Chocolate Vanilla Sage Mousse Cake with Pistachio and Sea Salt

  Much of February was one of those months for me.  After three weeks of absence, I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel when I thought of this chocolate vanilla sage mousse cake with pistachio and sea salt.

  It’s a chapter every creative person faces more often than not: the depletion of their creative energy.  It’s like sitting in a vacuum, where nothing new comes in or comes out, it’s just empty space.  The worst part is feeling as though it will never go back to normal, thankfully it always does-  in its own time.  It is both a blessing and curse, the blessing being time to collect your thoughts, your sense of self, and to better understand your surroundings.  The curse is the depressing thoughts that come with losing one of your outlets of expression.  It’s like suddenly forgetting how to swim while you’re in the deepest part of the ocean.

  The weather as of late has been but an early breath of spring, which is what helped bring a few ideas back to me.  Many trees, shrubs, and flowers began to bloom three weeks in advance due to the warm winter season.  I saw Bradford pear trees with their snow-like petals blowing in the wind, as well as cherry blossoms with their lush pink and red hues.  I envisioned something chocolate being surrounded by all these blossoms, and that’s when this chocolate vanilla sage mousse cake with pistachio and sea salt came to fruition.  It’s nothing too creative, to be honest.  I have a chocolate mousse cake recipe rather similar to this one(also one of my most popular blog posts and recipe on this site).

  By reading the title, you may be wondering, ‘why sage’?  The truth is, my motto is to always add at least one fresh ingredient for the main flavoring agent in my baked goods, it is either a fruit, herb, or a vegetable.  But it must be in season and at least somewhat local, to add to my motto.  The sage was plucked from my sage plant in the front garden, which thrived all throughout this mild winter of ours.  To my surprise, it complemented the chocolate rather well.  It’s all very rich in every possible way, with hints of vanilla bean and sage all throughout the mousse.  The brownie I would liken to fudge; it’s chewy and has a strong chocolate flavor.


CHOCOLATE VANILLA SAGE MOUSSE CAKE WITH PISTACHIO AND SEA SALT

brownie

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

seeds from (2) vanilla beans

1 cup coconut palm sugar

3/4 cups cocoa powder

2 large eggs

1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

mousse

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

7 fresh sage leaves, chopped

seeds from (2) vanilla beans

8-ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 large egg yolks

3/4 cups heavy cream

3 large egg whites

3 tablespoons sugar

roasted pistachio, for garnish

sea salt, for garnish

METHOD:

 brownie:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F / 177°C.  Prepare one, 8-inch cake pan by greasing the side and bottom then lining with parchment paper.
  2. Create a double boiler by filling a medium-sized pot with about two inches of water, then placing a heatproof bowl over the pot, making sure that it doesn’t touch the water.  Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Add to the bowl the butter, vanilla bean seeds, coconut sugar, and cocoa powder.  Stir occasionally with a spatula until the butter has melted completely and the sugar has somewhat dissolved as well.  Remove from heat and let the mixture sit until slightly cooled- it should remain very warm, but not burning hot.  You should be able to dip your finger in for five seconds without it burning you.  Once it reaches this stage, add one egg and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until combined; repeat with the second egg.  Add the flour and salt and stir until just combined and there are no flour streaks to be seen.  Pour the chocolate into the prepared pan and spread around evenly.  Bake for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let it rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then loosen the edges with a sharp knife and invert onto a wire rack(keeping the parchment on the bottom)to cool completely.   Tip: to speed up the cooling process place the brownie in the freezer until cool.

  mousse:

  1. Place a medium sized bowl in the refrigerator to chill, along with the whisk attachment to an electric hand mixer.
  2. In a small saucepan, add the butter, chopped sage leaves, and vanilla bean seeds.  Cook on medium-low until the butter is melted and the sage becomes fragrant- about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes, then remove the sage pieces.  Place the butter in the refrigerator until firm again.
  3.  Create a double boiler and add the butter and chopped chocolate.  Stir occasionally until the ingredients are melted completely.  Then remove from heat.
  4. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites in a medium bowl on high with an electric mixer.  When they begin to gain volume, sprinkle in the three tablespoons of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.  Set aside.
  5. Pour the cream into the chilled bowl and beat with the chilled whisk(s) until soft peaks form.
  6. After all this, the chocolate mixture should be warm (not hot) by now.  Add the egg yolks and stir until combined.  
  7. Gently fold the whipped cream into the chocolate in two batches, making sure each batch is combined before adding another.  Once the whipped cream is combined with the chocolate, begin to fold the egg whites in three batches, making sure each batch is fully combined before adding the next.  There should be no streaks or clumps of white when finished.  
  8. Place the cooled brownie(with parchment paper still attached)in a well greased 8-inch cake pan.  Then, very gently pour the mousse over the top and spread around evenly.  Cover tightly with tin foil or plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until firm, this will take up to six hours or you can leave it in overnight.  I did the latter.
  9. When the mousse is firm, heat a sharp knife in hot water until the blade is hot, then use it to loosen the mousse from around the edges of the pan.  Firmly place the tin foil back on the pan with your hand placed in the center and gently flip until the cake falls out.   Place on a flat surface and remove the parchment from the bottom of the brownie.  Flip the cake back onto a cake and gently remove the foil.  The mousse should not be messed up if this is done carefully.  
  10. Melt some chocolate and drizzle over the top of the cake, then top with chopped, roasted pistachio and sea salt.  Cut with a hot knife and enjoy.

CHOCOLATE RUM BROWNIE WITH SALTED APPLE CIDER CARAMEL

    Comfortably snuggled up in a warm, cozy sweater, quietly contemplating the morning view from a window seat someplace far away with a steaming cup of coffee warming my hands;  that is an ideal chilly, October Thursday.  One I laughingly wish I woke to.  Instead, I awoke to the worst bedhead, no clean clothes to wear to work, and an empty coffee bean container.  Even though the day began in such bad taste, I am grateful that the weather is beautiful and that there was a pot of homemade chili to eat for lunch on this semi-chilly Virginia day.

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  It’s been a busy past two weeks as my family awaits the birth of my eldest sister’s little boy any day now.  We’re hoping he stays put a wee bit longer until hurricane Matthew passes (they happen to live in North East Florida).  It’s quite nerve racking being six hundred miles away from almost all your family while there’s a dangerous hurricane on its way that will affect them and others where ever it goes.  I am staying hopeful that all will be safe during its chaos.

  On top of all that, I was having yet again one of (what I like to call) my rut weeks.  To refresh my mind, I made a quick trip to the apple orchard not nine miles down the road from me.  Upon arrival is a barn, and inside lie crates full of freshly picked red and green apples of all varieties.  In the back of the barn are more crates, but instead of apples, these are full with some of the prettiest looking decorative gourds, local pumpkin, and butternut squashes.  Lining the walls are glass jugs and mason jars filled with apple cider, honey, and maple syrup.  Each time I go to this particular orchard, it’s so hard to leave with only the apples I came for.  They also make some of the best fruit preserves!  It’s rather tempting.

  Arriving home I had my heart set on apple cider and chocolate, but what to create with two.  So, I decided on this apple cider caramel(which makes the sinfully rich brownie even more sinful), with a decadent chocolate brownie flavored with rum; there wasn’t but a couple tablespoons left in the bottle so, why not?

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CHOCOLATE RUM BROWNIE WITH SALTED APPLE CIDER CARAMEL

-brownie-

7 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cups cocoa powder

3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons rum

2 large eggs, cold

-salted apple cider caramel-

1/4 cup apple cider

2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 tablespoon water

1-ounce unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

sea salt 

-method-

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.  Grease and line with parchment paper one, 8-inch cake pan.
  2. Fill a pot with a few inches of water and place over medium heat till it simmers.  Place a heatproof bowl that will sit over the top of the pot(don’t let it touch the water).  Add the butter, chopped chocolate, sugar, and cocoa powder.  Stir until just combined.  Let it sit over the simmering pot till the butter has melted and the mixture is somewhat hot when you dip your finger into it.  Remove the bowl from the pot and stir in the rum.  Let it cool until it’s just warm to touch.  Once cooled, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  The mixture should be glossy.  Whisk together the flour and salt in another bowl, then add to the chocolate mixture.  Stir well with a wooden spoon till all the flour is combined.  Pour into prepared pan and evenly spread around the pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, checking for doneness at the 20-minute mark with a toothpick(if it comes out clean it’s done, if not, bake for 5 minutes more).  Cool in pan for 20 minutes, then using a sharp knife, loosen around the edges.  Invert onto a wire rack then peel off the parchment.  Let it cool completely, then pour the caramel over the top.  Garnish with more sea salt(optional).

-caramel

  1. In a medium sized saucepan, combine the apple cider, cream, butter, and sugar.  Stir slightly until just combined.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  Stirring occasionally, boil till the mixture till it becomes a light amber color, then remove from heat.  Add a pinch of sea salt and stir.  It should thicken after sitting for a few minutes, but make sure you don’t let it sit too long in the pot or it will start to become firm.  After letting it sit for a couple 3-4 minutes, pour over the brownie and garnish with more sea salt(optional).