Friday, June 16, 2006

Chocolate Pudding de Moda 2006

It is a known fact that there are trends in food just like in fashion. Culinary fashionistas may look upon Tiramisu now with the same distaste as we do a pair of stone-washed jeans.

Although I never cared much for this pudding, it is a perfectly respectable one and has been around much longer than those "of the moment" restaurants that served them in the early 90s. Chocolate mousse is another example; I remember ordering it when I was a young girl decades ago, and where would you find it now? Restaurants are the culprits when it comes turning good food into cliché.

The chocolate pudding de moda 2006 in Buenos Aires seems to be Chocolate Fondant. I would find it in a French bistro as fondant du chocolat, another would name it volcan de chocolate, others choose to call it torta tibia de chocolate (warm chocolate cake). No self-respecting restaurant de moda would dream of not serving it. I think they see the pudding as a mark that they are not a "family restaurant" where diners would only ever find unpretentious looking budin de pan (bread pudding) and flan, both served with lashings of cream and dulce de leche. Sometimes I actually prefer such restaurants where you dine in bright light and eat off Formica table top, at least you get some good honest grub.

While these little cakes, with a molten centre, have managed to sneak onto most menus across the fashionable dining neighbourhood of Palermo Hollywood and beyond, few are remarkable. This cake contains none or very little flour, it relies on the quality of chocolate to make it outstanding.

Argentine chocolates are made to suit the local preference for sweetness. Very few care about the cocoa content of their brown slabs; most are very sweet and milky. Even chocolate amargo (bitter chocolate) with 60% cocoa solids tastes more of sugar than the smoky lusciousness found in a bar of Green & Black's or Valrhona of the same cocoa content; comparing them is comparing apples to oranges.

Needless to say, procuring quality chocolates to make the cake is out of the question for most restaurants here for two reasons: firstly, with the exception of Lindt, good chocolates like Valrhona is priced out of the BA market; secondly, profit margin. On this particular point, I did wonder with the price they charged, if they were being very greedy. My suspicion was later confirmed when I attempted making it, using local ingredients.

I first made these dark gems, at home in Buenos Aires, with Aguila Extra Fino (60%) - a local dark chocolate because I refused to buy overpriced Lindt.
I trusted the famous Daniel Boulud of New York to guide me to chocolate nirvana, and he did. All I did differently was halved the sugar specified in his recipe.

Of course, had I use Valrhona as suggested by Monsr. Boulud, the pudding would have been even more wonderful but it was espectacular enough. And after I have found the Salgado line of 70% cocoa solid, single origin dark chocolate, the rest is history.
I didn't use fancy imported ingredients and I am not a trained chef; the success of my pudding only made Guillermo and I more determined to avoid the hyped up eateries in this town. So, to all the fashionable joints out there serving the latest culinary inventions, I say this: long live chocolate mousse!!

This is a wonderful recipe for an intensely chocolaty mousse and it is mooless! There is not one drop of milk or cream in it. This one is for you, Karina.

The mousse is based on a water ganache, using water instead of cream. I have experimented with great success, using Earl Grey, peppermint, etc. The key is the water should be hot. Melted chocolate cannot come into contact with cold water, not even a drop. It will cause the chocolate to "seize" - turning it into a solid, grainy mass which is unusable. On the other hand, heat releases the fragrance in chocolate.

200g dark chocolate
120ml hot water
3 eggs
40g caster sugar

Melt chocolate with hot water. Stir well. Add egg yolks and stir again. Whisk egg whites then add sugar, continue whisking until glossy. Beat 1 tbsp of egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen it and then carefully fold in the rest. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

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