Tuesday, February 2
Last week I traveled to Minneapolis to visit the General Mills headquarters, where I had the chance to meet with the director of sustainability at General Mills as well as participate in a small group Q&A with the president of cereal (at which point I asked waaaay too many questions). It was a great visit and I learned a lot, much of which I will share later. But today I have to tell you about the birth of Spicy Layered Chocolate Mousse Squares.
During the visit they had all the visiting food bloggers participate in a recipe challenge with Justin Warner (winner of Next Food Network Star Season 8). We had to create a recipe within 1 hour incorporating a General Mills cereal along with at least 2 items from the list of natural ingredients used for flavoring and coloring their cereals. (Over 75% of Big G cereals no longer use artificial colors or flavors and they are on track for almost 100% within the year.)
Me being all serious about the challenge that wasn’t even being judged.
I have zero desire to ever be on a competitive cooking TV show, so when they told us what we were going to be doing, I was not excited. But I put my thinking cap on and got to work. With General Mills professional cook Mary Kaye at my side (I wanted to take her home with me!), I created the dessert I’m sharing with you today. I decided to use Cocoa Puffs, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and cocoa powder.
Justin giving his stamp of approval for the chocolate mousse technique I stole from Nigella Lawson; Mary Kaye and I writing up the recipe
I ended up with a delicious layered dessert using the following layers. Layer 1: Cocoa Puffs crust with a hint of cinnamon (the crust had great flavor). Layer 2: Sweetened, whipped cream cheese. Layer 3: Chocolate mousse spiced with cayenne pepper. Layer 4: Unsweetened whipped cream, sprinkled lightly with cocoa powder and cayenne pepper. The final product tasted great, with a subtle heat that builds over time.The richness of the chocolate and the spice of the cayenne is counterbalanced by the almost sour flavor of the cream cheese, and all that creaminess goes perfectly with the crunchy crust. Plus, the layers look really pretty on the serving plate.
I made the recipe again last night just to be sure I had all the measurements where I wanted them. Once again I enjoyed it thoroughly. Nate had a chance to sample it as well and said that it is really good, but that I might have hyped it up too much. I told him it was a hit in Minnesota so whatever.
So, here you go! Spicy Layered Chocolate Mousse Squares! Maybe I should put cooking competition shows on my to-do list after all. Actually, no. Never going to happen. One hour with a helper and no judges was already too much pressure! 😉 (Side note: I totally stole the chocolate mousse technique from Nigella Lawson and it works beautifully. Click here for Nigella’s instant chocolate mousse recipe and save it to your recipe box.)
One more thing! We had the opportunity to work in the photo studio to photograph our recipes. We had a professional prop stylist, food stylists and photographers all there to help, along with more beautiful props than you can imagine. This is the first time I shot a recipe with artificial light. Until I have this set up in my house, I probably won’t do it again…but it sure was fun!
Me acting all serious again.Spicy Layered Chocolate Mousse SquaresPrep timeTotal timeAuthor: Jane MaynardServes: 16Ingredients
- 3 cups Cocoa Puffs
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 8 tablespoons butter, divided, softened to room temperature
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 pint (2 cups) heavy whipping cream
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla, divided
- 1½ cups mini marshmallows
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 tablespoons hot water
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more for dusting
- cocoa powder for dusting
- Preheat oven to 350º F.
- Place 3 cups Cocoa Puffs in a zip-top plastic bag. Using a rolling pin, crush the cereal until it is in crumbs, with no large pieces remaining. Pour crushed cereal into a medium mixing bowl.
- Add 6 tablespoons of the butter and 1 teaspoon cinnamon to the cereal, combine well with a fork or pastry blender.
- Press mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom of an 8" x 8" baking dish. If crust is sticking to your hands, wet your fingers lightly with water.
- Bake for 5-7 minutes. Remove from oven and set on counter to cool completely. While the crust is baking and cooling, make the cream cheese, chocolate mousse and whipped cream layers as described below.
- For chocolate mousse layer: In a heavy medium saucepan, melt bittersweet chocolate, 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of hot water over medium-low heat. Once melted, add the mini marshmallows and cook until marshmallows are completely melted. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
- While chocolate is cooling, in a medium mixing bowl, mix together ½ cup of the cream, ½ teaspoon of the vanilla and ¼ teaspoon of the cayenne pepper. Whip with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form.
- Fold chocolate mixture into the whipped cream, carefully mixing until there are no more white streaks.
- Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes (not longer). If you are still prepping other layers at the 30 minute mark, remove the mousse from the fridge and set aside until ready to assemble the dessert.
- For the cream cheese layer: Using a hand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, ½ cup of the cream and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. Start out at low speed until ingredients are mixed evenly together, then slowly increase speed to medium-high. Beat for about 1 minute, until very well blended. Set aside until ready to assemble dessert. Do not refrigerate before assembling - this will make it easier to spread.
- For the whipped cream layer: Beat 1 cup of the whipped cream in a large mixing bowl until thick but still spreadable. You do not want stiff peaks to form, but it should be thicker than soft peaks.
- To assemble the dessert: Once the crust is completely cooled, spread the cream cheese layer first directly on the crust, spreading evenly. Next add the chocolate mousse layer, spooning the mousse onto the cream cheese layer in several spoonfuls around the dish, then carefully spreading to all the edges. Finish with the straight whipped cream, spreading evenly on top and using a frosting spreader or knife to smooth out the top.
- To dust the dessert with cocoa and cayenne: Using a mesh sieve, over the sink spoon some cocoa powder into the sieve carefully. Hold the sieve over the dessert and tap it with a finger to sprinkle a thin layer of cocoa powder over the entire top surface. Repeat the process with cayenne pepper, making sure to sprinkle just a very light layer.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Serve cut into 16 squares.
Tuesday, May 20
I was recently hired by The Salmon Council to develop a salmon recipe. I was trying to decide between salmon tacos or salmon with a balsamic glaze and just couldn’t settle on which recipe to pursue. I took the dilemma to Facebook (as one does) and the votes overwhelmingly came in for salmon tacos, so I decided to give them a whirl!
The Salmon Council did not hire me to do a blog post, but this recipe turned out so yummy I had to share it with you! Holy smokes, folks. Deeeeeeeeeeelicious. Seriously, this salmon was flavored beautifully, with a nice balance of salty, spicy and sweet. The texture of the fish was perfect and it paired wonderfully with the slaw on the tacos. Basically just super duper yummy food going on here.
Without further ado, the recipe!