(This recipe appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)
This dessert is a delightful contrast in textures. The ‘pebbles’ are made of the best chocolate mousse, encapsulated in a crisp shell of dark chocolate, while the ‘rocks’ are created from an ethereal Japanese-style steamed chocolate cheesecake. The addition of sherry adds an adult sweetness and nuance, but feel free to swap this out for espresso, or even orange juice for a fruitier version.
Yield: 16 servings
Chocolate Mousse Pebbles
- 140 g whole milk
- 10 g liquid glucose
- 55 g egg yolks
- 40 g granulated sugar
- 1 g kosher salt
- 1 1/2 gelatin sheets (silver grade), bloomed in ice water and drained
- 140 g Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate
- 220 g heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
- Make a crème anglaise: In a saucepan, bring the milk and glucose to scalding, and then remove the pan from the heat. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and salt in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the yolk mixture. Return the custard to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the sauce has thickened slightly and reaches 185˚ Whisk in the bloomed gelatin.
- Place the chocolate in a medium bowl and strain the hot anglaise sauce over it. Whisk together well until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is completely smooth. Cool this ganache to 95˚F, then fold in the softly whipped cream. Transfer the mousse to a pastry bag, then pipe into silicone pebble molds. Freeze until solid.
Chocolate Shell Coating
- 400 g Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate
- 200 g cocoa butter
- Melt the chocolate and cocoa butter together in a bowl over a bain marie until the mixture is about 122˚F (it should be liquid).
- Once the pebble-shaped mousses are frozen solid, unmold them. Immediately insert a toothpick into the top (or flat) side of each pebble, and place back in the freezer. Meanwhile, transfer your Chocolate Shell Coating to a pint container, so that it has a depth of at least 3”. Arrange a block of Styrofoam on your table to rest your tooth-picked mousses, once dipped (you can also use 3-4 cold blocks of wrapped butter to the same effect). Quickly dip the mousses, 2 at a time (one in each hand), in the chocolate shell, and gently shake off the excess. Rest the sharp end of toothpick into foam (or butter), and allow the chocolate to set around the mousses. Repeat this step until all the ‘pebbles’ are dipped. The chocolate on the first pebbles dipped should now be set. Gently twist the toothpick out of each pebble. Dip the end of the toothpick back into the chocolate and fill in the hole in the pebble where the toothpick once was. Placed the finished pebbles into the refrigerator to defrost the mousse.
- 15 g unsalted butter
- 45 g whole milk
- 115 g cream cheese, very soft
- 2 g kosher salt
- 60 g Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate & Cocoa Sweet Ground Powder
- 18 g sherry wine
- 48 g egg yolks
- 38 g cake flour, set into a sifter
- 100 g egg whites, at room temperature
- 15 g granulated sugar, preferably organic
- Preheat oven to 325˚ Coat the inside of a 6” diameter x 2” tall round cake pan with non-stick spray. Line the inside edge with a 3” high strip of parchment, cut to fit. Fit a circle of parchment in the bottom of the pan. Place this pan into a wider baking pan that’s deep enough to hold 2” of water comfortably. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl set over a pot of simmering water, combine the butter, milk, soft cream cheese, salt and Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate & Cocoa Sweet Ground Powder. Allow to melt together over the water, about 5 minutes, then whisk well by hand to remove any lumps of cheese or butter. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Once slightly cooled, whisk in the sherry, then the egg yolks, one at a time. Sift in the cake flour a little at a time, whisking to incorporate each addition. Set aside.
- Place egg whites in the bowl of stand mixer and whisk on medium speed until frothy. Slowly add the sugar in a slow sprinkle. Continue to whip until this meringue is at medium peaks, meaning softly holding its shape, but not at all clumpy or grainy.
- Gently fold 1/3 of the meringue into the resting chocolate cream cheese mixture until just streaky. Now fold in the remaining meringue until the mixture is fully homogenous, but still very light and airy. Immediately pour and scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan. Now pour enough hot water into the larger baking pan it’s resting in to come up about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan. Gently place the cheesecake into the oven and bake for 25 minutes at 325˚ Rotate the pan in the oven, lower the temperature to 275˚F, and continue to bake for another 35-40 minutes. The cheesecake will have risen dramatically, and the top should have a nice skin. Gently press the top of the cake, and if it feels springy and firm, it’s ready to come out of the oven. Allow to rest for about 5 minutes to cool slightly.
- Have a cake board or plate at the ready. Carefully invert the cake onto your dominant hand and quickly peel off the parchment collar and bottom round without damaging the delicate sponge. Now, gently center your board/plate over the cake and invert again so the skin side is up. Chill overnight to firm up.
- The next day, remove the skin portion of the cake using a gentle sawing motion with a serrated knife. Discard this skin. Gently cut the remaining cake into large, random chunks, keeping the airy integrity of the crumb. Tear the cake chunks into smaller jagged pieces, about 1”-1 1/2” in diameter. Place these pieces on a dehydrating tray and dry at 125˚F overnight.
- Once dry, cool completely and immediately store in an airtight container, preferably with desiccant. Set aside until service.
Milk Chocolate Espresso Sauce
- 275 g heavy cream
- 2 g finely ground espresso
- 2 g kosher salt
- 175 g Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate
- In a saucepan, bring the cream, espresso and salt to a boil. Pour this over the Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate in a bowl, and whisk well to combine. Transfer to a container with plastic pressed directly onto the surface of the sauce. Chill overnight.
- The consistency of the finished and chilled sauce should be that of a spreadable, soft ganache.
- 15 g Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate & Cocoa Sweet Ground Powder
- Spread about 2 tablespoons of the Milk Chocolate Espresso Sauce into about a 3” circle onto a large plate. Dust 3 ‘pebbles’ with Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate & Cocoa Sweet Ground Powder, then place them in the center of the sauce. Artfully arrange 3 or 4 ‘rocks’ in and amongst the pebbles. Light dust the arrangement with a little more Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate & Cocoa Sweet Ground Powder. Serve.