At the recent Social Dinner Club Lebanese dinner at Efendy, my foodie friend Karen introduced me to Merna Taouk from Homemade Fine Foods. Merna kindly invited me to attend a Saturday “Master the Mousse” class, held at the Tempe factory she shares with fellow artisan food producers Pierre Issa, of Pepe Saya butter fame, and the duo from Pat and Stick’s Homemade Ice-Cream Co. (You can also find there the Arabic pastries Booza and free-range stocks of The Stock Merchant).
I thought that was a great opportunity to finally learn how to make proper mousse, as all the results of my previous attempts have proved rather heavy and dense!
Two weeks later I found myself in their showroom, sipping on a glass of cider and tasting some great cheese, the perfect way to get into the right frame of mind before the class!
It was then time to wash our hands, put some disposable hairnets and coats on and enter the very cool room where all the magic happens.
We were going to make 3 different mousses that day: white chocolate, dark couverture chocolate and dark compound chocolate.
Compound chocolate has a higher melting point than couverture, as the fat content in couverture chocolate comes from cocoa butter and dairy (milk), whereas the fat content in compound chocolate comes from vegetable fats (palm oil or coconut oil).
Pierre explains that they generally use the compound chocolate, as he likes the taste better, which reminds him of Cadbury. The taste of childhood I guess!
For special orders they will use the couverture chocolate, which in this instance is at 71% cocoa content, very dark.
The Chocolate buttons are poured in large bowls and placed on top of big bain-marie boiling water pots.
Once the chocolate is melted, some water is added, which transforms the smooth chocolate into a lumpy cloggy texture. Pierre then stirs it until it becomes smooth again, in a sort of emulsifying process: the addition of water modifies the structure of the chocolate (fat) and make it easier later for the eggs yolks to be mixed in.
Students are put to work! Dozens of eggs were cracked for this recipe.
It’s time for the meringue to be added: this is a French meringue, where fine white sugar is added to the egg whites while they are being beaten (as opposed to Italian meringue, where the sugar is first cooked in water, then added to the whites, for a smoother texture).
In the meantime, cream is being whipped in a big blending machine.
But before adding the whipped cream, the chocolate mixture goes in the freezer for a few minutes to cool down.
Once it’s cooled down, Merna blends in the whipped cream and we start to see appearing the final product, a beautiful, smooth, airy mousse.
We all tasted the different mousses one after the other, and I wanted to like the dark chocolate couverture mousse better because I’m a bit of a snob, but I ended up liking the compound chocolate mousse better! The texture was smoother and lighter, the taste was sweeter, but it just hit the spot!
I was relieved to see that the darker couverture chocolate mousse was not thaaat different in texture and taste than the one I did at home, denser and less smooth than the compound one, which made me feel a bit better about my efforts.
We then proceeded to fill those big 1kg tubs, which we had previously superbly decorated with big strokes of melted chocolate, thus expressing our inner Jackson Pollock.
Merna takes out a few products from the Homemade Fine Foods range for us to taste, including her famous Panacottas, one with Vanilla and a newcomer in the range, the Raspberry one, which to me is a definite winner, very light and fresh, with a very intense and genuine raspberry flavour!
In case we were still feeling a bit peckish, Merna and Pierre fed us some more: that cute white and pink icing hid a beautifully moist chocolate cake. A very good day indeed!
Thank you Merna for inviting me, I had a great time!
Homemade Fine Foods, Pepe Saya, Pat’n Stick
Unit 4, 3 Wood Street,
TEMPE NSW 2044
Phone: (02) 9519 2793
Monday-Friday: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday: by appointment