french kiss/italian honey

This is my best and favorite dessert to make. Presentation is easy, leftovers are glorious (there is a reason this post has a breakfast tag), and it manages to combine predictable blends (cream & chocolate) with barely-there hints of more complex elements (think star anise, lemon, honey, espresso). It sounds like it could be a bit much, but the flavors are subtle enough that it isn’t. It just works. And there is so much in this world that is just a bit much that I find immense comfort in complicated things that aren’t.

sweet tart honeycream on the bottom...

French Kiss & Italian Honey Parfait

So this is a combination of two recipes – one is a heavily adapted version of Julia Child’s classic French Chocolate Mousse. I use an adaptation of David Lebovitz’s adaptation of Julia Child’s original (package of butter: $2.99. David Lebovitz’s comment that the recipe just isn’t as good when you cut down on the amount of butter: um, priceless).

The other is infinitely simpler and just as wonderful: a lemon honey cream recipe from Piano, Piano, Pieno, a cookbook I feature here allll the time because I love it so much. One of its guiding principles is that the best recipes have four ingredients or fewer, and that’s what makes this one so beautiful. See:

For the mousse, you’ll need:

6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped or in chips
6 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup espresso
4 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons water
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
(plus a handheld electric mixer unless you are as vain about your triceps as I was at 20 and prefer to whip your eggs by hand)

And for the honeycream:

1 cup cream
1/3 cup of your favorite honey
1/4 cup of lemon juice
A generous sprinkling of crushed star anise

See what I mean?

dark espresso chocolate in the middle
dark espresso chocolate in the middle

So, the steps:

The honeycream, as you may have guessed, is easy. Bring honey and cream just to boil in a small saucepan. Stir in lemon juice and remove from heat. Stir to combine. Add a little crushed star anise. Pour into containers and let cool. Chill and serve cold (it can hang out in the fridge for a day or two before serving).

The mousse, as you may have guessed, is a little more complicated.

Melt the chocolate, butter, and coffee in a double boiler situation. Stir till smooth and remove from heat.

Fill a very large bowl with ice water.

Beat the egg yolks with 2/3 cup sugar and the 2 T water for several minutes, till the mixture is thick and looks like mayonnaise.

Then place the egg yolks onto the ice water and keep beating till thick; gently mix in the chocolate mixture.

Beat the egg whites with the salt until they start to hold a shape; then whip in the tablespoon of sugar, then, a few minutes later, the vanilla. Continue to whip the eggs till they form peaks but not stiff peaks. Just gentle peaks: Appalachian peaks. Moyen Atlas, not Haute Atlas.

Then you gently stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the yolk-chocolate mixture, and then fold in the rest.

I used to hate this direction “fold.” What do you mean, “fold?” I would say to my cookbooks. The only thing harder than folding egg whites is folding fitted sheets. It’s the sort of thing you just can’t learn from a written recipe; you have to learn from watching. Which is why I love the internet, where videos like this great demonstration of folding egg whites exist like magic!

I serve these layered in champagne flutes. If the spirit moves and the fridge provides I like to top it all with a bit of whipped cream.

and whipped cream on top

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