Monday 21 April 2014

Beauticians & butterscotch

What's the collective noun for beauticians? A pride? A pluck? Maybe a chortle? Tessa Stevens is one such and well known in Enfield for her salons/parlours - I'm not sure of the terminology. She booked in with a posse of friends and colleagues, all in the business, and their spouses, who weren't. They arrived with a sense of determination... to enjoy themselves. The evening would be flogged for fun. It dare not resist.

Tessa's posse. She's third from the right.

Marc Spelman, Tessa's partner and a seriously impressive magician arrived later after a gig. He wowed my son/waiter Etien on a 2013 visit. That's Marc on the right.

We were planning on doing a before and after group shot. But no one remembered the 'after'. Shame, as I fancied making something of the fabulous 'appearing' magician. 
It was Zoe's birthday so Tessa had brought a prearranged and home made cake: chocolate and peanut butter; Zoe's favourite. I had agreed a dessert I hoped would complement the cake.

I was trying to develop my much admired butterscotch mousse from Daisy and Sally's visit. I needed a recipe that didn't necessitate a whipper and that didn't reduce down to a sticky puddle in ten minutes. I plumbed a Nigella idea, not normally my choice but she is famous for being sweet and sticky.

Too sweet, a midweek trial proved; muscovado overkill. (Though no talk of a sugar rush please, it doesn't exist. Yet another food myth). I modified the Nigella, adding more cream and meringue (yeah, NOW it's healthy) and served it with chantilly cream for a flavour contrast. For texture, I made a salted peanut brittle and blitzed this to a jagged crumb. I stuck in a long langue de chat too, for no good reason other than to stop the dessert looking too splodgy.

To make Butterscotch Mousse (serves 8 or 20 depending on how sweet their teeth are).

This is a combination of butterscotch, whipped cream and simple French meringue.

Melt 75g unsalted butter with 100g muscovado sugar and boil for three minutes. Add 200ml of double cream and bring to the boil again. This is the butterscotch. Set aside to cool (as in: you should be able to poke a finger in without a third degree burn).

Whip 200ml double cream to soft peaks (don't let it get too stiff) and fold into the cooled butterscotch.

Whisk three egg whites to soft peaks then gradually add two tablespoons of caster sugar and continue to whisk until the meringue is firm and glossy. Fold this into the butterscotch/cream. Fold it until there is no streaking of mixture but be gentle; don't flump out the air you've just spent ten minutes whisking in or your mousse will sit like a damp rag in your stomach.

The mousse should be refrigerated until needed but don't keep it longer than a few hours. I make mine about 30 minutes before serving so it's chilled but still light.

I'd like to develop this into a full dessert rather than just an accompaniment. The issue is the sweetness. A few spoonfuls are delicious but a bowlful is sickly.  I'm going to try making an espresso Genoise sponge soaked with a coffee syrup; a near bitter element to foil the sugar. Pictures and progress will be reported.

Incidentally, no one knows what the Scotch part of the name means; certainly nothing to do with kilts, lochs or distilleries. It might have been scotching as scoring, cutting the confection up like toffee or it could be scotch as scorch, the heat needed to caramelise the sugar.

Oh, and Angelo, I'd love some of the olive oil if you can spare. Sounds awesome. Thanks.

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