Vanilla, Salted Caramel, and Chocolate Mousse Verrines

Here’s a riddle for you: What tastes good, looks good, can be made in individual servings, can stand at room temperature for three hours, is cost-efficient, and is easy to make?

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It’s Vanilla, Chocolate and Salted Caramel Mousse, duh!
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That riddle was actually the list of criteria for Penn Gastronomy Club’s Dessert Showdown, which was co-sponsored by a local food truck, Sugar Philly.  When I saw the ad, I knew I had to do it, even though my weekend was packed with homework, meetings, and a visit to my suitemate’s town for her birthday celebration (happy birthday Katie!).
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My first instinct was to make milk chocolate crème brulee, since it’s super easy, and deliciously creamy. Good thing I checked out Sugar Philly’s website—not only do they have Vanilla Crème Brulee, but they also serve Panna Cotta, which is up the same alley.
Instead of making crème brulee, I decided to use a recipe from Tartelette (noticed a pattern yet?), since she consistently produces beautiful simple desserts. I’m personally a fan of wacky flavors and textures, but I wanted to go with something simple and pretty much universal. Some might not want kiwi or pistachio or garlic in their desserts, but who doesn’t love vanilla, chocolate, and caramel?
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The three layers in this mousse make it visually interesting, and it’s easy to make because the chocolate and caramel mousse are made with the vanilla as a base. All you have to do is make a vanilla mouse, divide it in thirds, and add melted chocolate and caramel to a third each.
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Unfortunately I had a little trouble with the vanilla mousse. Just as the milk was heating, I realized I had forgotten about blooming the gelatin, so I accidentally let the milk come to a rapid boil and start foaming. I also decided to use an electric beater to whisk the eggs instead of whisking by hand like I usually do. As a result, some of my eggs scrambled. Just a tiny bit. And, being in a dorm kitchen, I didn’t have a sieve. So I did my best to get rid of the foam, and ended up with a pretty thick, not 100% perfectly creamy mouse. I don’t think anyone else would have noticed, but I knew, and it bugs me when I know.
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I also planned to make nougatine tuiles as decoration, but that was a complete disaster. I’m not sure what happened, but it seemed to me that the ratio of sugar to almonds in the recipe was completely off. On the bright side, the disaster left us with a delicious almond granola that was great on fruit or oatmeal for breakfast. I even sprinkled some on my chocolate pudding for dessert.
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Despite these glitches, I was pretty satisfied with the finished product, especially the chocolate decorations I made. I realized a little too late that I didn’t have waxed paper to pipe the chocolate, so I cut some shiny advertisement pages out of Glamour magazine, and it worked perfectly. (Just don’t tell the baking police)
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Look how pretty they are!
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The contest was a lot of fun. I didn’t win, but I got to taste a lot of delicious desserts and talk to a bunch of people who love to bake [almost] as much as I do. Plus, my mousse is the second picture down on the Penn Gastronomy Club website!
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