chocolate mousse with griottines

When we were in France last year we stopped at La Cave aux Fromages, a fabulous deli in Besançon. I stocked up on all sorts of lovely treats – local cheese, interesting jams, flavoured syrups (violette and orgeat) and a jar of griottines aka morello cherries marinated in kirsch.

They sat in the cupboard for a few months, were opened to add a bit of oomph to a couple of cherry cocktails and then lurked in the fridge for a few weeks longer.  A friend, who knew I was looking for inspiration, passed on a Lindsay Bareham recipe, which Bareham credits as being inspired by a pudding at the restaurant Six Portland Road.

The recipe is annoyingly vague - the opening blurb refers to a lemon crème fraiche but there is no lemon in the recipe; I had problems with the almond brittle garnish; and there was no real information about how to construct and serve the dish (I only found the restaurant’s picture of the pudding when I started writing this).

So, this is my take on someone else’s take on a pudding I’ve never seen or eaten! It worked out well though and I’ve made it a couple of times now. I’ve not managed to resolve the issues I had with the brittle but I like the flavour so have written about what happened and you can decide whether you want to use this recipe or try a different version.

The mousse is made with dark chocolate and given a bitter edge with some coffee, however this is not difficult to eat and a non-alcoholic pot was happily demolished by a friend’s small boy. I put a layer of cherries at the bottom of each mousse pot, plus a few in the middle. The pots were topped, just before serving, with a slightly sweetened lemon cream. Finally, a brittle garnish – I’ve made this with flaked almonds and pumpkin seeds.

Chocolate mousse with griottines* (serves 6)
100g griottines (or any cherries in brandy, kirsch etc), plus their soaking alcohol
200g dark chocolate
3 tablespoons strong espresso coffee
25g butter
3 large eggs
200g crème fraîche
zest of 1 ½ lemons
1 tablespoon icing sugar
3 tablespoons blanched almond flakes or pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a bowl, over a pan of simmering water, with the coffee and butter; stir occasionally until everything has melted and is mixed together. Remove from the pan and set aside while you separate the eggs. Add the egg yolks one at a time to the still-warm chocolate mix, stirring well to mix each one in fully before adding the next.

Beat the egg whites until they are stiff. Gently stir two tablespoons of egg white into the chocolate mix. Fold in the rest with a metal spoon until there are no white streaks.

Place a layer of cherries and a little of the alcohol at the bottom of each of 6 small serving dishes, top with chocolate mousse, adding more cherries partway through. Put the mousse in the fridge to set covering each dish with cling film – overnight ideally but 2-4 hours should be fine).

Stir the lemon zest and icing sugar into the crème fraiche and refrigerate until needed.

To make the brittle, melt the sugar and butter together, with the nuts (or seeds), over a high heat, until the nuts darken and are coated with caramel. Pour this mix onto a sheet of parchment paper which has the edges turned up so that nothing can run off the paper (this is because, each time I have made this, the sugar caramelises around the nut flakes but the butter stays separate so when I poured it onto the parchment there was a lot of liquid butter spilling everywhere, so you need to factor this into whatever surface you place the parchment on. However, the result is really delicate so I’ve stuck with this approach). When the brittle has cooled, break it into pieces.

When you’re ready to eat, top each mousse with some of the lemon crème fraiche and finish with the brittle.

* based on a Lindsey Bareham recipe