I don’t know if it was bound to happen, but it has: writer’s block. Per Wikipedia, “writer’s block is a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work.” And, “writer’s block may have many or several causes. Some are essentially creative problems that originate within an author’s work itself. A writer may run out of inspiration.” And so on. Now, I’m not so naive or egotistical to think my blogging is a profession, but Week 13 left me uninspired and struggling to get to you the mousse cake information you desperately need and have been waiting for so patiently.
Although, chances are you don’t actually desperately need this information because there really isn’t anything that interesting or difficult about mousse cakes. (If anyone from class is reading this, you are in big trouble if this gets back to Chef). Here are the highlights:
– Mousse cakes are made of mousse. (Insert snarky comment of choice here)
– Mousse cakes have to be shaped. The most common shape is a ring.
– The shape of a mousse cake includes a base (biscuit or butter cake, typically) and a wall that is thin enough so as not to interfere with the mousse.
– A mousse cake should be stable enough to cut and not fall apart in the process.
– A mousse cake may be made with different combinations of mousse (mousses? meese?) and is usually finished somehow, such as with a glaze or ganache, and may be garnished (chocolate curls, raspberries).
And there you have it – mousse cakes. I sit through the boring classes so you don’t have to. You’re right, I shouldn’t be so critical. But, it’s true – I did find a bit boring in general the topic of mousse cakes. But, there was a shining light in this class. It provided the forum to learn about two hitherto unknown pastry items, and I added a few more words to my (excuse me, our) French vocabulary: joconde and pâte a cornet. [joe cahnd] and [pat ah cor nay]
Quick quiz: a mousse cake’s shape contains a base and a…? Righto – wall. And the wall must be…? Right again, thin enough so as not to interfere with the mousse itself. Such a wall (or base for that matter) may be constructed out of joconde. Joconde, is a paper-thin almond biscuit (or sponge cake, if you insist) and is one of the most common pastry and mousse cake walls. According to my always-accurate Google research, joconde was named after Mona Lisa who is “La Jaconde” in French. I’m Italian in name only by marriage, but I still have to believe those must be fightin’ words comparing one of the greatest Leonardo DaVinci paintings to almond sponge cake. Someone wasn’t thinking about that one.
Pâte a cornet, meaning “paste of the cone” in French, is used to make a decoration on the joconde, if you want to get fancy. According to Chef, it was called this because back in the day the paste was piped out of paper cones (they didn’t have the fancy pants expensive plastic bags that we use today).
If making a spiffy wall with both the pâte a cornet and joconde, it is a two-step process. First, the pâte a cornet is piped out into whatever free-form design your heart desires or it is spread on top of a stencil. In either case, this is done on a “silpat” which is a flexible nonstick silicone baking mat that is easier to use (and manipulate) than a baking sheet. Chill the pâte a cornet in the freezer for a while, then remove the stencil (if using). The design will be left in place. Spread the joconde over the pâte a cornet design, bake. The result:
The joconde is the yellow-colored cake (remember, almond cake) and the pâte a cornet is the brown circles (chocolate-flavored) created by a stencil Chef used. Imagine how this looked as one large piece in a half sheet pan. Very striking. We cut out circles to use as the base for our miniature mousse cakes, but Chef’s joconde would have made a beautiful wall for a larger mousse cake. The “wall” in our case was actually the sides of the small Dixie cups we used for molds. We put the joconde down as the base, filled the cups about two-thirds full with white chocolate mousse and topped that with raspberry mousse.
And here it is, the mousse cake that caused the horrible case of writer’s block.
Don’t be fooled – it’s not as innocent as it looks. Trust me.