The Chocolate Tower
Have you ever been channel surfing and found a TV show, no matter how long ago it originally aired, that had your rapt attention?
Last week, it was a winning trifecta for me: A 1995 episode of “In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs” featuring Phoenix Chef Christopher Gross and his Chocolate Tower: Parnassienne of Chocolate Mousse.
Julia Child invited some of the most well-known and respected chefs in the world into her kitchen, watching and learning from these practiced chefs, gathering ideas from what they demonstrated, and adapting their recipes for home cooks. These master chefs took pride in teaching real, basic techniques us everyday cooks could successfully use in our kitchens.
That’s really the hallmark of master chefs and luckily for us, you can cook and learn from our city’s finest in their Flying Aprons Tucson classes.
Chef Christopher was one of Arizona’s first celebrity chefs, scoring his James Beard Award in the mid-’90s for his seasonal, French-influenced cuisine. For years, his self-titled Christopher’s restaurants, first at 24th Street and Camelback Road, then within Biltmore Fashion Park, drew adoring diners like me. In 2018, he closed his Biltmore restaurant – Christopher’s and Crush Lounge – and became executive chef at the Wrigley Mansion, an iconic property known more for its views than its food.
About three years in the making, Christopher’s at Wrigley Mansion is now open and features an eight-course tasting menu on Friday and Saturday nights, Christopher’s Classics Tuesday-Thursday nights, a prix fixe Bistro Lunch Tuesdays-Fridays, and the Chef’s Counter with a front-row seat to the kitchen action.
Alas, the tower isn’t currently on the menu. Try your hand at making this impressive and really not that hard to make dessert. Snap a photo and send me your results.
News & Notes
The 3rd Annual Sonoran Restaurant Week kicks off Sept. 10 and runs through Sept. 19 with 50 restaurants offering $25 or $35 prix fixe menus.
Tucson Knife Fight is in full swing with week 3 of 7 in the books. Check out the Monday night fun and rub elbows with lots of chefs in the crowd supporting their friends. Check out the Facebook page for locations and chef details.
TallBoys and La Cocina are reopening this month in the former Dusty Monk Pub location at Old Town Artisans, 201 N. Court Ave.
The Coronet, 198 W. Cushing St., is reopening Thursday and will be open Thursdays-Mondays from 5-9 p.m. with Executive Chef Tanner Fleming. Their daytime café, Meyer Avenue, debuts Sept. 20 and Nightjar, the new bar, opens Oct. 14.
Chef Brian Smith and his team are back when Maynards, 400 N. Toole Ave., reopened Aug. 27. Chef Brian’s focus is local produce with global techniques. Hours are Wednesday-Sunday from 4-9 p.m.
Wishing you joy in the kitchen,
The Chocolate Tower Mousse
5 ½ oz. semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced
¼ cup heavy cream
1 ¼ cups egg whites, about 10 large eggs
4 tablespoons superfine sugar
1. Pour two inches of water into a saucepan and bring to a slow simmer. Set a stainless steel bowl on top of the pan and add the chocolate and butter. Stir occasionally as the chocolate melts; when smooth and lump-free, about 5 minutes, remove and cool to room temperature.
2. Pour cream into a stainless steel bowl set over ice and water. Beat by hand or with a portable beater, whipping in as much air as possible, until stiff peaks form.
3. Beat egg whites to the soft peak stage; whip in 2 tablespoons of sugar; continue beating to stiff peaks form, gradually adding the reminder of the sugar.
4. Whisk a quarter of the egg whites into the cooled chocolate, then gradually add the rest. Fold in the cream quickly, deflating as little as possible.
5. Cut 8 pieces of parchment paper into a rectangle 3 ½ inches wide by 5 inches long. Form into a cylinder approximately 5 inches tall and 1-½ inches in diameter. Close the side with a piece of tape and make sure it stands up straight. Repeat to form 8 cylinders.
6. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse and pipe into the tubes, leaving a ½-inch space at the top. Drape the tops of the cylinders with a sheet of plastic and place in the freezer until frozen solid, approximately 1 hour.
3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, cut into pieces
6 oz. white chocolate, cut into pieces
1. For decorating the towers, cut 8 5-inch squares out of parchment paper.
2. Melt semi-sweet chocolate over low heat.
3. Fill a decorating cone with some of the dark chocolate and drizzle free-form diagonal lines no more than ¼-inch apart in a lattice pattern across each parchment square. When each square is done, lay flat on a baking sheet.
4. When finished, put the sheets in the freezer until the chocolate is set, about 5 minutes. Reserve the remaining melted chocolate.
5. Melt white chocolate over low heat.
6. Remove 1 dark chocolate lattice square from the freezer. With an offset spatula, spread 2-3 tablespoons of white chocolate in a very thin layer on top of the lattice, leaving a 1-inch strip uncoated at one side. Scrape off any excess chocolate.
7. Unwrap 1 frozen mousse tower and lay it on top of the white chocolate, parallel to and opposite the uncoated strip. Quickly wrap the parchment around the mousse, handling as little as possible and being careful to leave the uncoated flap overlapping.
8. Immediately after wrapping in parchment, return each finished tower to the freezer. Repeat steps 6 to 8 until you’ve latticed all the mousse towers.
9. The papers may be peeled off after 5 minutes in the freezer; the chocolate lattice will remain in place around the mousse.
10. Let the mousse defrost in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.
1 ½ cups half-and-half
½ fragrant vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
⅔ cup granulated sugar
1 cup Illy espresso coffee beans (2 oz.)
1. Heat half-and-half with the vanilla bean, when almost at a simmer remove from the heat and cover the pan.
2. Meanwhile, start beating the egg yolks with a handheld mixer in the pan until thick and lemon-colored.
3. Gradually beat in the sugar, then slowly blend in ¼ cup of hot cream to warm the yolks. Blend slowly to minimize air bubbles.
4. Remove the vanilla bean from the remaining cream and blend the cream into the yolk mixture.
5. Pour in the espresso beans and set over low heat, stirring slowly and constantly until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.
6. Strain through the fine mesh sieve into a bowl and let cool. Serve warm, tepid or chilled.
7. Plate the chocolate tower plain or with fruit of your choosing. Then drizzle the espresso sauce over the components as desired.
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