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Uncle Bill’s food-processor chocolate mousse Photo by Sang An
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Photo by Deborah Jones
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Looking for Alice Medrich's recipe for Food-Processor Chocolate Mousse? You'll find it at the bottom of the interview.
If you want to establish your street cred as arbiter of all things sweet and sinful, you can't do much better than to introduce the chocolate truffle to the U.S. Alice Medrich is credited with doing just that in 1973, when she began making the chocolates at home and then selling them in her shop (that soon turned into seven shops), Cocolat, in the San Franciso Bay area. Now, after seven cookbooks and numerous awards, Medrich has pared down the baking process in her new book, Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts: Quicker Smarter Recipes, written for novices and experts alike.
R•Home: You seem to have been streamlining desserts in your last few books, and I was wondering if you learned any new tricks or techniques while writing this one?
Alice Medrich: It's not so much techniques, I think — although techniques are a part of it. It's a way of thinking about things. I started out with the most complex pastry-chef things in the early part of my career because that's what I was doing professionally.
Now I think more like a home cook. … I'm thinking about people living alone or who are really, really busy, or people who are good cooks and like food but are scared of baking. I've tried to keep it simple, with fewer pieces of equipment and fewer techniques and less time. I did think of some classic things so that they could all be made in one bowl or one food processor.
R•Home: Do you have a favorite recipe in your book?
Medrich: I kind of love the gingerbread [made in the food processor with fresh ginger]. [And] I love some of the ice cream desserts that just get put together like a composed salad — where you're putting the ingredients together as opposed to making something. I love the orange segments with a scoop of vanilla and a scoop of mango sorbet, with dates and toasted almonds and a little orange flower water, so it has this sort of exotic, Middle Eastern flavor.
R•Home: What's the biggest pitfall that home cooks seem to run into when they're baking?
Medrich: I honestly think that measuring is at the root of a lot things for people who are phobic about baking — not understanding how to measure or being too casual about it. … The measurement of flour can make things go really, really wrong. A lot of people pack way too much flour in that cup and for that reason, although this book was meant to be [about] the simplest things, I still advocate getting a scale. I think a scale does simplify. You don't need to know how to put the flour in the cup, all you need to do is toss it on the scale.
R•Home: One last question: What was it like working with Julia Child on PBS's Lessons with Master Chefs?
Medrich: Oh, so thrilling! What a privilege — and fun and funny! You know, she really was such a remarkable character in reality and such a generous, wonderful, funny person. By the time we did that, she was getting on in age and she pioneered a lot of food TV — she knew how to do it — so she said to me, "OK, dearie, if we have to run the mixer for any length of time, say what you have to say and then just shut up. They're going to want to edit that and we don't want to miss any of your pearly words — and if you forget, I'll just nudge over to you and give you a little kick in the shins." I loved that!
Join Alice Medrich and six other authors at the Junior League of Richmond's 67th Book & Author Dinner on Tuesday, May 1, at 7 p.m. at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. For more details, call 643-4886 or visit jlrichmond.org .
Bill's Food-Processor Chocolate Mousse
Executive chef at Draeger's Cooking School in San Mateo, California, Bill Hutton is the guy who makes my life easy by seeing that every bit of my prep is done for me when I teach. I love the guy, and I love his mousse. No eggs in this super-creamy version. And it sets up quickly, so you can almost serve it right after you make it. Bill grinds a little black pepper on top for extra chocolate excitement.
7 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (not more than 62% cacao), coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons flavorless vegetable oil
1 tablespoon red wine or liqueur
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk or water
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of kosher or sea salt
1 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
Electric mixer (optional)
6 dessert glasses or cups
Process the chocolate in the food processor until very finely ground; leave it in the processor bowl.
Combine the oil, wine, and vanilla in a small cup.
Bring the milk or water, sugar, and salt to a simmer in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Immediately, with the processor running, pour the hot milk through the feed tube, processing for 15 to 20 seconds, or until the chocolate is melted. Add the oil mixture and process for 5 to 10 seconds, until thoroughly blended. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes (the chocolate should not be warm when the cream is added).
Beat the cream until it holds a very soft shape (not even close to stiff). Fold one-third of the cream into the chocolate to lighten it. Fold in the remaining cream just until blended. Immediately divide the mousse among the dessert glasses. Refrigerate until serving. The mousse keeps for 2 days in the refrigerator. Grind a little black pepper over each serving, if desired.
For the smoothest possible mousse, stop folding the moment the cream is incorporated into the chocolate, and immediately scoop it into the glasses.
Excerpted from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2012. Photographs by Sang An.