(The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!)

I love mousse.  If I see chocolate mousse on a dessert menu, it’s almost always what I choose.  And I like maple syrup, so I fully expected to like maple mousse.

The mousse was only half of the challenge, though.  The other half was edible bowls.  There were a few choices, but I didn’t really want to make bacon cups, so I made mine from nuts.  They’re very simple – just finely diced walnuts, an egg, and a bit of sugar, pressed into tiny bowls lined with aluminum foil.  In retrospect, greasing the inside of the foil would have been a good idea, but I didn’t think about it at the time.

Bake the bowls at 350F for 15 minutes or so until the nuts are toasty. 

Maple Mousse

I looked at them when they came out of the oven, and I wasn’t sure they were going to hold together.  I was afraid to try to unmold one, so I coated the inside of the bowls with a layer of dark chocolate, hoping it would add more stability.

It turned out they were quite solid – you could easily pick them up, even full of mousse, so I shouldn’t have worried.  But the chocolate was good anyway.

Maple Mousse

On to the mousse!  This was more complicated.  It started with blooming unflavored gelatin in heavy cream.  Then, I brought a cup of maple syrup to a boil, and very carefully and slowly dribbled it into 4 beaten egg yolks.

Then the recipe said, "Whisk occasionally for approximately an hour or until the mixture has the consistency of an unbeaten raw egg white."  I wasn’t sure the gelatin would set up on the counter to thicken it, and I wasn’t sure how occasionally to whisk – once every 5 minutes?  A few times over the hour?  So I left it on the counter while I made dinner, whisking it when I thought about it.

And in about 45 minutes, sure enough, it was exactly the consistency of a good, fresh, unbeaten egg white.  I was genuinely surprised, and I’m still not sure I understand how it worked.  But it did. 

After that, it was just a matter of whipping some cream, and carefully folding in the maple mixture.  I put it in the fridge to chill for an hour. While it was chilling, I gingerly unmolded the cups.  They were a bit stuck to the foil, but not bad, and I shouldn’t have worried about the strength – they were solid.

When the mousse was chilled, I piped it into the cups and sprinkled a few more nuts on top.

Maple Mousse

They came out gorgeous.  They would have made a great dinner party dessert – except that I didn’t like the mousse.  The maple flavor was way too strong, and I thought it was almost cloying.  On the other hand, I loved the process, and I may do them again, with a different recipe – say, a good peanut butter mousse, with a peanut cup with the chocolate layer? 

As always, a fun challenge!

( see the recipe )

We had a dinner invitation, and I was bringing dessert.  I meandered through the recipe database – I wanted something better then cookies, transportable, sort-of fall-ish, not terribly rich, and preferably something I hadn’t made before.  This was the first recipe that caught my eye.

Before I bookmarked this, I’d never heard of a Verrine.  The Internet tells me that they come in savory and sweet, and they only requirement seems to be that they are “layered artfully in a glass”. 

This one has 4 layers – a maple jello on the bottom, a maple whipped cream, a layer of maple-glazed apples, and a layer of crisp on top. 

Each one was simple enough.  The jello was made by letting some unflavored gelatin bloom, then adding it to a boiling maple syrup and water mixture.

The whipped cream was a standard whipped cream, with the addition of a bit of maple syrup and some sour cream.  The sour cream added a tiny bit of bite, and kept the whole thing from being too sweet.

The apples get tossed in a pan with the maple syrup, and cooked just a bit.  I don’t like really soft apples, so I started with firm apples and only cooked them enough to get them glazed.  I didn’t want them crunchy, but I didn’t want applesauce either.

The crisp is just like every other crisp – some butter, flour and brown sugar in a food processor until it gets to the right consistency, then gets baked.

I was worried about transporting the finished glasses, so I made the jello in the glasses, but then I put the apples, whipped cream, and crisp in separate bowls and let people assemble them on the fly.

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They were quite a hit. I was worried that they’d come out too sweet, but they weren’t.  The maple jello was an interesting texture with the apples and the crisp.  It really did taste like maple, without being cloying. 

Definitely going on my “make-again” list.  They’d make a nice, light, post-Thanksgiving dessert if you were looking for an apple-pie alternative – just don’t tell anyone that the recipe is originally Canadian!

( see the recipe )

It’s starting to feel like fall. I can walk from the back door to the garage without dying of heat exhaustion, and I’m starting to think that in another month I could turn off the AC and open the windows. 

It’s time to put away the lemon recipes for the winter, and switch to something more autumnal.  It’s still too early for really good apples, so the apple cobbler will have to wait another month.

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Instead, I found this great post from 17 and baking – maple pot de crème.  I love pot de crème recipes – I have an excellent chocolate one, but I’ve also seen caramel, coffee, and citrus versions. 

I’ve never seen a really complicated recipe for a pot de crème.  They’re all basic custards – warm up the milk, temper it into the eggs, put the eggs back into the milk mixture, strain, and bake.

This was no exception.  I doubled it, because I don’t have 4 matching pretty cups for them (did you know they had special dishes?  there’s a history of the here). I have a lot of ramekins, but they’re two different styles, and because they’re different heights, each type needs it’s own baking pan.  Instead, I made it in my stoneware French Onion Soup bowls – a double recipe made 4 big dishes full, plus the leftovers in a small ramekin in the middle.

I always put a dishtowel in the bottom of the baking pan, because it seems pointless to carefully meter the heat on the sides with water, but expose the bottom of the bowls to direct heat.  So the towel went in, the filled ramekins went on top, then it went in the oven and got filled halfway up with water. 

Then they baked for an hour.  I let them sit in the water on top of the stove for another 15 minutes or so, then put them in the fridge to chill. 

Maple Pot de Creme

I’d like to say that the big bowls were a mistake, because it’s an enormously rich dessert, but I managed to finish an entire bowl myself, so maybe they were just right.  The maple really stands out, although if I was going to do them for a dinner party, I might decorate them with a tiny dollop of maple whipped cream, with a maple sugar candy balanced on top…

( see the recipe )