This recipe presents certain challenges. The first is, remembering that filberts are only called filberts in Oregon and other Western states. Here, we call them hazelnuts. The important thing to remember at the Whole Foods where I went to get them is what they are called in Spanish, which I do not know. I could probably have told you what they were called in French (noisettes) , but not Spanish. I feel like a traitor writing this, because I am by profession an ESL teacher, but it is really annoying when everyone in the store has no idea what you are talking about. These are lovely, polite, friendly, hardworking people, who are probably being exploited by Whole Foods because they don't speak English. I suspect that the reason why no native English speakers work there is because they pay a lot less than other grocery stores.
This dish was the dessert for our spring dinner party. This was orchestrated by my husband, who is considerably better organized than I am. He set the table Friday night, did the shopping Thursday, and prodded me to make the dessert Friday evening. I had a commitment during the middle of the day that would keep me away from the cooking and cleaning for five hours, so I promised to clean early. I did get so far as to wash the kitchen floor on Thursday night, and take off the top two layers of grime. By Saturday afternoon, it looked like it needed washing again.
Cleaning in our house assumes the proportions of a military operation. That's because the enemy is allowed to languish in the corners for weeks at a time, until we sweep up balls of doghair and dust the size of the dog.
When I really get involved in cleaning, it's a neverending process. Once I clean the floor and vacuum the large quantities of dirt and gravel from under the rug, as well as from the top of it, I notice that the door is dirty, and I start spritzing around the doorknob. Then, the baseboards start calling attention to themselves, with their dusting of dog hair and dust. And then, there's the woodwork, the chair legs, the stuff hanging on the walls. Cleaning never ends. Now, if it got started more often, it wouldn't have to be such a process, but right now, that's the way things are. We actually did get the downstairs a lot cleaner than it had been. The party was a huge success. Most of the people didn't know each other, but they were talking in such an animated way that, when I told them dinner was ready, they didn't hear, and I had to tell them a second time. Here's the Filbert Mousse. (One important thing to remember. Don't forget the vanilla, the way I did.) Also, it speeds things up if you start scalding the milk while you're melting the chocolate, instead of after.
Another challenge is, if you are not careful, the hot milk turns the beaten egg yolks into something closely resembling scrambled eggs. So watch that double boiler routine. You might want to turn the heat down under the double boiler after the water starts to boil. As I stirred, waiting for the mixture to coat the back of a spoon, I unearthed clumps of eggs and looked dubious. I toyed with the idea of throwing the milk/eggs away and starting over, a la Julie Powell, but then, I figured, nah, the chocolate would hide the egg clumps. And you know what? I was right.
When it came time to beat the egg whites, I realized with horror that I had put the beaters into the dishwasher. Husband came through, and, dividing the egg whites into two batches, whipped them with a whisk. Amazing. What a hero.
4 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
3 tablespoons plus one third cup water
1 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
5 eggs separated
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups milk scalded
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups ground toasted filberts
1 1/2 cups heavy cream whipped
Chopped toasted filberts
- Combined the chocolate, instant coffee and three tablespoons of the water in a small saucepan and heat gently to melt chocolate.
- Soften the gelatin in remaining water.
- Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until light and fluffy. (These don't really become fluffy. They lighten in color, and assume the consistency of very thick paint, but they are not fluffy, and I believe, never will be) Gradually stir in the milk and pour mixture into the top of a double boiler. Cook over hot water until mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon.
- Add gelatin and stir until dissolved. Stir in the vanilla, ground filberts and melted chocolate mixture. Chill until the mixture starts to set.
- Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry and fold into gelatin mixture. Pour into a five-cup souffle dish which has an oiled four-inch collar tied around or into eight individual glasses.
- Chill until set. Remove collar from souffle dish if used. Sprinkle mousse with a few chopped toasted filberts. Makes eight.