Food Scoop: Chocolate Mousse

I’ve been thinking about chocolate mousse for a while. It’s so classically elegant, and looks gorgeous when it is served in a goblet or glass dish. Not only does it look good, but the smooth chocolate taste is wonderful. I thought it might be about time to try it myself, rather than looking at dessert menus at restaurants.

Making chocolate mousse turned out to be surprisingly tricky for me. I had a really difficult time coming up with a recipe to try. The problem was not that there weren’t recipes, but most of them involved raw eggs. I don’t mind tasting a small bit of raw cookie dough, but I am a little less sanguine about a dish that is never cooked. So I spent a little time searching out a recipe with cooked eggs.

It turns out to be surprisingly similar to making ice cream. It started with a bit of cream heating on the stove while I whisked together egg yolks and sugar, the very beginning of any custard I’ve made.

My double boiler found its way onto the stove top, with chocolate melting away in it. I whipped the rest of the cream by hand, and golly did that make my arm tired. All of these are steps in making ice cream. But instead of a half-hour in my ice cream maker, the final mixture had to sit in the fridge for six hours or so to “set up.”

It turns out chocolate mousse takes forever. I am not patient enough to wait over six hours for an elegant, chocolate-y dessert. Thankfully, at least from my point of view, all of the steps to making chocolate mousse are delicious.

Once the custard is cooked, it’s a pale, sweet concoction. Melted chocolate is…well, chocolate.
Which is sometimes the best possible flavor in the world. Mix them together, and chocolate custard is amazing. Add in whipped cream, and there’s another layer of texture and flavor that is closer to the final product. It’s smooth, and the chocolate flavor is infused throughout the whipped, fluffy mousse.

After that, it’s a waiting game. Six hours is a long time to wait for a cold, creamy dessert. A little bit goes a long way, though, and I survived by stealing little tastes throughout the process. I still spent hours and hours waiting for the mousse to set properly. I did laundry and watched a movie and worked on my homework – and after all that, I still had to wait.

When it’s done, chocolate mousse is cold, fluffy and creamy. The final product was so light, it was almost like a chilled froth, but with an intensely chocolate flavor. Was it worth the wait? I like to think so. Not only did I feel very posh just by eating it, I was also in heaven. The mousse was a glorious culmination of all of its parts: the custard, the whipped cream and the chocolate.

Chocolate Mousse

2 cups heavy cream

4 egg yolks

3 tablespoon sugar

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

7 ounces bittersweet chocolate

Begin by heating ¾ cup cream on the stove over low heat. You should keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t boil.

Meanwhile, whisk together the yolks, sugar and salt until you get a pale yellow color. Add the heated cream a little at a time, stirring constantly. You’re better off adding the hot cream slowly, and stirring more. If you don’t stir it, the egg will cook into something that does not resemble a delicious custard.

Return mixture to the stove and heat slowly, whisking constantly. With custards, a double boiler is always a safe bet. It will help prevent the egg from cooking too quickly into a scrambled egg type of mess. The keys to avoiding that mess are in slow heat and consistent stirring. Once the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, it’s ready. Pour it through a fine mesh sieve and set aside, stirring occasionally as long as it is warm.

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Until it is melted, don’t introduce any other substance, as it can make the chocolate change texture. If you don’t have a double boiler handy, you can melt the chocolate in a heat-safe glass bowl set in or over a pan of simmering water.

Once the chocolate is melted, add custard. Whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool, which may take a fair amount of time. I’ve set it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or so with no problems. If you don’t cool it enough, it will have a tendency to melt the whipped cream and will then loose texture.

Whip the remaining cream until it holds itself into peaks. I do this by hand, but electric mixers are faster and much less of a workout. When custard is cool, whisk in about a quart of the whipped cream and then fold in the rest very gently.

Divide mousse into whatever dishes you wish to serve in, and refrigerate for six hours. Serve with whipped cream, chocolate curls, raspberries, coconut flakes or just plain. Enjoy!

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