Well, the first one that worked, anyway. Well, sort of. I'm getting ahead of myself here. Remember the cheese post? It had a whole explanation of this blogging event, First Thursdays.
To recap, First Thursdays occurs the first week of every month (hence the name) and is an event which forces the participants to utilize their cookbook collections. No improvisation allowed! February's theme is "Romantic Cliches". To start my challenge, I asked Hubband to select a recipe, making things reminiscent of the ooshy-gooshy romantic telephone cliche: 'No, you hang up first! No, you!' (No, you pick the recipe. I WANT you to!) He thought chocolate was about as romantic cliche as you can get, and headed for a cookbook I have entitled, appropriately enough, 'I Want Chocolate!' by Trish Deseine. After flipping through for awhile, he selected the Triple Chocolate Brownie Crunch, depicted as a luscious, thick, fudgy brownie studded with nuts, topped with white chocolate mousse, and a warm milk chocolate sauce, sprinkled with some sort of chocolate crunchy candy.
I dutifully made out my grocery list and started the recipe. The brownie batter came together easily enough, but seemed sparse, and as it contained no leavening agent I wasn't confident that it was going to plump up anytime soon, but the point of First Thursdays is not to question, so I went ahead and put it in the oven.
The white chocolate mousse was actually a whipped ganache: white chocolate and cream, whipped after it cooled for one hour. It was spread over the cooled brownie, and put into the fridge to chill for 2-3 hours, per instructions. After 2 hours, I made the milk chocolate sauce, which the cookbook said could be served hot or at room temperature. I poured it over the brownie, topped it with a little crushed Heath bar, and came out with this:
It doesn't look particularly appetizing, does it? Appearances can be deceiving, but this one wasn't. There was far too much white chocolate 'mousse', the milk chocolate sauce was more like hot chocolate milk, and the brownie itself was thin and unremarkable in flavor.
When I have used this book previously, for cookies, I found that the flavor needed bumping up. I added salt and instant coffee granules to those, and if I hadn't been making this for First Thursday, I would absolutely have done so again. I believe this brownie could be easily salvaged. The 'mousse', however, could not. I am not a big white chocolate fan in the first place, but don't call a whipped ganache a mousse, and don't ask me to chill it for 2 hours after whipping! Any subtle flavor was submerged by the chill, the texture was almost as far from mousse as possible, and it ended up just tasting like a thick layer of sugar. (For the record, this was high-quality white chocolate, so that wasn't the problem.) Blecch. The milk chocolate sauce was weak, and should have been chilled (which wasn't suggested in the recipe) for any chance at thickness.
The book has good ideas and potential, but I don't think that a book by a professional pastry chef should just have potential. It should produce real, quality results! It's enough to make me wonder if Ms. Deseine had any recipe testers. I also take offense to the fact that the beautiful food photography is obviously not a product of the recipe it purports to showcase. From the photo in the book, it is obvious that the 'mousse' was not refrigerated, the milk chocolate sauce was, and the brownie batter was at least doubled. I understand that food stylists are hired to make everything look divine, but this seems like out and out false advertising, and I dislike it.
Overall, I won't be using this book without improvisation again. It can be used as a good jumping-off point, but provides no real depth of flavor. The instructions also leave something to be desired. I vow, someday I will have a perfectly successful 'First Thursday'!