To the best of my knowledge, I have no food allergies (not yet anyway), but I have several friends who do. I like to have some recipes on hand that I can prepare to bring to our various potluck gatherings (some just for the food sharing, some where we also write or create art together). This dairy-free one has been a big hit, not only at a Beach Writers get-together and at the WomanWords 2011 Creativity Retreat this summer, but also on the home front. It’s obviously gluten-free as well, which really works for my groups since I count five women within various circles who either have a celiac diagnosis or a wheat intolerance. The bonus here is that it’s easy to make, involves no cooking and it can be enhanced with whipped cream or Cool Whip to add yumminess and a pretty “finish.” Yummy is a priority with me – how does that song go? Yummy, yummy, yummy, I got love in my tummy… When we cook for friends and family, we’re brewing love for their tummies.
I found this recipe a few years ago in Mollie Katzen’s award-winning Vegetable Heaven (Hyperion, 1997), a beautifully put-together cookbook with artsy illustrations (not photos). While a chocolate and banana combo seemed award-winning in itself to me, I was a little hesitant about one of the ingredients: tofu. I am not a big fan of tofu, even though I know it takes on the flavors of whatever you’re cooking. This is probably due to a few bad experiences with terrible concoctions offered by well-meaning hosts, usually involving chunks of the stuff fried in oil or vegan margarine with crunchy vegetables but just-plain-wrong spices, herbs or other flavorings. The other ingredients in Katzen’s recipe, however, won me over. I decided to try it—adding my own little twists.
I made the mousse for last night’s suppertime dessert since, originally, our daughter Kristen was supposed to come for dinner. While that got re-scheduled for tonight, I still pulled it together and Bill brought a serving over to her apartment while she was at work, along with some homemade cream of broccoli soup (will post that recipe this coming week). Later, she called to thank me while the soup was heating up. A chocoholic, she was especially looking forward to dessert.
Notes on my changes to Katzen’s version:
- The original recipe calls for ¾ to 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, which I’ve done before. Last eve’s rendition used bittersweet chocolate chips and I’ve also done mixtures of chips including dark chocolate. While they’re all delicious, I think using half semi-sweet and half dark is my favorite. I always go for the full cup of the chips. Molly Katzen says, “The chocolate flavor is very deep when you make this with ¾ cup chocolate chips, and downright intense if you add the full cup.” Why just go deep when you can get to intense?
- Katzen’s recipe does not include cinnamon. I always throw in the cinnamon. Sometimes even a pinch of nutmeg. I now add cinnamon or nutmeg or both to an amazing number of foods, especially since I discovered Saigon Cinnamon (and then, even more intense, Roasted Saigon Cinnamon). I do, however, often first check my volume of The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg (Little, Brown & Company, 2008), a handy reference book to have around when you want to determine just what flavors are known to enhance whatever you happen to be cooking.
- The original recipe calls for a 12-ounce box of silken tofu, soft variety. Bill picked up the tofu for me, but it was the firm version. It worked fine, especially since I used the whole 16 oz. package (what was I going to do with leftover tofu?). After all, I was taking the 1 cup rather than ¾ cup route on the chocolate so I figured it would work out. My assumption was correct, although in retrospect I think I could’ve safely added even another ¼ cup of the melted chips (stayin’ intense!).
- I substituted 1 teaspoon of Princess Cake & Cookie Bakery Emulsion for the 1 teaspoon of vanilla tonight. I’ve also used powdered vanilla (gourmet Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla bought at a local upscale kitchen goods store). It all works out great. I found the Bakery Emulsion one day last winter when Bill and I were in Schenectady on Upper Union Street. While he got a haircut down the street, I investigated a shop I hadn’t known existed before, a new little place called Bel Cibo Fine Foods. The owner and I had a great chat about spices and food. Besides the emulsion I came home with a few other items, including a spice I haven’t been able to find in recent years in largescale supermarkets: mace! At Bel Cibo, their spices are weighed and “packaged” in small metal tins for you– ultra fresh! Someday I’d like to do one of the “spice parties” they can set up for small groups. Sounds like fun.
So here’s my version of a basic recipe for one of the best and easiest-to-make chocolate mousses I’ve ever tasted.
EASY CHOCOLATE-BANANA MOUSSE
– 1 cup chocolate chips (½ cup semi-sweet and ½ cup dark chocolate is my favorite combo)
– 1 12-ounce box silken tofu (soft variety, but firm also works)
– 2 large ripe bananas, cut into chucks
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or Princess Cake & Cookie Bakery Emulsion, if you like)
– 2 to 3 teaspoons light brown sugar (cater amount to your own taste)
– ¼ teaspoon salt
– 1 teaspoon raspberry vinegar
– ½ to 1 teaspoon cinnamon (preferably Saigon Cinnamon or Roasted Saigon Cinnamon (optional)
– pinch of nutmeg (optional)
- Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or in the microwave (low power, checking every 30 seconds).
- Place tofu and one handful of bananas in a blender. Purée.
- Gradually add the rest of the banana, vanilla (or bakery emulsion), brown sugar, salt, vinegar and cinnamon to mixture (pinch of nutmeg too, if using), blending between additions, ensuring it whips to a smooth texture.
- Pour melted chocolate into the mix (doesn’t have to be cooled) – get every last bit of it into it! Purée one more time. Taste to adjust sugar.
- Transfer to a large bowl or individual serving dishes. Cover tightly with plastic wrap.
- Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Keeps well for several days in airtight container in refrigerator.