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Chocolate : A Couple of Showoffs

April 22, 1993

When you really want to end a meal spectacularly, you need something a little more impressive than chocolate cake. Both of these desserts look as if they took you days in the kitchen, but each is actually easier than it looks.

Dessert at the Paris restaurant Jamin is a several-course affair, which means that three-star chef Joel Robuchon has plenty of chocolate recipes in his repertoire. In "Simply French," her book on the food of Robuchon, Patricia Wells calls this Jamin dessert the sort of picture-perfect dish that draws oohs and aahs at the table. Don't be discouraged by the length of the recipe--the techniques are fairly easy. (If you really want to simplify things, just make the cinnamon-flavored chocolate mousse and serve it in a goblet with a little cream.) In the book, Wells has these suggestions for ensuring success with the dish: "Don't attempt this on a hot, humid day; the chocolate will melt as soon as you remove it from the refrigerator. The wafers may be prepared several days in advance. The chocolate mousse, however, must be prepared at the last minute; if it's made ahead, it will become unworkably thick. Chocolate is fragile, and the ideal environment for working with all chocolates is a cool (65 degrees to 70 degrees), dry and draft-free area. If chocolate is heated too high, it will become grainy and the flavor will be altered. To help chocolate melt quickly and evenly, chop or grate very fine, using either a large chef's knife or a food processor. "

CHOCOLATE WAFERS WITH CINNAMON-CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

3 1/2 ounces best-quality white chocolate, finely chopped or grated

3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate

Cinnamon-Chocolate Mousse

3 cups Pistachio-Vanilla Custard Sauce

Mint leaves, optional

4 candied cherries, optional

Prepare 4 strips of foil, each about 5 inches wide and long enough to wrap over edges of baking sheet. Place 2 strips of foil on 1 baking sheet and crimp edges to obtain even, flat work surface. Repeat with another baking sheet. Set aside.

Melt white chocolate in top of double boiler over gently simmering water. (Top container should not touch water, or chocolate will melt too quickly. Also, do not cover pan, because droplets of water will drip into chocolate and alter texture.) Stir frequently. Remove from heat before all pieces have melted. Residual heat will melt remaining pieces. Set aside.

Repeat process in top of separate double-boiler with bittersweet chocolate. Set aside.

Dribble 1/4 of melted white chocolate, abstract-art style, on each strip of foil. Repeat with melted bittersweet chocolate, dribbling on top of white chocolate. Smooth out chocolates with spatula to form thin, even, marbleized layer. With 3-inch-diameter cookie cutter or very fine glass, mark 12 round indentations in chocolate. Do not remove cutouts. Place baking sheets in refrigerator to allow chocolate to harden. (Pre-cutting and chilling will facilitate removal of delicate wafers.) Refrigerate until chocolate begins to harden, about 10 minutes.

Remove baking sheets from refrigerator. With same cookie cutter, again cut chocolate rounds where previously marked indentations were. Return to refrigerator to allow chocolate to harden completely, about 1 hour more.

Remove baking sheets from refrigerator. Peel off excess chocolate around wafers with spatula. Then carefully remove each wafer. Side of chocolate facing foil will be shinier and should be more marbleized. Wafers may be prepared several hours in advance. Store carefully between layers of wax paper in airtight container and refrigerate.

To assemble, fill pastry bag with Cinnamon-Chocolate Mousse. (Alternatively, mousse may be spooned onto chocolate wafers.) Place 1 chocolate wafer, shiny-side up, in center of 1 dessert plate. Pipe or spoon thick, even layer of mousse onto center of wafer. Cover with second chocolate wafer, shiny-side up. Add second layer of mousse. Cover with third and final wafer, shiny-side up. Spoon Pistachio-Vanilla Custard Sauce all around dessert. Repeat process for remaining 3 servings. Garnish each dessert with several mint leaves and 1 candied cherry. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Cinnamon-Chocolate Mousse

7 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch process

Place chocolate in medium-sized mixing bowl. Bring 6 tablespoons cream to boil in small saucepan over moderate heat. Remove cream from heat and add to chocolate. Whisk until thoroughly blended. Add cinnamon and whisk to blend. Set aside.

Beat remaining cream in bowl of electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Add to chocolate mixture. Stir with wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. Add cocoa powder and stir until thoroughly blended. Chill until ready to assemble dessert.

Pistachio-Vanilla Custard Sauce

1 cup milk

1 plump moist vanilla bean, split lengthwise

3 large egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon pistachio extract

Few drops green food color

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