I can't believe Christmas is just four days away! It seems like it was November just a few days ago… I guess when you're working as much as I am, the days seem to blur together. My days are all very much the same - wake up, go to work for 12 hours, come home, eat something (anything, really. Instant noodles have been my dinner for the first time since, well, last Christmas), and go right to bed. Aaaaand wake up and do it all again! I used to be so excited for Christmas, it was my favourite time of the year. I would figure out gifts in October, decorate in November, listen to Christmas music all throughout December, and wrap my gifts weeks in advance.
It's December 21st and I only bought gifts last week, they're not wrapped yet, my decorations went up in mid-December, and I think I've listened to Christmas music twice. Honestly, I can't wait for Christmas to be over so I can relax and sleep! But at the same time, I still love Christmas and I really wish I could have more time to enjoy it.
I do have to count myself lucky because I have Christmas and the three days after off work, which not everyone has. I'd hate to have to work on Christmas Day, but a lot of people do. Bus drivers, taxi drivers, convenience store workers, anyone who works in a hotel, retail workers, and lots of others. My boyfriend used to work in a hotel and he would work Christmas Day because all his family lived back in England, so he had no one to spend it with anyways, which I think is the saddest thought of all! I always try to be extra nice to anyone I encounter on Christmas Day that happens to be working, because the last thing they need is someone making their day any worse.
So as much as I whine about working long hours and long weeks during the Christmas season, I digress. It could always be worse and throwing myself a pity party doesn't help at all.
What always helps, however, is a big mug of warm and rich hot chocolate. Even better with marshmallows. And better still with marshmallows and whipped cream. I decided to take that ultimate wintery pick-me-up and turn it into a cream puff. Rich dark chocolate mousse, light and creamy vanilla bean chantilly, and toasted meringue, all encompassed in a crunchy little puff. The perfect two-bite snack for a cold winters night.
Pâte à Choux
Recipe from Pierre Hermé Pastries
125 g water
125 g whole milk
5 g superfine sugar
5 g fleur de sel
110 g unsalted butter
140 g all-purpose flour
250 g eggs
Dark Chocolate Mousse
Recipe from Elements of Dessert
120 g eggs
50 g sugar
160 g good quality dark chocolate (70-73%), finely chopped
263 g heavy cream
Vanilla Bean Chantilly
100 g heavy cream
10 g icing sugar
2 g vanilla paste
75 g egg whites
112 g granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pipe out 12 to 14 choux balls about 2 1/2 inches (6.5 cm) in diameter and 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) tall, arranging them on the lined baking sheet about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. (Note: I use a 1 inch diameter demi sphere mold for my choux, freeze, then unmold onto the baking sheet). You can dust the choux with sifted cocoa powder if you wish. Place them in the oven and turn the oven off. Keep the oven off for ten minutes. Turn the oven back on to 350 F and continue baking the choux, After ten minutes, slide a wooden cooking spoon between the oven and its door to keep it partly open. Bake for another ten minutes. Transfer the choux to a wire rack to cool. Once they have cooled, use a toothpick or similar tool to create a small hole in the bottom of each puff, large enough for your smallest circular piping tip to fit through.
For the chantilly, combine the cream, icing sugar, and vanilla paste in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Whip to stiff peaks, transfer to a piping bag fitted with the smallest circular tip you have, and set in the fridge.
For the chocolate mousse, whip the heavy cream to medium peaks and set aside in the fridge.
Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and place over a hot water bath while whisking constantly until it reaches 60 C/ 140 F.
Remove the mixture from the heat and place it in the stand mixer. Whip on high speed until it cools to about 35 C/ 95 F and creates ribbons, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate over the hot water bath. Let it cool to 35 C/ 95 F.
Once both the egg mixture and the chocolate are at the correct temperatures, whisk the egg into the chocolate until evenly combined. Fold half of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remaining half. Transfer to a piping bag with a small circular tip.
To assemble, pipe a small about of chantilly into the puff through the hole in the bottom. Shake the puff so the cream sits at the bottom of the puff (you are holding it upside down as you do this, so the bottom is actually the top). Pipe in the chocolate mousse until the puff is full. Set it down, right side up, on a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining puffs. Reserve in the fridge while you make the meringue.
For the swiss meringue, whisk together the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and place over a double boiler. Whisking constantly, warm the egg whites until the mixture is no longer gritty. Immediately transfer to the stand mixer and whip on medium-high for 4 minutes, until glossy and no longer warm.
Dip the cream puff into the meringue. Shake the excess off gently and return the puff to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining puffs.
Torch the meringue using a handheld torch. Serve immediately.