Table of sweets at Caroline's Treats Exchange
Since I started foodblogging here a little over three years ago, one of the things I'm most thankful for is the company of other bloggers I've met along the way--a generally jolly, slightly crazy (in a good way) bunch that I've shared many photos, notes and meals with and whom I can count on to make recommendations in unfamiliar dining territories.
And of course, there are few better ways to celebrate with foodbloggers than doing a potluck and exchange, which is what Caroline on Crack threw together yesterday at her house, with bloggers Faux LA Hipster, ShopEatSleep, TinyNancer, The Liquid Muse and vlogger Busy BethF in attendance . Feeling a little more foodventurous than the cranberry-orange rice krispie treats last year, and inspired by the Alembic Bar's Eagle Rare Chocolate Pudding with Drunken Cherries and Almond Mousse (above) I had last month (which I boldly claim is better than Mozza's butterscotch budino,) I decide to research and reverse-engineer the dessert in my own kitchen . . .
. . . and this is the result, since cherries were out of season I opted for cranberries instead (and ramped up the sugar to compensate for the extra tartness,) and I opted for an almond sour cream topping instead since it's more stable than a mousse or whipped cream topping - and finally, the texture came out more like a "pousse"--not quite densely creamy as a pudding, but not as light and delicate as a mousse. It actually could've fool me as a pot de creme, but since it doesn't involve a custard or any baking -- that would've been a misnomer. So, pousse it is (and yes, I love thinly veiled double entendre that goes with the pronounciation.)
While the final dish I made bore only second-cousin resemblance of what I had at Alembic, it was delicious to eat: silky-rich with pretty intense chocolate flavors and a nice, tangy contrast from the drunken cranberries, almond sour cream and the crunch of the crushed almond cookies. And, best of all, this is surprisingly easy to make (no-bake is a major plus for me!) And so, I share with you my recipe for chocolate-bourbon pousse, drunken cranberries and almond sour cream topping.
The below makes about 24 quarter-cup "taster" servings (since this was for a sweets exchange) -- if this was the only dessert served I'd go up on the sizes, meaning it'll serve about 12-16. All the components can be made 1-2 days ahead, but assemble just before serving
Chocolate-Bourbon "Pousse" (adopted from this Fine Cooking recipe for an actual mousse)
1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
14 oz. bittersweet chocolate in chips or small chunks (I used Callebaut's 60%, available at Surfas)
9 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
6 Tbsp. Bourbon whiskey* (I used Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon)
6 egg whites
*the flavor the bourbon is really subtle in my final product, if you want a stronger presence you can double it up; be sure to taste as you add so you don't make it too strong
Drunken Cranberries (adopted from this Earthbound Farms recipe for drunken cherries)
10 oz. fresh cranberries, halved
1 cup sugar
1 cup red wine (I opted for 2008 Old Moon Zinfandel from Trader Joe's, $3.99/bottle)
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
Almond Sour Cream Topping (adopted from Joy of Cooking's sour cream topping for cheesecakes)
1.5 cup sour cream
.33 cup sugar
1.5 tsp. vanilla extract
1.5 tsp. almond extract
.75 cup hand-crushed almond cookies/biscotti (optional)
Making the pousse
1. Combine the sugar and the cream in a saucepan and heat on medium-heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally to keep cream from burning.
2. Once simmering, turn off heat and remove saucepan from burner, stir in vanilla extract and bourbon, add the chocolate and let sit for 5 minutes before stirring to combine - returning to the stovetop if chocolate didn't fully melt and incorporate.
3. While the saucepan is sitting, whisk the egg whites to medium peaks (sidenote: having no mixer, I actually hand-beat mine into peaky submission -- a good 15 minutes of rigorous arm workout!)
4. Pour the chocolate-cream mixture in a large bowl, and fold in the egg whites, gently with a spatula and one-quarter to one-third at a time.
5. Ladle the pousse mixture into ramekin, cup, molds, pans or any container of choice and let chill in fridge for at least one hour (obviously, longer if poured into a large container such as casserole dish or cake pan.)
Getting cranberries drunk
1. In a saucepan, combine the wine, sugar, vanilla and the zest and juice of the lemon and heat until a rolling boil.
2. Throw cranberries in, reduce heat and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes (for me, it was done shortly after the cranberry halves puffed up from absorbing the liquid--but the best way to determine is to taste them occasionally, deciding which sweet-tart balance works best for you.)
3. Drain the cranberries and let it chill in fridge for about an hour
Note: the leftover liquid is actually a wonderful cranberry-red wine syrup that you can save for another dessert as a sauce or even use as in cocktails!
Super-complicated topping instructions
1. Combine the sour cream, sugar and extracts
Dollop and spread almond sour cream topping over chilled pousse, sprinkle drunken cranberries, and if you want some crunch, crush some almond cookies/biscotti over it (do the cookie crushing shortly before serving, since it'll sog up pretty quick.)
Enjoy, and here are some of the other blogged recipes from the sweets exchange:
- Caroline's Fuyu Persimmon Crumble Simple-easy and almost healthy!
- TinyNancer's Chocolate-Dipped Macaroons, less insane than macarons
- The Liquid Muse's Absinthe-laced Brownies, fairyvisions sold separately