Thursday, April 28, 2011

Daring Baker's Challenge: Edible Containers for Maple Mousse

A.K.A. In which I made a hollow maple tree and filled it with mousse. Then I laughed at myself and made a moose filled with mousse.

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blogCheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at!

When I saw this month's challenge, I was determined to at least do something different. Very different from the standard cup/bowl traditional containment for food. While thinking about maple mousse, many themes came to mind: maple, maple leaves, maple trees, maple trees being tapped for maple mousse, chocolate buckets to hold maple mousse, waffles cones full of maple mousse, cream puffs  full of maple mousse,and  maple leaf shaped pancakes topped with maple mousse (tasty but not really a container). 

After a list like that I had to think. Then I saw a few people starting to post in the forums. I felt torn, do I rush or wait? I decided I really really wanted to make a hollow tree full of maple mousse and maybe something else different. What to make the tree from? 

Idea #1: The bacon tree. 

It seemed like a brilliant idea. Imagine the striations of bacon forming the tree bark. How? Well, I'll try to show you. I made a tree out of foil and chopsticks. Yes, chopsticks. I broke the chopsticks into sections, so that I could taper the trunk and have thin branches. Seven chopsticks formed the base of the tree with 3 at the upper truck. Each limb was made of a single chopstick and all were wrapped in aluminum foil. All the sections were connected by foil to form a nonstick surface on which to place the bacon. The end of the foil tree was left temporarily open to allow the tree to be removed from the template with the plan to attach a bacon base for structural support and standing upright with bacony roots. Sounds great right? 

Here's goes, 

Chopsticks, ready!

Bind the chopsticks with foil, connect and we have a tree. Prop it so it can go in the oven!

I wrapped the bacon on one side. Then baked and put bacon on the other side.
It looked good. It looked fine. I started pulling it off and nearly lost my mind! The bacon wouldn't hold the form. Instead it wanted to flex free. After trying twice, it was back to the drawing board.

Idea #2: Cookie Tree.

I decided why not use a malleable cookie. I tried Florentines and Tuilles but when you try to make a tree from them...well, when the bough breaks, then everything falls. It just wouldn't stick together. Now what? As a side note: the cookies were still tasty.

Idea #3: Pie Crust Tree

I pulled out my old faithful pie crust and rescued my aluminum foil template for another attempt. I formed the pie crust all around the template. I even added little tiny branches.

I baked at 350 for 25 minutes. Then I removed the tree. I started by pulling out the chopsticks. All was looking good. I pulled the foil (which only comprised the stem this time. Some branches held firm, but others failed me and fell off. I tried a couple times but had the same result. This oddly, encouraged me. This tree thing could work and it could stand, I just needed the right material.


At this point, I felt also at a loss. I really didn't know what else to try so I spent a few days, racking my brain. I thought about the cream puffs. Then I saw the amazing swan cream puff and lost my courage. What amazing piping skills! I couldn't compete with that, could I?

Then I recalled an amazing ribbon cake that Bon Appetit had relisted this December. I was traveling to a materials research conference and had time to read all about the technique while on the plane. The ingredients were simple: chocolate and corn syrup. However, they used a fancy pasta machine. I'm a grad student. I don't have that kind of toy or the space for it. But wait--before there were pasta makers there were rolling pins. Where there's a will, there's a way.

Idea #4 - Hollow Chocolate Tree

7 oz chocolate (white, semi sweet, whatever)
1/4 c. corn syrup (yep, that's it)

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Add the corn syrup and stir until well mixed. Pour onto a baking sheet. (I used a jellyroll pan 17x13 roughly.) Freeze for 30-40 minutes. Pull it back out of the freezer and sit it on the counter. Wait 5 minutes. Then start moving the chocolate around to knead it into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Shape as desired. I shape mine into a trunk and branches and attached the branches. Then I froze it for 20 minutes. Voila! It worked! I had a tree that could stand and hold mousse b/c I cut a hole out of the trunk for the mousse hole after freezing! Then you can make a base of chocolate to fully contain your tree's mousse. A small circle will do. 

No lie, I had a small party to myself in the kitchen when I got the tree to work. It took me 2 weeks to get it to the point of a standing hollow tree. I felt silly for spending the time on it but glad that I hadn't let it defeat me. Let's call it determined, rather than crazy, shall we? Thanks. I knew you'd understand.

Left, standing mousseless hollow tree. Right, Maple Mousse Tree
Ok, so I know the contrast is limited. I didn't realize the maple mousse would be so light in color. I didn't want to make another tree though. I had it in white. It looked good. I couldn't make myself create another mass of chocolate just for contrast. However, I did realize that I needed something else to put all the mousse into. I'd made a half recipe of mousse but still had 3 cups of it. 

At this point, I was getting crazy. I know, I said I wouldn't use that word but I was at least getting punchy from working on this project and having the tree work. I laughed to myself. Mousse, Mousse, Mousse. Wouldn't it be funny to have a moose full of mousse? It even rhymes! POW! The liightbulb was on!

Idea #5 Moose filled with Mousse, cream puff style

I was amazed by the swan but decided, hey I could still pipe a moose and enjoy mousse in it. After a few sketches, I decided a moose head was the most distinctive feature and inclusion of the body didn't do anything for it. Moose head it was! Using last year's daring baker's piece montee recipe, I piped my mousse. When I finished, I was pleased. Wouldn't you be? 

A couple of the moose. They made me so happy!

Tasty moose filled with maple mousse!
I think the ones most pleased by the mousse filled moose were my co-workers. The smiles these moose brought were worth all the efforts. This challenge proved to be tough creatively but the results were great. I enjoyed looking at everyone's as they finished. 

Oh, I almost forgot to give you the recipe for maple mousse!

Check it out over at the Daring Kitchen!

Thanks for a great challenge!


  1. I love the happy moose head! The tree is very very cool, and I'm glad you were able to get it to work. The pie crust would have been awesome if it had stood! Awesome job, Tabitha! You're "determination" astounds me.

  2. Talk about perseverance - you really went for it with this challenge, and I think it totally paid off! I love both the tree and the mousse-moose(s)!! Excellent creativity and really great execution. Awesome job on the challenge.

  3. You're brilliant! The idea of a maple-filled tree fleetingly crossed my mind, but I dismissed it as too difficult. Not so for you. Your chocolate tree is really, really beautiful. I LOVE it! Mousse-Moose is fantastic too. I actually feel quite sad that I don't have one to eat with my cup of tea.

    Fantastic job!

  4. Well you definately get an "A" for effort! Using modeling paste for the tree was a good idea and I really like your moose mousse. Best, Sandie

  5. You were so dedicated in your pursuit of this challenge. Great work! And I absolutely love the final product as Moose are one of my favorite animals.

  6. love the tree good for you for being so creative

  7. Your mousse fillled with moose.. No wait moose filled with mousse (haha) is so creative and kudis for not giving up on the tree idea. Persistence pays and boy did it pay for you- beautiful work on the challenge!

  8. Very whimsical! Great ideas and looks like you had fun.