Happy New Year! I hope 2011 has been wonderful for you so far, and today’s recipe will be sure to put a smile on your faces! Is there anything more luxuriously self-indulgent than chocolate mousse? Creamy, smooth, and chocolatey, life just got a whole lot better! Happy first Chocolate Monday of 2011!
Every New Year’s Eve for many years, my husband and I would have dinner at a wonderful French bistro in our town. Run by a couple from Paris, we would always end the year with their Mousse au Chocolat. Second only to their delightful food, the desserts were outstanding, in particular their mousse. Once they closed their doors, I vowed to replicate this amazing dessert. There are many recipes out there that are fantastic, but I really like Thomas Keller’s version. Simply written and easy to follow, it is hard to mess this up. It may take you a couple of tries to get perfect, but I promise that this is one dessert that will have everyone on your guest list clamoring for seconds!
The French were introduced to chocolate by the Spaniards in the early 17th century and have been cooking with it ever since. Mousse, the French word for foam, was first created in France in the 18th century. It wasn’t long before they married the “foam” with chocolate for the infamous mousse au chocolate. It showed up in America around 1892 when it was showcased at a Food Exposition held in Madison Square Garden, New York City.
The version we know today, fairly firm with whipped egg whites, became something everyone can make when electric mixers became commonplace in the home. There are many interpretations of this classic dessert, but I think the simplest are the best – when you let the beauty of the ingredients shine through. Don’t forget … your mousse will only be as good as the quality of the chocolate you use. Some of my favorites are Scharffen Berger, Valrhona, Guittard, and Callebaut, but use the best you can find. Mousse made with white chocolate was created in 1977 by chef Michel Fitoussi; up until then they had only been made with dark chocolate. My preference is still for dark chocolate, but you can make yours with semisweet, milk, or white chocolate if you prefer. You will need to reduce the sugar to compensate for the sweeter chocolate.
The main cooking technique that is used, in addition to melting the chocolate, is folding. Folding, as the name implies, is the act of blending two ingredients together without stirring, but using a method of dragging from the bottom, up over the top. Run a rubber spatula down the opposite side of the bowl, across the bottom toward you, and rolling your hand, pull it up, depositing the ingredients on the top. Turn the bowl 1/4 turn and repeat. Keep doing this until the mixture mostly combined, but a few streaks can remain. The idea is to combine the egg whites with the chocolate without deflating the whites any more than necessary.
Most recipes will tell you to stir in 1/3 of the whipped egg whites to lighten the mixture before folding in the remaining egg whites. This two-step method makes it much easier to get the whites incorporated evenly without too much deflation. If you try to add them all at once, it is extremely difficult to handle. I like to add the whites in thirds and seem to get the best results when I do so. Also, don’t whip your egg whites too stiff. They should be about medium peaks, strong enough to stand up, but the tips will fall over. If you over-whip the whites the final texture will be grainy instead of smooth and creamy.
Enjoy this decadent treat and start the year off right with Chocolate Monday!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Instead of using the espresso as called for in the recipe, which intensifies the chocolate flavor, you can also use any liqueur that you like. You could try Kahlua for the coffee flavor without the espresso, Grand Marnier for a lovely orange essence, Framboise if you like raspberry, or Creme de Menthe for a wonderful chocolate mint combination.
Kitchen Skill: Shaving Chocolate
For chocolate shavings, drag a vegetable peeler across the surface of a cold block of chocolate. Chocolate will shatter and break into shards.
For easy chocolate curls, microwave a block of chocolate for 5 seconds. Using a vegetable peeler, pull across the block in one smooth stroke. Chocolate will curl around peeler. Gently set aside.
If you are working with a large block of chocolate, use the edge of a sharp knife, angled away from you to drag across the surface. Holding the knife by the handle with one hand and at the tip with the other hand, drag it toward you. The chocolate will curl under the blade as you drag it forward.
- 9 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 4-1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 2 tbsp strongly-brewed espresso (or other flavoring, see above)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream, chilled
- Bittersweet chocolate shavings, for garnish (see Kitchen Skill above)
- White chocolate shavings, for garnish, optional
- Additional lightly sweetened whipped cream, for garnish optional
- In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, combine the chocolate, butter and espresso and cook over simmering water over moderately low heat, stirring, until the chocolate is mostly melted. Remove from the heat and let cool to 75°F on an instant-read thermometer, stirring to finish melting and blending. Beat in the egg yolks until incorporated.
- In a large bowl, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until very soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and beat until the whites are slightly firm and glossy.
- In another bowl, beat the cream until firm. Gently fold half of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, and then fold in half of the beaten whites until no streaks remain. Repeat with the remaining whites and whipped cream.
- Spoon the chocolate mousse into glasses or bowls and refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours. I like to serve this in wine or martini glasses for a little extra dazzle. Garnish with chocolate shavings and serve chilled. You can also garnish these with orange wedges, fresh berries, or additional whipped cream if you prefer to match your flavoring choices.
- Make Ahead: The mousse can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the mousse. Do not garnish with whipped cream and shavings until just before serving.