Baked Chocolate Mousse with Mandarin and Anise Seed & Almond Croustillant
The concise, clearly written instructions and explanations make the elaborate fantasy sweets DC Duby is acclaimed for seem accessible. For the curious cook, the approach to pâtisserie as both art and science is a deeply alluring one. As is the genius, positively symphonic use of unconventional ingredients and flavour pairings. And the attractiveness of the final composed desserts? The chapter on ''The Art of Presentation" opens with that old adage, "We eat with our eyes first." Indeed - just take a look at the full-page photographs that lavishly illustrate the volume and feel hungry. Very hungry.
While intrigued by some of the more outre creations - Red Curry Squash Flan with Gnocchi & Coconut Curry Foam, anyone? (really a postmodern pumpkin pie) - I finally settled on a twist on the classic chocolate-and-orange combination. The recipe calls for mandarins - I used unshū mikan - but good old navel oranges can be used as a substitute.
If you happen to have a bit of a plated dessert fetish, this book is a profoundly inspiring source of ideas. I chose a recipe involving klutz-proof construction and assembly - pipe lines of chocolate gelée and citrus reduction, arrange segments of peeled mandarin, top with plank of baked chocolate mousse, finish with scoop of mandarin sorbet sandwiched between pair of anise seed and almond croustillants. But for the adroit and nimble of finger, there's plenty of architecturally challenging fodder (see Keiko's perfect rendition of lemon crépaze with red lentil confit and crispy apple pasta).
The croustillant recipe is an extremely useful trick to have up the sleeve. Very versatile, ring the changes by varying the combination of seeds and nuts used - it's exactly the sort of crisp, delicate and elegant cookie-like thing to serve as a chic accompaniment to any number of sorbets, ice creams and mousses.