Sunday, March 9, 2008

Olive oil, chocolate and sea salt. Who knew?

Yes, I'm on an olive oil kick. Olive oil in desserts, that is. A while back, I was intrigued by a recipe I spotted on delicious: days for a chocolate mousse with olive oil. I had the recipe lingering around for months until I got a hold of some good quality chocolates this weekend - a Valrhona bittersweet. Midway into the making of this mousse, I felt like it needed a little kick. But what? Chili? Green tea? Cinnamon? I did a little digging around and discovered that this was a typical dessert in Spain, finished off with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. Sea salt! Could this dessert be any more intriguing?

As funky as the combination sounds, it's nothing new to the Spaniards who have enjoyed this joyful marriage of flavors for decades. According to Chowhound:
This thrilling DalĂ­-esque marriage of flavors—dark chocolate and fruity olive oil, with a strange and wonderful accent of salt—seems to spell out nueva cocina. But actually, Catalan chocolate–olive oil desserts go back further in time. As historians have told me, after World War II, when luxury ingredients such as chocolate were strictly rationed, Catalans would melt a piece of chocolate, spread it on toast, and sprinkle olive oil and a bit of salt on top for a sweet-savory treat. Avant-garde chefs took the idea and ran with it.

After I composed the various parts (no baking is required), I took a little spoonful, sprinkled it with a little sea salt and... the sky opened up, angels came down from heaven, and I heard the singing of halleluja. Well, almost. It was 2:00 a.m. and I was feeling a little loopy as it is, so these flavors felt like a revelation. Not too sweet, with a hint of the olive oil, and the perfect touch of light flakes of sea salt. It's just so good. Now, if only I could get the texture to behave...

Recipe: Chocolate mousse with olive oil and flaky sea salt
Adapted from delicious: days

Ingredients (serves 4 to 6):
200g good-quality dark chocolate such as Valrhona or Callebaut
1/2 cup olive oil, preferably a fruity, peppery one

3 large egg yolks
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar, divided*
200ml heavy cream
Fleur de sel or other flaky sea salt

Slowly melt the chopped chocolate in a bain-marie (double-boiler) while continuously
stirring. Add the olive oil until evenly combined. Put aside and let cool slightly.

Beat the egg yolks and 1/4 cup of the sugar until the cream turns pale and thick.

In a separate bowl beat the egg whites and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until stiff (holds stiff glistening peaks).

In another bowl whip heavy cream until stiff.

Transfer chocolate/olive oil mix to a large bowl and carefully fold in one after another: start with the creamy egg yolks, then the stiff egg whites and lastly the whipped cream. Fill in nice serving bowls, sprinkle with the smallest pinch of salt, cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

*Note: I just assumed this was regular granulated sugar, so that's what I used, but most other recipes I saw called for confectioner's sugar. I will give this a try next time as it would probably would create a lighter, smoother texture.