Chocolate Mousse with Cajeta and Cocoa Dusted Almonds
This dessert is layer upon layer of decadent richness, each one a transformation of minimal ingredients. The mousse starts with a simple ganache that's pumped up with whipped cream and topped with a layer of cajeta -- goat's milk caramel. The desserts are finished with whipped cream and cocoa-dusted almonds.
For the ganache: Bring a medium pot of water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Set a heatproof bowl over the water (don't let it touch the water). Add the chocolate and stir occasionally until melted. Take the bowl off the heat and whisk in the heavy cream. Allow the mixture to cool slightly while you prepare the creme chantilly.
For the creme chantilly: Add the heavy cream to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high until the cream begins to froth. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix on medium speed until soft peaks start to form, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the mixer to low and continue to beat until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute. Remove 1 cup of the whipped cream and reserve in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Fold half the remaining whipped cream into the ganache. (The chocolate should be slightly warm still.) Gently fold in the remaining half of the whipped cream. Fill 6 or 8 ramekins two-thirds of the way with chocolate mousse (I like to use a pastry bag to fill the ramekins). Refrigerate until ready to top.
For the cajeta: Stir together the goat's milk, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a large saucepan. (Make sure the liquid only comes a quarter of the way up the sides of the pan as it will froth up to several times its original size.) Add the cinnamon sticks, vanilla seeds and pods and the salt to the pot.
Bring the milk mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, add the baking soda and continue to whisk vigorously. The mixture will froth and rise significantly, continue to whisk until it returns to its original volume.
Keep the mixture at a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently until the mixture begins to turn golden brown and starts to thicken, about 30 minutes. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to ensure the milk is not burning. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cinnamon sticks and vanilla pods.
Keep stirring until the mixture is rich brown and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly for 5 minutes.
Remove the ramekins of mousse from the refrigerator and spoon a 1/2-inch layer of cajeta on top of each. Return to the refrigerator to chill and set.
For the garnish: When ready to serve, top each ramekin of chilled mousse with a dollop of the reserved creme chantilly. Garnish each serving with a sprinkling of cocoa powder and a few cocoa-dusted almonds.
Keep a close eye on the cajeta during cooking so it doesn't burn.