I should have known better than to sing the praises of the gorgeous spring weather we’ve been having! Today was cold and rainy. Absolutely miserable. But not snow at least, with apologies to my friends west of me. With rain at least I can tell myself that
April early May showers bring May flowers and just accept that I will spend the day inside working.
Cold and drizzly or sunny and warm, has anyone else noticed how incredibly wonderful the strawberries have been this spring? Quite sweet with a pleasing edge of tart, and just plain strong (I hate weak berries that taste like they have sat in a container for weeks), these are the kind of strawberries you don’t need to find a use for, you can just eat them straight out of the box. By the handfuls.
Happily for all of us, the Chocolate Party theme this month is strawberries and chocolate, and it is a great year to be inspired to create delicious desserts with strawberries. Now to tell the truth, I was flummoxed a bit at first because as you may have heard me mention I actually dislike fruit and chocolate. But as soon as I confirmed that white chocolate counted, I knew finding a dessert would be easy. I am not a huge fan of straight white chocolate, but it cannot be beat for combining with acidic fruit flavors, as they brighten and sharpen white chocolate’s unctuous sweetness.
The inspiration for this dish struck after tasting the Ah Love Oil & Vinegar Strawberry Vinegar and realizing just how rich and sweet it was. And by the way, I swear I am not on their payroll! But I have just found their vinegars in particular to be super inspiring when brainstorming recipes lately. And I knew that fresh strawberries would be fantastic with white chocolate mousse, but I could not get rid of the idea that their strawberry balsamic vinegar might elevate the dish into something really special.
The verdict? John and I loved it. Sammy really liked it. Alex did not at all, although amusingly I think it was more the white chocolate that bothered her than the balsamic. If you cannot get a good syrupy infused balsamic vinegar, I would buy a decent but inexpensive balsamic and reduce it with dried strawberries in it. Then strain and use. Another option would be to use a strawberry lemon syrup, made similarly, only with the addition of sugar.
- 9 oz white chocolate finely chopped (use a good quality chocolate; it should have cocoa butter in it)
- 4 T water
- 2 T vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 t vanilla bean paste or scrape seeds out of a vanilla bean
- 1 lb strawberries half of them sliced
- white chocolate mousse
- strawberry infused balsamic vinegar
For the mousse: Place the chocolate, vanilla extract and water in a heat proof bowl. Either melt over a double boiler or in the microwave at 30% power for 3 minutes. Stir until completely melted and smooth. Stir in the vanilla bean paste (or seeds) and set aside to cool. The chocolate must cool to about 85 F (Medrich notes a small dab on the lip should feel cool; I used a thermometer)–do not let it cool lower than 85 F as the mousse will end up grainy. When the mousse is getting close to 85 F, it is time to fix the cream.
Whip the cream in a medium bowl “only until it is thickened and barely beginning to hold a shape–when you tilt the bowl it should flow to one side, fluffy but still pourable…”–I have quoted Medrich here as she emphasizes that you will think the cream is not whipped enough but it is and she is right. It should barely be whipped.
Scrape the cream into the 85 F bowl of chocolate and quickly but gently fold the 2 together until they are completely blended. The mousse should seem too soft–it still needs to chill. Place it into the fridge to chill for 1 hour.
To assemble: Remove the mousse and divide half of it between 4 individual glasses. Shake gently to level it. Divide the sliced strawberries between the glasses, layering them on top of the mousse. Divide the remaining mousse over the strawberry slices. Chill until set, about 30-45 minutes more.
Garnish with strawberries. Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar.