Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Recipes for the holidays: Chocolate Stout Mousse, Pears in Cider

By William Brand
Wednesday, November 26th, 2008 at 9:43 am in Uncategorized.

THE holidays are descending on us with warp speed. The economy sucks, my 401k is becoming a 201k or worse. I’m afraid to look.  So, as we gear up for the season, I thought I’d add a little cheer into the mix.

Here are two of my favorite holiday dessert recipes using my two favorite alcoholic beverages: beer and cider.

The desserts — pears poached in apple cider and chocolate stout mousse — can be made in minutes. And the poached pears are stunning.

It’s important to use a proper fermented cider – the kind with alcohol – to poach the pears. That means don’t use apple juice even if the label says “cider.” Apple juice is too sweet.

My current favorites are Two Rivers Cider,  and Ace Pear Cider, both made here in Northern California, and Aspall Dry English Draft Cider, a delicious import. Both are available in stores with good stocks of beer. But any fairly dry apple cider will do.

Don’t worry about the alcohol; it boils away, leaving the taste of a fine cider infused into the flesh of the pears. Take a bite of the succulent, moist poached pear. Follow it with a spoonful of rich, vanilla ice cream. Heaven.

Chocolate stout mousse sounds awful, but, in fact, dark chocolate and a powerful stout marry perfectly. The recipe — which I found long ago on a beer chat group on CompuServe (yes, that long ago) — originally specified Guinness Stout. It’s an excellent choice, but in recent years we’ve made it either with Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout from Anderson Valley Brewing or Old Rasputin Imperial Stout from North Coast Brewing. Any decent stout will do. But don’t overdo it. (And many thanks to Jenny Slafkosky for figuring out the calories and fat content.)


4 D’Anjou or other firm winter pears

3 cinnamon sticks

1/2 cup dried, sweetened cranberries

Approximately 3 cups of cider

  • Peel pears. Slice off a thin layer from the bottom of each pear so the pears will stand upright. Place pears in a saucepan large enough to keep upright pears from crowding.
  • Add cider until pears are about one-third to one-half covered. Add cinnamon sticks and dried cranberries.
  • Cover pot and bring cider to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until pears are easily pierced with a fork.
  • Serve pears upright with French vanilla ice cream. Serves 4.

Per Serving: 213 Calories; 1g Fat; 1g Protein; 55g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 8mg Sodium.


3/4 pound high-quality dark chocolate, chopped

11/2 ounces unflavored gelatin

2 ounces stout

1 pint heavy cream

3 large eggs

13/4 ounces (dry measure) sugar

1 ounce hot coffee (we’ve been using Peet’s Espresso Roast)

  • Melt chocolate in double boiler set over simmering water, stirring occasionally.
  • Bloom gelatin by stirring it into the stout. Set aside.
  • In a mixer, whip heavy cream until it forms soft peaks. Scrape into a bowl and place in refrigerator.
  • Using the mixer, whip eggs until frothy, add sugar and beat until sugar is dissolved.
  • Dissolve the gelatin and stout mixture in the coffee.
  • Add chocolate and gelatin-stout mixture to the eggs, mixing until well-blended. Fold in whipped cream and let it set for two to four hours in refrigerator.
  • Serve topped with chocolate shavings and a glass of North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout or other favorite stout. Serves 4-6.

Per Serving: 639 Calories; 49g Fat; 8g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 202mg Cholesterol; 82mg Sodium.

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  • Melissa

    Aspall is fantastic, I have a very uneasy relationship with cider, especially the ones that smell and taste like they’ve been made from barnyard scrapings mixed with pig pen floor, but Aspall is absolutely awesome.

    The Premier Cru is the standout of the portfolio for me, and the Peronelle’s Blush which is flavoured with a mere hint of creme de mure is divine.

  • William Brand

    The cider situation in America is much worse than in the UK. At least you have some decent choices. Here, almost every cider, if you look at the label, which is nearly always in fine print, you’ll see that the beverage you’re about to consume is really a chemical cocktail. Stabilizers, malic acid to make it tart. It’s a long, depressing list.

    And pear ciders here are usually made with apple juice with “pear essence” added. Aspall’s really a breath of fresh air.

  • BahHumBrew

    We tried both the Mousse and the Pears. While the pear recipe was great, the Mousse recipe may suffer from some errors in the ingredients list. First of all 1 1/2 ozs of gelatin is a very large amount. Maybe it should be 1 1/2 teaspoons? Using ozs in US recipes is unusual. Is there a way to backcheck the ingredients list for this recipe?

  • William Brand

    Oh dear. It’s completely possible I screwed up, but if I did it was long ago. I’ll delve into my archives and find the original — we’re talking circa 1988 here. Last time we made it, a couple of years ago, it was stunning.

    And glad you liked the pears in cider. It’s so simple and so eloquent.

  • William Brand

    Hi BahHumBrew. I went back to the original recipe from 1997 and yes, it calls for one and one-half ounces of gelatin. This is the recipe we have used to make the dish a number of times. But if you feel that’s too much gelatin, cut down the amount. I think one and one-half ounces is one of those little packages that come in the gelatin box. So try it and let me know what you find out.