, given a choice, I always choose a beer from the darker end of the spectrum: stouts, porters, brown ales, dunkels. Fortunately I am in the Pacific Northwest, and there is a lot of great beer to choose from.
Fast forward many years, and I’ve developed a certain taste for assertively hopped beers. I tend now to reserve stouts, porters, and the like for dessert. Which is how I ended up tasting the Porter Gourmande from My Beer Company last Friday night at Supercoin. The dark, lightly effervescent beer poured dark with a rich tan head*, making me nostalgic for that long-ago first Guinness. (Not the boyfriend, though, since he was with me. Yep, I married that guy.) This beer had a strong coffee nose, and fruity, almost grassy chocolate malt flavors rounded out with a hint of vanilla from real beans added during the ferment. It was actually an excellent dessert on its own, but I thought it would be fun to work it into a chocolate dessert for Beer Month. Since I’m focusing on chocolate mousse this month in the Paris Pastry Crawl, why not make a beer chocolate mousse?
I couldn’t decide whether the beer would be better served by a dark chocolate or a milk chocolate, and since I happen to have lots of both in my kitchen (yes, that is a 3 kilo bag of Valrhona. What?), I figured I’d try it both ways.
The dark mousse is deeply chocolate-y, the beer and the chocolate enhancing each other’s bitter, roasted notes, with just a touch of malty tang hinting at the beer’s presence.
The milk mousse, on the other hand, really lets the porter’s flavor through, supporting it with a sweet, creamy background. I realized after the mousses had set up that it would have been awesome to layer them together. Beer mousse parfait, anyone?
I’m also now considering the possibilities for other beer-chocolate mousses. What about white chocolate with a tangy, fruity lambic? Or a spicy, citrusy hefeweizen? Or dark chocolate and smoky rauchbier? And you know I’m trying my best to think of a way to work in a hop-bomb IPA.
The rest of the Beer Month Bloggers have been busy, too:
- Sophia of NY Foodgasm made Bluepoint Blueberry Muffins
- Lauren of Hall Nesting made Beer Cheese Soup
- Jenni of Pastry Chef Online made Double Chocolate Stout Cake with Vanilla Porter Toffee
- Jessica of Jessiker Bakes made Root Beer Float Cupcakes
- Alex of Alex Tries it Out made Torpedo IPA Mini Cupcakes
And here’s my recipe, which is one of the easiest chocolate mousse recipes I’ve ever made. And I’ve made a LOT of chocolate mousse in my career.
Porter Chocolate Mousse
I adapted this recipe from an eggless chocolate mousse I found in Frédéric Bau’s Encyclopédie du Chocolat. The fatty richness of egg yolks tends to interfere a bit with flavor, so I thought it would be a great base for a beery mousse. With only three main ingredients, it’s important to use the best ones you can – the flavors of good chocolate and craft beer really shine through. Since the techniques are the same, I’ve included both milk and dark chocolate variations, which showcase different aspects of the porter. I think they’d be really nice layered together for a simple composed dessert.
Leaf gelatin is less common in American kitchens, I think, but it’s worth seeking out. I prefer it to powdered gelatin in part because it’s what I’m used to working with, and in part because it’s really easy and convenient. Unlike powdered gelatin, you don’t have to measure the water you soak it in, you simply squeeze it out and get on with the recipe.
5½ oz. / 160 g dark chocolate (around 65%)
1 sheet / 2 g leaf gelatin
½ cup / 125 ml porter beer (vanilla or chocolate ones highly recommended)
1 cup / 250 ml heavy cream
- Whip the cream to very soft peaks and set aside. Doing this first allows the cream to start warming up a bit, and it will be much easier to incorporate smoothly into the mousse if it’s not ice cold.
- Melt the chocolate in a bain marie (a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water). Place the gelatin in very cold water to soften. Bring the porter to a boil, wring out the gelatin and stir it into the porter until dissolved.
- Remove the chocolate from the heat and pour a third of the hot porter over the chocolate. Stir until smooth. (As in all ganache-making, a heatproof rubber spatula will give you the smoothest result, but sometimes a whisk is easier. Try first with the spatula, and if it isn’t cooperating, switch to the whisk.) Repeat two more times with the remaining porter.
- Check the temperature of the chocolate-porter ganache. It should be around 115F / 45C, which means it is warm, but not hot, to the touch. When it’s ready, stir in a third of the whipped cream. Gently fold in the remaining cream in two additions. Again, a rubber spatula is the best tool here, but if you need to, it’s ok to use a whisk for this folding step too. The mousse at this point should be very soft and fluid in texture. Don’t worry, it will set up.
- Spoon or pour the mousse into serving dishes or containers. Dessert coupes are pretty, glass jars are cute and practical. Chill until set, about 2-4 hours depending on the size of your vessel and the temperature of your fridge. Take the mousse out of the fridge 20-30 minutes before serving, to take the chill off and to let the flavors open up a bit.
Variation: For milk chocolate-porter mousse, substitute 6 oz. / 170 g milk chocolate (around 40%) for the dark chocolate and use 2 sheets / 4 g of leaf gelatin.
*Interestingly enough, the French word for “head” in the beer-pouring sense is “mousse”.
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In other beer-related news, I wrote an article for Paris by Mouth all about the craft beer scene in Paris which went live last week along with guide sections (which I also wrote) on where to buy and where to drink beer in the City of Light.
Originally published on Croque-Camille.