Make the caramel sauce first. You can do this up to a month ahead of time and keep refrigerated until ready to use. Combine in a small heavy saucepan:
1/4 cup water...
As a teenager, I had very strong opinions about most everything. I'm not even speaking politically or socially--everything I did or ate or spoke came from the deepest recesses of my being. As many teenagers are, I was uncompromising and often harsh about these opinions, preferring to start a fight rather than try to find middle ground. I thought myself very principled and just in doing so.
As I've aged, however, looking back at the many things I dismissed outright for not being a part of my worldview, I realize now that I was severely limiting myself, and thus, my enjoyment of life. There is a fullness to things, a depth and richness and complexity, that I could not or perhaps would not see.
For instance, white chocolate. For years, I've maintained that white chocolate is but a pale, waxy apparition compared to dark chocolate. In fact, I would have gone so far as to say that white chocolate is completely unnecessary and inferior. Thankfully, I have been able to expand my mind since then and have, as a result, sampled some truly memorable white chocolates.
The key to enjoying white chocolate when you're a dark chocolate fan is to think of it not as "chocolate" but as something entirely different. It's not a watered down version of chocolate, and it's not missing anything: it's just a horse of a different color.
And thus, a white chocolate dessert to change your mind (if your mind needs changing) or just to enjoy (if you happen to really like white chocolate anyway). It could be a really wonderful dessert for Valentine's Day if you like, or you could just enjoy it without even thinking about the greeting-card-box-o'-chocolates-stuffed-animal holiday just around the corner.
We served our chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis--a very simple, uncooked dessert sauce made by puréeing fresh or thawed frozen fruit with just a touch of sugar and lemon juice--but this mousse would be similarly delicious with a mango, blackberry, or strawberry coulis. You may also want to think about substituting a different type of nut for the toasted almonds--pistachios would make a colorful and decadent addition, and macadamia nuts or cashews would certainly not be out of place.
Chop very finely, then set aside:
1/3 cup slivered blanched almonds, toasted
1 to 2 ounces white chocolate
Measure into a small bowl:
3 tablespoons cold water
Sprinkle over the top:
3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
Let stand 5 minutes. Very finely chop with a sharp knife or pulverize to a crumblike consistency in a food processor:
8 ounces white chocolate
If chopped, turn the chocolate into a bowl; if processed, leave in the work bowl of the machine. Bring to a rolling boil in a small saucepan:
1/2 cup heavy cream
Remove from the heat, add the softened gelatin, and stir for 30 seconds to dissolve. Immediately pour this mixture over the chocolate and whisk or process just until smooth. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate until the gelatin is the consistency of unbeaten egg whites.
Beat until stiff enough to hold a firm shape on a spoon:
1 cup cold heavy cream
Fold the cream into the white chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the almond mixture. Spoon into stemmed glasses or ramekins and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. If you wish, garnish with:
(1 to 2 ounces white chocolate, grated)
and serve with:
Fresh Raspberry Sauce (see recipe below)
Fresh Raspberry Sauce (Coulis)
Makes about 1 cup
Puree in a blender or food processor:
1 pint raspberries or 12 ounces frozen dry-pack raspberries, thawed
3 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
2 teaspoons strained fresh lemon juice, or to taste
If you don't mind the tiny seeds, you may use the coulis as-is. If seeds bother you, use a flexible rubber spatula to push the pulp through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Press firmly and periodically scrape the inside of the sieve clear of seeds, which will otherwise plug up the holes. Continue to press until you are left with just a heaping tablespoon of stiff, clumped-together seeds. Taste, then stir in a little more sugar or lemon juice if needed. Serve, at room temperature or chilled. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.