Friday, February 11, 2011

Chocolate Mousse

Growing up, I remember one of my favorite desserts to order when my family went out to eat was chocolate mousse.  At my favorite restaurant, they served it in a tall fluted glass and I thought it was so classy.  Of course, this illusion of class was completely shattered when I diligently and repeatedly scraped down the sides of the glass to make sure I scooped up every single last bit of that delicious chocolate mousse and licked my spoon clean when everything was gone.

Sadly, you don't find chocolate mousse much now in restaurants; it appears to have fallen out of favor, perhaps because food trends moved towards chocolate bacon and salted caramel.  In fact, while looking at food blogs recently, I remember reading a post where someone called it a dessert of the 80's.

I think it's time we brought this dessert back.  Nothing else can compare to a good chocolate mousse, with its silky, smooth texture and airy lightness.  I've never met anyone who didn't like chocolate mousse.  And with Valentine's Day coming up, if you're planning on making something nice for your loved one (or for yourself!) this recipe is a nice option because it can be made ahead of time and then enjoyed leisurely at the end of a meal without being overkill.  Plus, eating chocolate mousse is sexy.  Eating chocolate chip cookies, not so much.

Some chocolate mousses can be incredibly rich, but I think that this recipe is perfectly balanced.  It is creamy but light and not too sweet.  It also has a teensy bit of alcohol.  The original recipe calls for brandy.  I've never had brandy.  When I bake or cook, I generally use rum.  I grew up in a house that always had rum.  When we make cake mix at home, my mom always substituted some of the water with rum.  I learned from her genius.  Rum makes things better.  This may sound like the motto of an alcoholic, but considering that I don't really drink and when I do, I prefer a glass of sweet white wine or dessert wine, I really don't think you have any need to be concerned.  That said, this recipe is not at all boozy.  The scent of the rum is very faint, but if you're serving it to young children and you're concerned, you can always replace it with water.

This recipe also uses raw egg whites.  I've never had any problems with using raw eggs, but I know some people who have concerns.  I don't really have any suggestions, except to use the best eggs you can.  I used organic free range brown eggs.  Avoid this recipe if you are pregnant or are serving it to someone else who is pregnant.

Chocolate Mousse
adapted and scaled down from Cook’s Illustrated, 2006

4 ounces (113g) of dark chocolate, at least 60% cacao
1 tbsp cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)
½ tsp instant espresso powder
2 ½ tbsp water
½ tbsp dark rum
1 egg, separated
2 tsp granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
½ cup + 1 tbsp cold heavy whipping cream

Combine the chocolate, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and water in a medium sized heatproof bowl. Melt over a saucepan of lightly simmering water (read: use a double boiler) or in a microwave. Either way, stir frequently until the mixture is smooth and well combined.

Add the egg yolk, 1 tsp of sugar, and the salt. Beat over the double boiler until smooth and shiny. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Add the rum (or other kind of liquor) and stir till smooth.

In another medium sized bowl, beat the heavy whipping cream with ½ tsp of sugar until fairly stiff peaks form (i.e. make whipped cream). You can use the “dirty” (chocolate tainted) beaters for this step.

Now, detach the beaters and clean them. Then, in another medium sized bowl, beat the egg white with ½ tsp of sugar until soft peaks form.
Whisk about ½ of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Then, use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the remaining egg whites until only a few white streaks remain.

Gently fold in the whipped cream until mostly incorporated. Then, using a lot of care, if you have a whisk attachment for your beaters, whisk together the mousse until there are no more streaks of white. Be very careful not to deflate the mousse! If you do not have a whisk attachment, then just stick with gentle folding.

Spoon into 4 or 5 individual serving bowls or glasses (highball glasses and martini glasses are great for this), cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours but no more than 24 hours.

Serve with raspberries, strawberries, or (if you're feeling particularly decadent) some lightly sweetened whipped cream. Of course, this also tastes great on its own.

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