Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A coffee dessert - yes, you know it's good news

I've been thinking about my dad lately since his birthday is around this time of year. If he were still alive, he'd be 76. I was remembering how we used to go over to his house on Sundays to watch the Bronco games. He would often make his specialty snack, mock chicken legs, which became an important part of football watching tradition (aside to siblings: remember?). Another tradition was his coffee mousse; this would be chilling in yogurt cups in his refrigerator.

I wanted to try to duplicate this dessert in his memory. I don't have his actual recipe, so I looked online to find any coffee mousse recipe, and found quite a variety. Most of the recipes for mousses use whipped egg whites to get the fluffy texture, but I also found some that are based on whipped cream, gelatin, custard, or even marshmallows. There were also several different ways to infuse the coffee flavor: strong brewed coffee, ground coffee beans, instant coffee crystals, or coffee liqueur. I ended up making up my own recipe by mashing up several other recipes.

Coffee Mousse

Note: Contains uncooked egg whites
Servings: 3

3 eggs separated
1/2 cup cold strong coffee (or 2 shots of espresso)
3/8 cup of sugar
1 package of unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup whipping cream

for topping:
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp sugar
3 mini Heath toffee bars

1. Beat eggs yolks until pastel yellow.

2. Mix gelatin into 1/4 cup of chilled coffee and let it soften for 1 minute. This step is important: I skipped it in my first batch and the gelatin didn't dissolve well and there were lots of gummy nuggets in the final product.

3. Mix the remaining 1/4 cup chilled coffee with the beaten egg yolks and stir it in. It might just be superstition, but I think it's important to chill the coffee first. I worry that hot coffee would cook the yolks before they're sufficiently blended in. I also think chilling it first helps dissolve the gelatin in the previous step.

4. Pour yolk/coffee batter into a small saucepan and heat it to almost boiling, stirring in sugar as it heats.

5. When hot, add coffee/gelatin mixture and stir continuously until completely dissolved (5 minutes or so).

6. Pour this mixture into glass bowl and refrigerate until the texture is custard-like when stirred (about 40 minutes). As you can see in the picture, I left it in fridge too long - way past the custard stage. It still worked okay, but it's not plan A.

7. Whip the egg whites until they are stiff peaks (this is tricky, over-whipping or under-whipping will cause the egg whites to weep out making the final product slimy at the bottom).

8. Whip cream until it has stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the cream, then fold in the coffee custard.

9. Make the topping by whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla until stiff. Crush Heath bars (I used a mortar and pestle).

10. Spoon mousse into dessert cups and top with whipped cream and crushed toffee.

11. Refrigerate for a couple hours. I think it will last at least a week or so in the fridge, but I doubt I would ever let it come to that.

The final product tastes remarkably similar to how I remember Dad's tasting. I think the coffee flavor is a bit harsher in my version, but not in a bad way. It's just not as mellow as his was. I don't know what he used for coffee, but I'm sure he didn't use espresso; this was almost 25 years ago - before Americans drank espresso.


skrizman said...

I remember the mock chicken legs, and recently told myself to make some. Don't remember the mousse, though. Perhaps because they don't go well with martinis.

Teresa said...

I remember both and long for the mock chicken legs. I also think Dad used the instant coffee, seems like I helped him once and decided it was too much to learn, better to just enjoy