At this time of the year, I always have a special thought for my brother in France, as it was his birthday last weekend. His favourite patisserie used to be a nougatine cone filled with praline buttercream, which has disappeared off the menu since our patissier of choice closed shop a good twenty years ago.
As I was also receiving a good friend for dinner with the added challenge of veganism, it struck me that nougatine would be a fab way to create a stunning dessert within the ‘brief’ – as it’s just sugar and almonds combined. Then I wondered what to do instead of buttercream. Pinterest once again saved my bacon (if I may in this vegan post!?) by offering a practically magic chocolate mousse recipe.
I then added some praline paste that I had from a previous ‘experiment’ and I was ready for this incredibly extravagant and luscious treat.
- make a dry caramel
- Mix the flaked almonds in
- Pour onto an oiled silicone sheet
- roll to a thin layer
- cut and shape
- 200g caster sugar
- 150g flaked almonds
- a bit of vegetable oil
- A pan
- A silicone sheet (optional)
- baking paper
- a rolling pin
What do to:
Make a dry caramel by putting the sugar in a DRY pan, no water whatsoever – you can use medium to high heat (high heat will make it happen faster, but you’ll have to watch it more closely so it doesn’t burn!).
Leave it alone, it will start melting and caramelising.
Don’t panic as it doesn’t happen evenly, you CAN stir the sugar in with the end of a wooden spoon (don’t use metal!) until you have a homogenous mix, but make sure it gets to be quite clear, not lumpy, and a nice shade of brown. Once you start seeing a few bubbles, it’s time to take it off the heat.
Oil a silicone sheet or baking paper if you don’t have one with vegetable oil meanwhile and get a another sheet of baking paper ready. This will go on top of the mixture to protect it when rolling the mixture down.
Once the caramel is done, incorporated the almond flakes and make sure they are well coated with caramel.
Pour the mix onto your oiled sheet, put the baking sheet on top then work quite fast to roll it down to a thin even layer (ideally no more than 3mm high). This is why you need to use flaked almonds, as almond pieces will be larger and result in a thicker layer, which will not be as nice to eat!!!
The trickiest bit is finding the sweet spot to work with the nougatine – too hot and it won’t be set and stick to the baking sheet, too cool and it becomes brittle. It does cool quite fast too, but the good thing is that if you find it too hard, you can always put it back in a warm oven for a minute or so to soften it back again. So it’s not the end of the world. Just watch out for your fingers as hot caramel can really burn!
You can cut shapes with cutters or a knife or even scissors – in this case, I cut a large circle (about dinner plate large) then cut it in 4 equal pieces. I then rolled each piece to form a cone. It naturally stick together. You can then perch them on a plate head down to leave them to cool completely and harden at the same time.
Nougatine doesn’t like water! So don’t put it in the fridge, and it’s not a keeper, so you will need to do it on the day that you’re going to use it.
It might seem quite complicated, but I went for the long explanation, in reality, it was really a 10-15 minutes job at the most!
Now, you have your nougatine and it’s cooling down. On to the next, super cool sciency bit!!
Pure Chocolate Mousse
- Break up chocolate pieces in water
- Whisk till melted
- Pour in a bowl
- Put bowl over larger ice filled bowl
- Whip till it thickens!
- 200 gr Your chocolate of choice (In this case, I used 70% Callebaut callets)
- 200 gr water
- ice cubes
- A pan
- A medium sized bowl
- A larger bowl
- A whisk
What to do
Best thing really is to start by watching this video. This is Heston Blumenthal (don’t run away yet, this is actually really simple!) explaining how water and chocolate CAN actually be best friends, in a molecular kinda way. The principle is this: by whipping the chocolate and the water, you can actually create a stable mousse effect, not unlike chantilly.
So start heating up your water, break your chocolate in small pieces, put them in and whisk until you get a homogenous, not lumpy mixture – it will look like quite dark hot drinking chocolate.
Prepare a large bowl by filling the bottom with ice cubes.
Once it’s all melted, pour this into a medium sized bowl. Put the bowl on top of the ice cubes.
Start whipping the mixture. It will take a coupe of minutes before you see anything happen, but then as the mix cools down, you will soon get to a single cream consistency, then double cream… you can choose how thick you want it to be – but overwhip it and there is a risk of going grainy again (but if that happened, you can always go back to melting stage and start again!) – and the thing is, it really WORKS.
So there, in a matter of minutes, you can get yourself the purest chocolate mousse ever – no sugar, no eggs, no milk or cream, just pure chocolate whipped to the meltiest stage. It is pure heaven and unlike other mousses – stable, yet melty.
So what next? I put the chocolate mouse in a piping bag and piped it into the cones. I put each cone in a glass to keep them upright until they were ready to serve (and I went against my own advice and put them in the fridge as I wanted to make sure the chocolate mousse was properly set – guess what? It was fine and the nougatine survived – but that was a couple of hours only).
As I mentioned earlier, I had a bit of praline paste leftover from a previous project, so I also put a bit of that in.
The above will give you enough to make 4 cones but also leave quite a bit of chocolate mousse over, I mixed mine with praline paste and made the BEST HOMEMADE NUTELLA EVER. But that’s another post to come very soon (I hope).
All I can say is that my guest were floored. Vegan and non vegan alike.
By the way, I am definitely NOT vegan, and it’s not the point of this dessert, but it’s just one of the extra ‘brownie’ point that comes with this recipe. So there you go!