peach houjicha mousse cake

peach houjicha mousse cake

Earlier in the spring The Alley, a Taiwanese tea chain, (I get too many ideas from bubble tea places) had a houjicha and peach series; my roommate and I longingly stared at the sign in the window as we walked by on our way to the store to stock up on rice and instant ramen. I ended up never trying any of the drinks as the pandemic came into full force soon after, but I’ve been keeping the flavour combination in mind.

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white peach, strawberry & pistachio mousse cake

strawberry, white peach and pistachio mousse cakes
strawberry, white peach and pistachio mousse cakes
strawberry, white peach and pistachio mousse cakes

Arriving at a party three hours late (two-thirds of which was semi-intentional, one third of which was a surprise – though given the entire trip was relatively unplanned, why it was a surprise, or upon what the putative ETA was based, was unclear), the main hurdle had been locating the bus terminal. In a mixed transit hub, transformed into a maze by virtue of add-on’s and the white canvas-tented construction-impeded walkways, we tried following the path indicated by two dimensional and directionally ambiguous arrows (it always takes me a bit of a figurative leap to understand that an up arrow means forwards). Eventually we arrived at the apparent endpoint– a singular, lonely arrow pointing directly into a construction site.

Wandering back to look for help, we were informed that there must be a way and to try again. Surely people still took the buses after all. We located a second set of arrows – this time passing up a twisting ramp – convolutedly promising until we returned to the same, stark arrow.

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jasmine lychee coconut mousse cake

lychee jasmine coconut mousse cakes

Much delayed, my flight arrived around 4:30 am, and in a blearily bedraggled state I succumbed to the convenient but costly allure of a taxi – a rare occasion considering the state of my net worth. At that hour the wide-multilane roadways leading into the city were dimly lit and only sparsely populated.

Sitting in cars often induces a trance-like state for me, but I couldn’t help but notice that the road seemed to be going past exceptionally quickly. As the taxi driver turned up the volume of his choral music to be heard over the grind of the taxi and the air came to be perfused with a smell quite reminiscent of burning plastic, I got to experience living life very speedily – in a very literal sense. Glancing at the speedometer, we were persistently 10km/h over the speed limit, coasting entirely unhindered down a nearly empty road.

My sleepiness was replaced with a healthy rise in blood pressure.

It was only as we approached vehicles ahead that we gently slowed, though just as we did so, a white taxi soared by in the adjacent lane. The driver’s discordant humming halted. He began to switch from one to another, weaving between the modestly spaced vehicles as though they were pylons. My healthy rise in blood pressure was not feeling quite so healthy anymore.

The two taxis switched positions – the white car darting ahead of us until it was blocked by a more law-abiding driver in front of them and vice versa — until, while driving neck-to-neck, the other taxi began to slow, a gesture of submission perhaps, or condescension. I was half-certain that this whole “race” was actually a product of coincidences and my overactive imagination until the taxi driver scoffed and flapped his hand grumpily through his window. And thankfully, now lacking an opponent, the taxi driver seemed to lose his passion for racing.

This experience most certainly confirmed that a slow life is most certainly the type of life for me.

lychee jasmine coconut mousse cakes
lychee jasmine coconut mousse cakes

Note: I began writing this post as one of those mildly interesting encounters that you expand upon with a generous slew of adjectives and from which to derive some (bland, I admit) entertainment. After all, when I had recounted my taxi ride to a few people the next day, they nodded in the way that you do when you hear something familiar. It seemed like the just right amount of relatable.

But I felt guilty that I didn’t ask the driver to slow down – while it was unlikely (it was about as empty as the streets could get, on a large roadway without pedestrians,  minimizing the risk), I couldn’t help but worry about the possibility his speed could contribute to an accident. However, at the time, I was concerned that my request might come across as questioning his competency and perhaps even make the taxi driver push the speed some more. Or, it could also be insensitive as likely taxi drivers face many pressures to reach a destination as fast as possible – whether for customer satisfaction or to have time to pick up another customer to be able to make a living.

I wasn’t planning to put pen to that, until it struck me how quickly I brushed the act of speeding off after speaking to others – it seems that the concept of driving over the speed limit is normalized to us. I then worried that my brushing it off was also brushing off the reality of motor vehicle accidents (MVA).

But after reading a bit more about MVAs, I realized there was a bit more to it than worrying about someone speeding. It’s a multifactorial issue where built environments can play just as much — if not more — of a role as individual behaviours on the road.

In particular, I found the concept of MVAs as a public health problem a very helpful way of thinking about it. While accidents certainly affect enough people to qualify as a health problem, it’s not a concept that has fully imbued our day-to-day view of them. And the thing is that “[w]ord choices matter: By framing preventable traffic deaths and injuries as “accidents,” society engages in a collective shrug, concluding it is not a public health priority.” And this can be particularly frustrating when there are known ways to reduce MVA rates.

Importantly, when conceptualized as a public health problem, this also means shifting our focus from individual action to the systemic and environmental factors that contribute to the potential for accidents. Rather than blaming those that jaywalk (i.e. most of us), it can be more effective to ask why that is happening, and then target the factors that lead to those reckless behaviours (such as the absence of a convenient crosswalk).

As such, one of the most successful policies to reduce MVAs has been the Sweden-initiated Vision Zero, an ambitious approach focused on modifying the environment because “in every situation a person might fail. The road system should not.” The most pragmatic approach it seems is not to depend on everyone on the road to be perfect – while there is a role for enforcement and environments that encourage law-abidingness, perfection is impossible – but to work on the broader environment to help us all stay as safe as possible.

lychee jasmine coconut mousse cakes
lychee jasmine coconut mousse cakes

This went terribly off track! But at least mousse cakes are most certainly on the slower side of things – and I’m starting to realise there is something calming and methodical about the staggered, multi-day pace, enforced through the need to freeze or chill almost all of the components before the next step.

This time around I was excited to put a silicone dome mold to use. I kept the cake quite simple with three components: a coconut financier, a lychee jelly insert, and a jasmine tea mousse. The original recipe has been updated as I’ve gotten more familiar with mousse cake techniques and I love this newest version of the cake! A mild, creamy jasmine mousse, sweet lychee jelly and toasty coconut financier.

lychee jasmine coconut mousse cakes

jasmine lychee coconut mousse cake

  • Servings: five 8cm dome mousse cakes
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special equipment:

  • 8-cm diameter half sphere silicone molds (5 cavities)
  • 6-cm rings (5)
  • 8-9 cm rings (5)

assembly

  • jasmine mousse – just made
  • frozen lychee jelly insert
  • mirror glaze
  • financier rounds
  • shredded coconut and lychees for garnich

Fill five 8cm silicone dome molds with jasmine mousse, filling them about halfway full. Put the lychee jelly inserts on top. Add more mousse to cover the jelly. The molds will be close to filled but not quite if they are the same size of mine. Freeze completely.

When ready to glaze, have your mirror glaze at the appropriate temperature (94-97C). Remove the cakes and pop out of the mold onto a wire rack. Set the rack over a try to catch excess glaze. Pour the glaze over each cake until covered. Pick up cakes by sliding one (or two – if you have, two makes it a bit easier to move) small offset spatulas below the cakes. It is best to do this before they thaw and while it is still easy to move them. Transfer the cakes to the rounds of coconut financier. To cover up the more ragged edges, pat a bit of shredded coconut along the edges. You can also top with a lychee half as additional garnish. Let thaw completely before serving.

lychee jelly

Makes five 6cm diameter discs of jelly.

  • 100g strained lychee puree (from about 140g drained canned lychees)
  • 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin bloomed in 1 tbsp water

Prepare five 6cm diameter rings. For this, I find it easiest to stretch a small piece of plastic until taut over the bottom of each ring to create a mold (alternatively, you may find it easier to increase the quantity, pour it into a tin, and cut out rounds of jelly instead.)

Melt the bloomed gelatin in the microwave – several seconds is often enough. Whisk into the lychee puree and distribute amongst the rings. Freeze.

To remove from the rings, soak a dish towel in hot water and wrap around a ring for about 10 seconds. Then push out the frozen jelly. Keep the jelly inserts in the freezer until ready to use.

coconut financier

Makes five financier bases. Instead of baking financier bases in individual rings, you can also bake a 1.5X recipe in an 8″/20cm square tin and cut out circles of financier.

  • 100g butter
  • 90g granulated sugar
  • 40g all-purpose flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 60g finely ground desiccated coconut
  • 100g egg whites

Preheat the oven to 425F. Lightly butter the inside of five 8 or 9cm diameter rings (the financiers will shrink a bit in diameter so either size should be fine).

Place the butter in a small pan and heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts and the solids toast. Once the solids are a golden brown and the butter is fragrant, remove from the heat.

Whisk together the sugar, flour, salt and ground coconut in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the egg whites. Whisk until a smooth batter is formed. Add the warm browned butter in three additions, whisking in each.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Place in the oven, then turn the temperature down to 350F. Bake until browned and an inserted skewer comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

Once cool, use a long serrated knife to level off the top of the financier. Cut out 5 rounds using an 8-cm ring. Place the rounds in an airtight container until ready to assemble the mousse cake.

jasmine mousse

Based on a standard Bavarian cream ratio

  • 150mL milk
  • 20 jasmine tea pearls
  • 150mL whipping cream
  • 2 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar, or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp gelatin bloomed in 1 1/2 tbsp water

Warm the milk until almost boiling, then add 10 of the jasmine tea pearls. Cover, let cool, then put in the fridge to continue steeping overnight. In a separate container, combine the cream (still cold) and the remaining 10 jasmine tea pearls. Place this in the fridge to infuse overnight as well.

The next day, strain the milk into a glass bowl. Whisk in the egg yolks and sugar. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook gently, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and holds a line drawn in it. Bloom the gelatin in 1 tbsp water, then heat in the microwave until melted. Whisk the bloomed gelatin into the custard. Cover and set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Once the custard has cooled, Strain the cold-infused cream. Whip the cream until stiff. Whisk a dollop of cream into the custard, then fold in the remainder gently. Use soon.

mirror glaze

Adapted from Chef Iso.

  • 9g powdered gelatin + 6 tbsp water to bloom
  • 150g sugar
  • 100g condensed milk
  • 75g water
  • 125g white chocolate, chopped

Bloom gelatin. Boil the sugar, condensed milk and 75g water together, then take off the heat and stir in the gelatin until dissolved. Pass through a sieve to remove any lumps, then pour over the white chocolate, allowing it to sit and melt. Then, puree with a fully-immersed immersion blender until smooth – this will avoid the introduction of bubbles.

Let cool until it reaches 90-94F, at which point it is ready to be poured.

Transfer the remaining glaze to a plastic bag, squeeze out all the air and seal tightly. Freeze until you next need it – in the future you just need to reheat it to 90-94C.

Update notes: Updated Dec 2021.

peach, lemongrass & cardamom mousse cake

lemongrass cardamom peach mousse cake

a multilayered lemongrass, cardamom & peach mousse cake

For the second go at a mousse cake, I wanted to try out something multilayered. Though to keep it a bit simpler, a multilayered single cake made all in one pan with all layers the same size and none being contained within the other. If that makes sense.

I based the structure of this cake off of Tartelette’s mango and chocolate mousse cake. As all the mousse layers are separated by a layer of cake, it can be assembled all at once without needing to wait for each layer to set.

Any time I have an infusible component, I always think lemongrass. And this time, combined with cardamom, both of which are (vaguely or not-vaguely) citrus flavours. It was actually a really lovely combination, the sort where it doesn’t taste like lemongrass + cardamom but something else, smooth and light and ambiguously citrusy. This was alternated with a middle layer of peach mousse, and to try to keep everything on theme, I used a lemongrass tea for brushing the cakes and for the top layer of jelly.

I think the proportion of peach mousse should have been increased as its flavour was more subtle than the lemongrass and cardamom. Otherwise, I found it an enjoyable and light cake – though if you feel the weight of the whole thing, it was literally very heavy.

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