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Alice Medrich takes a vintage mousse recipe and makes it a little better.
I was recently asked to make a vintage Sunset magazine recipe for hazelnut chocolate mousse (to serve 100). The occasion was a surprise 80th birthday luncheon for Sunset’s legendary former editor, Jerry DiVecchio, to be held at the magazine’s gorgeous historic headquarters and gardens in Menlo Park, CA.
I was excited. Scanning the recipe, it occurred to me that changes in our tastes and sophistication, and in the quality and availability of ingredients over 20 years, might justify a very gentle makeover—which I covertly performed. We have better, more interesting, and flavorful chocolate now. Ingredients such as crème fraîche and mascarpone are readily available and less exotic. We prefer some desserts less sweet than before and we often like a little salt to lift sweet rich flavors.
After testing the original recipe, these were some of the factors that informed my tweaks.
More: Here's how to get the skin off hazelnuts.
Gianduja—the rich and creamy Italian chocolate blended with toasted hazelnut paste—was the inspiration for the original recipe. It was a brand new taste to most Americans when the recipe was published in 1995.
Although Americans can now purchase bars of Gianduja in specialty stores or online—and I urge you to do this for your nibbling pleasure—this recipe calls for combining dark chocolate and freshly made toasted hazelnut paste instead, just as did the original Sunset recipe.
But I confess to using a darker and better quality chocolate than was called for—Guittard new 64% semisweet baking bars—and with truly fabulous results. I also assumed that mascarpone would be a better choice than good old American cream cheese in this Italian-inspired recipe. That did not turn out to be particularly true (although the mascarpone was delicious) and so, given the difference in price and availability, cream cheese it was and cream cheese it remains—but you can use mascarpone if you like!
Regardless of my small changes, the spirit of Sunset magazine and Jerry DiVecchio endures in this recipe. A delicious time was had by all.
Serves 8 to 12
1 heaping cup (170 grams) hazelnuts, toasted with most skins rubbed off, divided (see step 1 for instructions)
1/3 cup (85 grams) cream cheese (or mascarpone)
1/3 cup hazelnut liqueur (such as Frangelico)
8 ounces (225 grams) 60 to 66% chocolate, chopped
1 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup crème fraîche, cold
Photos by James Ransom