Friday, April 11, 2014

SIMPLE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE - light for spring

The beauty of spring has come again to the Bay Area. We have been having a record-breaking drought in California since last year, with an unheard-of dry, brown winter. Finally, a few days of rain over the past two weeks brought us the bright green and other signs of spring.  So many different birds are coming to my small backyard, and the squirrels are chasing each other with lightning speed, almost flying from lawn to tree branches and to the garden fence in seconds. It makes my neighbor’s cat speechless. I guess I am not the only one feeling recharged.

I have been gone many months from this blog, and I missed writing the posts, but I was so busy working for a new, challenging job I started last summer. I just did not have any free time until recently.  Anyway, I am back, just like this nice spring came back to my garden. The past couple of months I have thought of quite a few topics for this blog – about wine,  chocolate, seasonal tarts, seafood, local fruits and vegetables, and simple light food for spring.  Here is my first one... for the chocolate lovers.

The recipe and anecdote come from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé , a world-famous French pastry chef, with the great dessert writer Dorie Greenspan. It is very important when making this mousse to use  good quality chocolate and very fresh eggs.

Mousse as it’s meant to be: Whisper-light in texture, exclamatory in taste. The main ingredients are bittersweet chocolate, lightened by whipped egg whites, enriched by an egg yolk, and sweetened by just the tiniest bit of sugar. Milk is the unexpected but just-right ingredient in this recipe. Because it is lighter than cream, it brings smoothness to the mousse without adding richness or masking the flavor of the chocolate.

I think of this mousse as a base recipe, one I can play around with and change at whim. Often I’ll add another flavor just before serving, topping the mousse with chocolate shavings, Caramelized Rice Krispies, thin slices of banana – raw or sautéed, whole raspberries or raspberry coulis, toasted nuts, or chopped fresh mint. Sometimes I’ll add a different flavor to the mousse while I’m making it, infusing the milk with grated orange zest, a spoonful of instant coffee, a little ground cinnamon, or a pinch of cardamom. PH


Makes 4-5 servings.
6 oz (170 g) bittersweet chocolate (52% or more cacao), finely chopped
1/3 cup (30 g) whole milk
1 large very fresh egg yolk
4 large very fresh egg whites
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

  1. Place the chocolate in a medium-size mixing bowl. Bring the milk to a boil, then pour it over the chocolate. Using a small whisk, gently blend the hot milk into the chocolate. Add the egg yolk and whisk it into the chocolate, again working gently; stop when the yolk is incorporated.
  2.  In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed just until they hold soft peaks. Increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add the sugar. Continue to beat the whites until they are firm but still glossy. Scoop one-third of the whites out onto the chocolate mixture. Working with a whisk, beat the whites into the chocolate to lighten the mixture. Now, with either the whisk or a large flexible rubber spatula, delicately but thoroughly fold the rest of the beaten whites into the chocolate.
  3.  Turn the mousse out into a large serving bowl – clear glass is very nice for this dessert – or into individual glass cups, and refrigerate at least 1 hour, preferably 3-4 hours, to set. The mousse can be kept (refrigerated) for a couple days.

Note: I used Guittard’s Semisweet Chocolate Wafers 61% cacao for making the mousse shown in the photos. It worked perfectly and my tasters loved it. I could have used the 72% cacao (Bittersweet), but 61% is best for a wider range of palates. E. Guittard Chocolate is a San Francisco-area company and has been making good quality chocolate since 1868. Their couverture chocolate wafers (these are not chocolate chips) come in a convenient one-pound box. No chopping required -- it's ready to go. These make me want to keep making more chocolate desserts!

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