If there’s one thing I’m known for at work, it’s not for my inability to carry on an intelligent conversation before 9 am, or for my uncanny knack to memorize all the key strokes in Illustrator and InDesign, or for working chaotically on 5 projects simultaneously. No. I’m best known for Christmas in a Bowl. She makes her annual appearance at my work Christmas party. Her birth name is Triple Chocolate Peppermint Trifle. But after one bite, a coworker renamed her Christmas in a Bowl. Rightly so. With layers of white chocolate peppermint mousse topped with fudgy brownies and dark chocolate pudding she tastes like Christmas. She’s rich and dense, however, not the prettiest thing you ever did see. But don’t judge her book by the cover. You wont be able to put her down. And when you’re done, you’ll wish there was more.
Before you scroll down any further, listen to me. You can make this! Sure you have to make mousse, pudding, and brownies from scratch, but the taste is out of this world. I’ll walk you through step-by-step and divulge all my secrets from how to temper eggs the easy way to where to buy all that heavy cream on the cheap. Stay with me. She’s so worth it.
PS—Can you find me in the picture?
- 2½ c. heavy cream, divided
- 10 oz. white chocolate, coarsely chopped
- ½ c. peppermint candies, crushed
- 8 oz. dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 2 c. heavy cream
- 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
- ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 8 oz. dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1½ c. sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- ¾ c. all-purpose unbleached flour
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- ¼ c. peppermint candies, crushed
- Make the mousse. Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside. Place white chocolate in a bowl. Bring 1 cup cream almost to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour cream over chocolate and stir until smooth. Set in ice-water bath. Let cool, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to hold ribbons on surface, about 30 minutes. (If it's still not holding ribbons, pop it in the freezer, stirring every 5 minutes until firmed up.) Beat remaining 1½ cups of cream to nearly stiff peaks. Fold into chocolate mixture until smooth, then fold in candies. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until thickened and almost firm, 4 to 6 hours.
- Make the pudding. Pour chocolate into a large bowl; set aside. Add egg yolks into a small bowl. Whisk and set aside. Bring cream almost to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour ½ cup of hot cream in to the eggs in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly to temper the eggs. Pour mixture back into pan, whisk well. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes. Pour over chocolate; whisk until smooth. Set bowl in ice-water bath. Let cool, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to hold ribbons on surface, about 15 minutes. Place plastic wrap directly on surface; refrigerate until set, about 3 hours. (If pudding has tiny egg clumps, pour through a fine mesh strainer while still warm to remove.)
- Make the brownies. Preheat oven to 350°. Line an 8-inch square baking pan or heatproof glass dishpan
- with overlapping parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Set aside. Place butter and chocolate in a double boiler or large heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water; stir frequently until chocolate and butter are melted, about 7 minutes. Remove bowl from heat; let cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Stir sugar into cooled chocolate mixture until combined. Whisk in eggs one at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition. Whisk in vanilla. Gently fold in flour and salt. Pour batter into prepared pan, and smooth top with an offset spatula. Bake until cake tester inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, 40 to 45 minutes. They will be fudgy. Using parchment, lift brownies out of pan and onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Assemble. Spread one-third of the mousse into bottom of a glass trifle bowl that is 8 to 10 inches in diameter. Crumble brownies, and top with ½ of the brownies. Top with half the pudding, then another third of mousse. Place remaining brownie crumbles on top. Top with remaining pudding, then mousse. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 12 hours. Garnish with peppermint candies just before serving.
• This isn’t the cheapest dessert, but over the years I’ve learned how to cut costs without cutting quality. For the cream, head to Costco and buy in bulk. Mucho savings. For the chocolate, be sure to buy good quality. Chips are cheaper than bars unless you have a Trader Joe’s nearby. They sell dark chocolate by the pound. Holla! Make sure your white chocolate is the real deal, no partially hydrogenated stuff. I prefer Ghiradelli or Trader Joe’s.
• To allay any baking anxiety, this dessert is most manageable when made in two days. Day 1: Make mousse and pudding. Day 2: Make brownies and assemble. Day 3: Eat.
• When making the pudding and mousse, you will need to heat heavy cream. So save that saucepan instead of dirtying up more dishes.
• To temper eggs for the pudding (or anytime), pour a small amount of the heated cream into the whisked eggs instead of the entire amount. Whisk constantly until combined. It’s much easier to keep the eggs from curdling this way. And, if they do curdle, you haven’t ruined all that expensive heavy cream. I learned that one from experience.
• If you are using chocolate chips, no need to coarsely chop.
• Skip the Starlight Peppermints and go for the regular or mini candy canes. They are much easier to crush. I place them in a freezer bag, fold over, and use a meat tenderizer to crush.
• Save the egg whites from the pudding for tomorrows breakfast. I told you I’d divulge ALL my secrets.
Adapted from Martha Stewart.