~A Sophisticated Indulgence: Mousse au Chocolate~
Not being a chocolate lover (yes, that's what I said, I am not a lover of chocolate), when pressed to name my favorite chocolate confection, the French dessert, mousse au chocolate, is at the top of my very short list, which includes truffles and chocolate cheesecake made with a chocolate cookie crust. For me, mousse au chocolate is chocolate confection perfection. Calorie for calorie, every light, airy, creamy, thick spoonful is full of deep, rich, intense chocolate flavor.
A bit about mousses: "Mousse", the French word meaning "foam or froth", refers to any food, savory or sweet, that has air incorporated into it to give a light, airy, smooth texture. Examples of savory mousses, which are typically cooked gently in a water bath and served warm or cold are: asparagus, chicken and salmon. In the case of dessert mousses, they are typically prepared with whipped egg whites and/or whipped cream, and, often stabilized with gelatin. Common flavorings for dessert mousses include chocolate, coffee, caramel and a host of pureed fruits.
A bit about mousse au chocolate: No one knows who invented the first chocolate mousse but it's believed to have occurred sometime the second half of the 1800's. That said, it became an instant hit with housewives all across America when The New York Times published its first recipe for the dessert in 1955. Everyone who entertained was whipping egg whites, folding them into melted chocolate and serving this fancy-named French dessert at their dinner parties.
Besides the requisite dark chocolate, the second essential ingredient is egg whites. After that, the most common additions are: sugar (for sweetness), heavy cream (for airy texture), egg yolks (for richness), and/or alcohol, liqueur, extracts or coffee (for flavoring). Read your recipe to see if it requires you to have unflavored gelatin on hand (for stability), or, to pick up a special garnish (for a pretty presentation). While the concept for making chocolate mousse remains constant in all recipes, the technique varies slightly, so, check the equipment list too. More often than not, you'll need a double boiler (for melting chocolate), an electric mixer (for whipping egg whites and cream), and, two or three appropriately-sized mixing bowls.
Tip from Mel: When making anyone's recipe for mousse au chocolate, read the recipe through carefully, make note of what needs to be done, in the specific order it needs to get done, then arrange the hardware and the ingredients in that order. If you do this, and you work from start to finish without interurruption, you will have a very successful chocolate mousse experience!
1/2 cup sugar + 1/2 cup water
5 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1 tablespoon cherry extract + 1 tablespoon cherry brandy (Note: You need 2 tablespoons of liquid. Use what suits you. Example: 2 tablespoons rum, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract + 1 tablespoon water, 2 tablespoons very strong coffee, etc.)
5 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups chilled whipping cream, whipped and chilled
additional whipped cream and grated or shaved chocolate, for garnish
Tip from Mel: Freshly whipped cream is almost always the last ingredient to get folded in, but, after making more than a few chocolate mousses, I have found that whipping it at the very beginning of the process and placing it in the refrigerator works best. Why? It gets folded in after the freshly whipped egg whites -- which are quite fragile. Having the cream on-hand and ready, allows the whites zero time to lose any of their all-important volume. Make sure your cream is cold when you start, and for added protection, chill your bowl in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes prior to whipping it too.
~ Step 1. On high speed of hand-held electric mixer, in a medium bowl, whip the cream to stiff peaks, about 3 minutes. Place bowl, uncovered, in refrigerator.
~ Step 2. Place 1"-1 1/2" of water in bottom of double boiler and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, place top on boiler and add the chocolate. Melt, whisking constantly, 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a very large bowl to cool a bit.
~ Step 3. In a 1-quart saucepan, stir together the sugar and water. Place on stovetop and bring to boil over high heat. Adjust heat to simmer rapidly, until transparent and syrupy, 5-6 minutes. You will notice large, slow to burst bubbles forming on the top. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly. While sugar syrup is cooling:
~Step 6. On low speed of hand-held electric mixer, beat the yolks to thoroughly combine. Beating constantly, slowly and in a thin stream, drizzle the sugar syrup into the egg yolks. Add the gelatin mixture and continue to beat on low speed to thoroughly combine.
~ Step 7. Using a whisk, whisking vigorously, slowly incorporate the egg/sugar/gelatin mixture into the chocolate. This mixture will get thick quickly, and, in case you're thinking there's something wrong, relax, there isn't.
~Step 8. In the large bowl, on high-speed of mixer, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt to stiff peaks, 3-4 minutes. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate. Remove the cream from the refrigerator and thoroughly fold it into the chocolate.
~ Step 10. Spoon the mousse into 6, 1-cup serving dessert cups or ramekins, lightly cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4-6 hours prior to serving garnished with whipped cream and chocolate shavings or grated chocolate. Chocolate mousse is best served the same day it is made.
Refrigerate several hours & serve the same day...
Special Equipment List: hand-held electric mixer; double boiler; whisk; 1 quart saucepan; large rubber spatula; 8, 1-cup dessert cups or ramekins; plastic wrap
Cook's Note: Next to fruit desserts, creamy, pudding-like desserts in general are my favorite. ~Tapioca Pudding: Just like Grandma used to make! ~ is a recipe that is another indulgence of mine. You can find my recipe by clicking into Categories 6, 12 or 19.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)