There was a chocolate crisis in the house this morning. The pot of amazing chocolate & hazelnut cream I brought back from Baratti & Milano in Turin was empty.
A spatula was found and the last scrapings recovered before the pot was thrown away. Now, you might say, why don’t you just go and buy a pot of Nutella. And yes, Nutella also comes from Piedmont and is a chocolate and hazelnut spread. But I have to tell you, it’s not the same. The pot of chocolate cream I bought at Baratti & Milano was exceptional; it was wonderful. It’s almost worth a trip back to Turin just to get some more! But thinking Turin – and chocolate, of course! – I remembered a delicious dessert I’d had at Cianci Piola Caffe on the Sunday I was there.
It was so simple – a layer of crushed amaretti biscuits at the bottom, a layer of peach puree, topped with chocolate mousse – that I thought I should definitely make it back home. Today seemed the ideal day to make it. It might soothe our Turin chocolate cream withdrawal symptoms!
I knew there wasn’t much chance of finding nice ripe peaches today, so I decided to use pears instead – pears and chocolate are a classic combination. And because they weren’t ripe enough to be crushed into a puree, I decided to cook them in a sugar syrup first.
Chocolate, Pear & Amaretti Dessert
- 3 pears
- 2 dessertspoons granulated or caster sugar
- Amaretti biscuits
For the chocolate mousse:
- 4 oz good quality (at least 70%) dark chocolate
- ½ oz butter
- 4 eggs
First of all, prepare the pears. Peel them, cut into 4 lengthwise and take out any core. Now make a sugar syrup by putting the sugar and about ¼ pint (150ml) water in the bottom of a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then allow to bubble for a couple of minutes so it starts to get a bit syrupy, before carefully adding the pear pieces. (I say carefully because you don’t want the syrup to splash up and burn you.) Let it all simmer away for 5-10 minutes, according to the ripeness of your pears, until they’re soft all the way through when tested with a small sharp knife. Drain them in a sieve. Transfer to a bowl and chop into small pieces.
Now make the chocolate mousse. I used a very old recipe, one I used to make a lot, from my copy of Katie Stewart’s Calendar Cookbook (once my cooking bible), published in 1976. Hence the Imperial measurements! But really, a basic, classic chocolate mousse recipe isn’t one that need change. Not when it’s so good!
Put the chocolate in a small bowl over a pan of simmering water – don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted. Then add the butter and blend well. Separate the eggs and add the yolks to the chocolate and mix well (it does get quite thick, but don’t worry). Remove from the heat.
Now beat the egg whites until stiff, then add them to the chocolate, a spoonful at a time, folding in carefully so the end mixture is light and airy.
Put about 8 Amaretti biscuits in a small freezer bag and crush with a rolling pin. Spoon some into the bottom of each of 4 dessert glasses. Top with some of the pear.
Now top the pear with the chocolate mousse. I had more mousse than I needed so I made another 2 small bowls of just chocolate mousse.
What a success! We all loved it. It’s a great chocolate mousse recipe – incredibly light but full of dark chocolatey flavour; truly gorgeous. But when you take your spoon down into the bottom of the glass and capture some of the pear and amaretti too … well, that is something else again. The flavours not only match each other perfectly but together, add such a lot to the overall taste. I think there may be a fight over the one remaining dessert tomorrow … watch this space!