Sunday, May 18, 2008

Tortoni Al Cioccolato

This recipe serves 8

This is the uber-dessert, the King Solomon’s Mines of dessert – the mother-lode and the grail rolled up into an explosive, amazing, grin-inducing rush that makes freebasing look like campanology. This is class personified: a dessert so good that I guarantee you will make it again and again and again. And you’d better give The Fat Expat all the credit every time you do, or we’ll know and then things will get very, very messy for you. Kapisch?
First things first. It’s a brandy-laced dark chocolate mousse wrapped around a light creamy core of almondy ratafia biscuits. And it’s good. It’s not hard to make, but you need to follow da rules and give yourself a little time to do it. The good news is that you need, ideally, to make it the night before. The better news is that it freezes like a dream. The best news of all is that it’s ideal for making two bowls, freezing one and serving one, if you want to serve four. And the bestest mother of all news news is that it’s really damn good and has never, ever, failed to make guests go ‘ooOOOoooooh’ in a sort of When Harry met Sally sort of way. Which is always a nice way to end a dinner party.
Have a read through the recipe first so that you’re comfortable with it all. You’re basically whipping the biscuit in some cream and saving it, warming some chocolate and whipping some egg yolks into it to make a paste and then whipping some egg whites to fold into the chocolate mixture before pouring the chocolate around the biscuit/cream mixture. The result is a rich, heady dark chocolate mousse with a light almondy centre.
Don’t worry about using the maddest 99% cocoa chocolate: anything quality, over 40% cocoa is fine. Do try and use proper ratafia or Amarettini biscuits (about 2 packs of Amarettini) or, if you really can’t get ‘em, use crushed macaroons. You’re looking for crisp biscuits, incidentally, not the soft Amaretti Dolce.
If you’d like to avoid the alcohol, substitute the brandy with 1 tbsp Demerara sugar or date syrup dissolved in 2 tbsp water.
If you make this and become the most popular person in the world for a few moments, do email me and offer me all your worldly goods. I’ve opened an account in anticipation...
  • 350g bitter chocolate
  • 25g butter
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tbsp brandy
  • 2 tbsp strong coffee
  • 425ml whipping cream
  • 20 ratafias

Crush the biscuits lightly into chunks (not crumbs). Whip the cream carefully until it’s just firmed up enough to form peaks and then fold the biscuits into the cream, cover the whole lot with cling film and then save it in the fridge.
Separate the eggs carefully, making sure you don’t let any yolk escape into the whites. If this happens it stops the whites whipping properly and you will have to perform a complex purifying ritual and run naked around the house four times. I do ‘em one at a time into a measuring jug to catch each white then pour it into a roomy bowl, which is insurance against any broken yolks. Keep the yolks in another bowl.
Make your coffee. You can use a madly strong espresso if you’re a purist, or do a number with instant coffee – about 1 tsp of decent instant coffee to 2 tbsp of water should do the trick. It’s better with espresso.
Now break the chocolate into pieces and melt it together with the butter. You can do this in a bowl suspended over a pan of boiling water or, carefully, in a microwave. Either way, it’s important that the chocolate doesn’t boil and burn.
Get your electric whisk out and, using a largeish bowl, start to whisk the melted chocolate, adding the egg yolks one at a time, whisking it in well to combine well before popping in the next one. Once the mixture has become glossy, add the coffee and then the brandy. 
Clean and thoroughly dry the beaters of the whisk and then beat the egg whites without mercy until they’re just forming stiff peaks.
Now fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, using the biggest metal spoon you’ve got, a spoon at a time. It’s critically important that you do this with a light hand, so think beautiful thoughts about puppy dogs and romantic champagne sunset moments or whatever floats your chill-out boat as you scoop, fold and combine each new, quivering spoonful of egg white into the increasingly buoyant mixture in the bowl with a nice, steady rhythm that leaves no great lumps of egg-white in the mixture.
Now pour a third of the chocolate mixture into a high sided serving bowl, something about 20cm across by 10cm high, then add the whipped cream and ratafia mixture from the fridge. Pour the rest of the mixture around it to cover it and then return the lot, covered in film, to the fridge. You’ll need at least two hours of standing time – ideally overnight – for everything to set well. Then you can serve it, decorated with whole ratafia biscuits, cream whirls, shavings of white chocolate or perhaps a tasteful fibre-optic model of the Burj Al Arab.
An alternative, incidentally, is to make individual ramekins of tortoni. This is a neat way to serve it if you have deep individual ramekins.


halfmanhalfbeer said...

Alexander, pliz to send account details. I have had a very nice Nigerian Princess on the phone who wants to share millions of dollars with me from her late Father's account. I thought I would pass it on. I'm good like that.


ps this recipe looks fantastic...I'm going to try it this weekend.

Mars said...

me too...

Susan said...

Bloody hell, I put on two kilos just reading the recipe!! Will try it at the weekend.... no, I can't wait that long!

Elysia said...

Mmmmmmmm... makes me want to dive right in.