One of the great pleasures of baking is that you get to taste the dessert while you prepare it. When I was making some dark and white chocolate striped squares for garnishing a Winter White Yule Log, I munched on a few chocolate scraps. As soon as I tasted the dark and white chocolates together, I knew I wanted to create a dessert that highlighted the combination, and these playful yet sophisticated, mousse sandwiches are the result. Thin squares of dark and white chocolate hold a dense chocolate mousse filling, and thin lines of dark chocolate piped over the white chocolate make an artistic finish.
Dense Chocolate Mousse Filling
Prepare the Chocolate Squares
1. Turn 2 baking sheets bottom side up. Cover the bottom of each baking sheet with wax or parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees F.
2. Place the semisweet chocolate in an ovenproof container and the white chocolate in a nonreactive ovenproof container. Melt the chocolates in the oven, about 12 minutes. Stir each chocolate smooth. Use a thin metal spatula to spread the white chocolate evenly over 1 paper-lined baking sheet into a rectangle about 13 x 10 inches. Spread the semisweet chocolate over the paper on the second baking sheet into another rectangle. The chocolate should cover the paper so that the paper does not show through the chocolate. The chocolate will look shiny and wet. Put both chocolate-covered baking sheets in the refrigerator and chill just until the chocolate looks dull and dry and is soft but no longer melted, about 5 minutes for the white chocolate and about 3 minutes for the dark chocolate. Do not let the chocolate harden.
3. Use a large sharp knife to trim the edges of each chocolate sheet into a 12 x 9-inch rectangle. Use the knife to mark twelve 3-inch squares on each sheet of chocolate. Press down to make sharp edges without drawing the knife across the chocolate. Check to see that the knife cuts completely through the chocolate. If the chocolate is too soft and runs together, chill it until it is firm enough to hold the cut marks. If the chocolate hardens and then cracks when it is cut, warm the chocolate sheet in the oven for a few seconds. Return the marked chocolate to the refrigerator to firm completely, about 30 minutes.
Prepare the Dense Chocolate Mousse Filling
4. Put the semisweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, and butter in a heat proof container and place it over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir the chocolate and butter together until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Remove the mixture from over the hot water and put it in a large bowl to cool slightly
5. Put the whipping cream and vanilla in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Beat the cream on medium speed until soft peaks form. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you beat the egg whites.
6. Put the egg whites and cream of tartar in a clean large bowl of an electric mixer and with clean dry beaters, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar on low speed until the egg whites are foamy and the cream of tartar is dissolved. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat just until soft peaks form. Slowly add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Whisk about a fourth of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the remaining egg whites. Fold the reserved whipped cream into the chocolate mixture.
7. Remove the chocolate and baking sheets from the refrigerator. Turn the chocolate paper side up on the baking sheet and peel off the paper. The chocolate will separate easily into squares. Use a large knife to separate any squares that stick together. Return half of each color of chocolate squares to the refrigerator. Turn the baking sheets right side up and line them with wax or parchment paper. Spread 6 dark chocolate squares on a baking sheet. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the chocolate mousse in a mound in the center of each chocolate square. The mousse will not cover the chocolate squares. Place a white chocolate square on top of each mound of mousse. Press gently to level the white chocolate square. Put the baking sheets in the freezer to firm the mousse, about 15 minutes. Or refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm the mousse. Repeat to form 6 more sandwiches.
8. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees F.
9. Place the 1 ounce of semisweet chocolate in an ovenproof container. Melt the chocolate in the oven, about 6 minutes. Stir the chocolate smooth. Remove the baking sheets from the freezer. Dip a fork into the melted chocolate and wave it over each white chocolate square to form thin lines. The lines will form an abstract pattern.
When cooling the chocolate prior to cutting it into squares, watch it carefully and remove it from the refrigerator while it is still soft, but not runny. If it should harden, warm it for a few seconds in a 175 degree F oven to soften it slightly. If the chocolate is too soft, it will not hold the cut marks. If it is too hard, it will be difficult to cut into even squares.
Keep the prepared chocolate squares cold as you work with them. Since cold chocolate is less fragile than warm chocolate, this prevents the chocolate squares from breaking or bending.
Keep the sandwiches cold until they are served. The squares of chocolate will soften if held at room temperature. The easiest way to eat the sandwiches is to pick them up and eat them with your hands, but you can see them with a knife and fork.
Doubling the Recipe
Double the ingredients. Spread the melted chocolate over four baking sheets.
Return the baking sheets to the freezer to firm the chocolate topping, about 15 minutes. Wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap. Place the sandwiches in a single layer in a metal or plastic freezer container and cover tightly. Label with date and contents. Freeze up to I month.
Defrost as many sandwiches as you need in the refrigerator at least 3 hours or overnight. Unwrap the sandwiches and serve them cold. Use an offset spatula to transfer the sandwiches to serving plates. Either serve the sandwiches with a knife and fork or pick them up and eat them with your hands. Leftover mousse sandwiches can be covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
Bake and Freeze Chocolate Desserts
by Elinor Klivans
Broadway Books, $27.50
306 pages; 1997
Reprinted by permission.
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