June 17, 2013

Recipe: Vegan Chocolate Mousse with Smoked Salt

Let's cut to the chase. This chocolate mousse is a no-nonsense, slap-you-in-the-face, decadent dessert. I know some people prefer their mousse all whipped and airy, but I much prefer a denser, silky texture with a concentrated chocolate flavor. This is a mousse that knocks your chocolate cravings dead in just a few bites.

The recipe is wonderfully simple - 10 minutes and you're done - but the result is spectacular thanks to one ingredient: smoked salt. Sprinkling shards of campfire-scented salt over the top of the mousse creates the sweet-and-salty combination that we all know and love, but also adds a surprising element of umami to the dessert. And while I think another finishing salt (grey salt, for example) would be delicious too, that smoke-fueled hit of indescribable umami really makes the mousse special.

Smoked salt is becoming more common - Whole Foods and World Market have inexpensive options, and I've seen smoked salt in run-of-the-mill grocery stores as well. You can also check out local specialty food shops, co-ops, and farmers' markets for a plethora of flavored salts. If possible, smell the salt before you purchase it. The smoked scent should be really, really intense - like you just stuck your nose into the middle of a campfire or a pan of bacon. I was lucky enough to stumble onto the Applewood Smoked Salt from Rockridge Orchards (a local farm at our farmers' market), and it is AMAZING. If you're in the Seattle area, I highly recommend picking up a jar the next time you're at the U-District Farmers' Market.

Vegan Chocolate Mousse with Smoked Salt
adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World
serves 12

Note: The mousse comes together in all of 10 minutes, but you'll want to chill it for at least an hour before serving, so plan accordingly. 

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (one standard bag o' chips)
14 ounces soft tofu (one water-packed container)
2 tablespoons plain non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons agave nectar
2 teaspoons hazelnut extract (may substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla if you prefer)
high-quality smoked salt (I use Applewood Smoked Salt from Rockridge Farms)

In a food processor or blender, puree the tofu, milk, agave nectar, and extract until completely smooth, scraping down the sides a few times as necessary. Set aside and turn your attention to all that delicious chocolate. To melt the chocolate, you have a few options: a traditional double boiler, a DIY double boiler, or a microwave. All three techniques will give you silky smooth melted chocolate in just a few minutes, so check out the video links and choose the best option for your kitchen set-up. Once melted, remove chocolate from heat and cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the 5 minutes is up, pour chocolate into the tofu mixture and puree until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed to create a uniform chocolate mousse. Portion the mousse into 12 small custard cups/glasses/ramekins - I find that a container around 2-4 ounces in size is just about right. At this point, you may think that the portions are far too tiny, but fear not - this mousse is crazy rich and will satisfy the most passionate of chocolate-lovers in a few perfect bites. Transfer mousse to refrigerator and chill for at least 1 hour. When ready to serve, sprinkle top of mousse with a couple pinches of smoked salt per portion. Enjoy!

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