Spiked Mocha Mousse Bars
If you missed the last post, we’ve been talking about how it feels to have your life plans pulled out from under you — to step off the airplane to begin your vacation in Italy only to find that you’ve been flown to Holland instead.
It’s easy to say that you just have to adjust and learn to appreciate Holland. But how do you actually do it?
The answer is radical acceptance. Have you ever been super late to an important event — a wedding, a birthday party — and found yourself stuck in traffic? You know that moment when, at the height of your agitation, your dashboard clock finally convinces you that you’re never going to arrive on time? The moment when you finally accept that reality? You call and offer your apologies and then sit and watch the line of cars in front of you creep along. And even though you’re still frustrated, there’s a peculiar relief that floods your body upon accepting reality. Suddenly, you can turn the radio on and watch the raindrops on the window. You’re released from the clutches of angst. That’s what radical acceptance does for you.
Some things are harder to accept than being stuck in traffic, but the principle remains the same. Radical acceptance is the beginning of finding peace with a difficult situation.
Here are some things to know about the concept:
1. Radical acceptance starts as a choice you make. It sounds so easy to say, “Just accept it!” In fact, you may have had someone say to you at some point, “Just get over it!” That’s not radical acceptance. That’s someone else imposing their timeline on you. Radical acceptance begins as a choice from your heart and mind. “Accepting” sounds too big to be possible in some circumstances, but begin by “turning toward acceptance” with a declaration. I literally say out loud, “I’m choosing to radically accept this.”
2. It’s called radical for a reason. Some things don’t seem possible to accept: a death, the loss of a relationship. Even when you can’t comprehend the idea of accepting what’s happened in your life, you can “turn toward acceptance.” It may be the last thing you want to do, but sometimes it’s exactly what you need.
3. It’s not a magic wand. You know when the Psalmist and Peter — and probably umpteen other folks in Scripture — instruct us to cast our cares on the Lord? I don’t know about you, but I’m always the one going back and picking up my big sack of worries again and again, even after I’ve supposedly given it to Him. For this reason, radical acceptance isn’t just a one-time wave of the magic wand that fixes everything. In our traffic example, you might be able to turn toward radical acceptance once and find relief. In more extreme situations in life, you might have to turn toward radical acceptance over and over and over. Every day you might need to wake up and turn toward it all over again.
4. Radical acceptance doesn’t mean approval. You don’t have to like what happened to you or believe that it should have happened. You don’t have to believe that you deserved it. None of that is necessary to accept. Acceptance isn’t approval — it’s just admitting that reality is reality. When you’re avoiding acceptance, you’re weaving your pain into a sticky web of suffering and brooding over the should’ves, could’ves, would’ves. When you radically accept reality — even if you don’t approve — you allow yourself to feel the present pain and then let it go. You don’t have to like the truth to accept it, and accepting it doesn’t hurt you.
5. Sometimes suffering feels safe because it’s what you know. Sometimes the most difficult part of letting go of suffering and turning toward acceptance is leaving behind the warm cocoon of pain that has become your home. Not a hospitable home, admittedly, but a home nevertheless. It might feel safer to continue to suffer. It might feel more reverent of what you’ve lost to continue to suffer — as though the size of your pain shows the size of your love. Recognizing these thoughts in ourselves and realizing that they’re keeping our anguish alive will allow us to turn toward acceptance. Suffering isn’t helping us or others.
6. You have to radically accept that sometimes you’ll fail to radically accept. You are going to handle things badly. You’re going to miss a flight and throw a temper tantrum in the terminal. You’ll neglect to order the present soon enough for Christmas and be huffy about it for a week. You’ll be snippy to your husband for putting the dishes in the dishwasher “wrong” (because we all know there is a right way and a wrong way to put dishes in the dishwasher). And you’ll look back on these things and feel like a failure. Why couldn’t you just be ZEN and ACCEPT ALL THE THINGS and RISE ABOVE? Because you’re human. You can apologize to people you hurt, but then turn towards radically accepting that reality, too. All you can do is keep practicing.
6. Dessert cures a host of evils. Okay, really, this has very little to do with radical acceptance and a lot to do with good, old-fashioned comfort. I needed some of that this week. It’s been cold and rainy and I’m coming down with one of those sore-throat-coughy type illnesses. I wanted something rich and indulgent and a little bit grown up.
These mocha mousse bars are so insanely good. They combine a buttery shortbread crust, fudgy bittersweet ganache, creamy coffee mousse with a splash of Bailey’s Hazelnut Liqueur, and a dark chocolate covered espresso bean. If you love tiramisu or a good mocha, you’ll love these bars. Enjoy — and accept.
What’s the most difficult thing you’ve tried to accept lately?
I’m far from a therapist, but I’ve been sharing thoughts lately based on personal experience handling hard times. Read the full series, Managing Life’s Difficult Emotions:
1. Welcome to Holland: Dealing with Life’s Unplanned Detours
2. Radical Acceptance: Help for Dealing with Suffering
3. Opposite Action: Changing Actions to Change Emotions
One year ago: Moist Fluffy Coconut Cake
Two years ago: Winter Breakfast Chili Over Eggs in Sourdough Bowls
Three years ago: Southern Pimento Cheese with Lavash Crackers
Four years ago: Cinnamon Roll Cookies
Spiked Mocha Mousse Bars
Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yield: 9 servings
I was surprised by how quick and simple this recipe turned out to be — and how amazing! I loved spiking it with creamy Bailey’s Hazelnut Liqueur. Forget buying a fancy coffee; why not make a fancy coffee bar for dessert?
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons icing sugar
6 tablespoons heavy cream
about 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (I love Ghirardelli’s 60% cacao chips)
Coffee Mousse Ingredients:
1 3/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons water
4 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons Bailey’s Hazelnut Liqueur (or Kahlúa)
2 cups well-chilled heavy cream
chocolate covered espresso beans (optional, for topping)
Make the shortbread crust: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9 x 9 in. baking dish with a foil sling. Cut the butter into the flour and icing sugar and press into the baking dish (I used a food processor to cut the fat into the flour — about 6 pulses — and then the bottom of a glass to press the mixture into the pan). Bake 18-20 minutes or until light brown. Set on a wire rack to cool.
Make the ganache: While the shortbread is baking, place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan (or microwave it for a couple of minutes). Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let it stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache has formed. Set it aside until your crust is finished and has cooled for a few minutes, and then pour it over the crust (it’s okay if it’s not cooled all the way). Place the chocolate covered crust in the fridge to chill until the ganache is set into a firm layer.
Make the coffee mousse: Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside as an ice bath (I just stopped up my sink and used it). Place 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan and sprinkle the envelope of gelatin evenly over the top. Let it soften for 2 minutes. Add in the sweetened condensed milk and instant espresso powder. Heat the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the gelatin is dissolved and the mixture is smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, whisk in the Bailey’s (or Kahlúa), and then transfer the saucepan to the ice bath. Cool, whisking frequently, until the mixture is cold and thick.
In the meantime, whip the chilled heavy cream to stiff peaks. Stir about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the cold espresso mixture to lighten it up, and then pour this mixture into your remaining whipped cream, folding it in gently until there are no streaks. Pour this mixture over your chilled ganache. Chill the entire dessert until it’s set up nicely (a few hours). Lift the bars out of the pan, slice into 9 servings, top each bar with a chocolate covered espresso bean, and serve.