Thursday, March 31, 2016

Grace's Chocolate Mousse

Simple, delicious, and probably shouldn't be served in a giant ramekin...

When I first introduced Grace, I mentioned how I'd found out that in France, most people don't make their own desserts. It's customary to purchase them at a local bakery or sweet shop instead. But there are two recipes that are exceptions to this rule: the yogurt cake I tried and slightly failed to make in said intro, and chocolate mousse. Which is what we're going to talk about here!

Chocolate mousse has slightly mysterious - or at least murky - origins. No one really knows when it was invented, but we do know that people have been making mousses since the 1700's, and it did get its start in France. Since Europeans had been enjoying chocolate for almost a hundred years at that point, it's not all that surprising to think that someone got the idea to put the two together! Some researchers think it came to be when people started adding eggs to the customary chocolate drink to make it thicker and foamier, and eventually someone added cream and sugar, and presto! Chocolate mousse.

Mousses can be sweet or savory, even today. Although we can't be certain of the exact origin, chocolate mousse wasn't really something that made its way to the US until the latter part of the 19th century. It's a dessert that's always intrigued me because I never really knew what exactly went into making it. It qualifies as something I enjoyed eating, but never really had an interest in making myself.

Obviously things have changed.

It turns out, as elegant and rich as this dessert is, it's actually pretty simple to make. Most of the ingredients are staples in my pantry and fridge, so I can definitely see this being something I could whip up if I didn't have time to go to a bakery to pick up a treat for dessert. It's also definitely something a young kid could make, with some adult supervision while using the stove, obviously. I know this because my brother made this when he was younger, and I'm pretty sure my sister did, too. Pretty funny how I'm the only one who didn't have much of an interest in cooking or baking as a kid and now I run a food blog, right?

The recipe I tried out is from Martha Stewart's website, mostly because I do know she makes a quality product. I started off by whisking together four egg yolks, two tablespoons of sugar and 3/4 of a cup of heavy cream. As instructed, I cooked this under medium low heat, and kept a close eye on it, stirring pretty much constantly. I didn't want my custardy base to burn... like all of my other custards. Or most of them, anyway.

Once it looked thick enough, I took it off the heat and added in eight ounces of chocolate chips (close enough to bittersweet chocolate), and a teaspoon of vanilla. This all got stirred in until it was all incorporated. I was lazy, and didn't strain it after I did this. Didn't affect the texture at all.

Some mousse recipes ask you to reserve the egg whites and whip them in with the rest of your ingredients. This one just wants you to whip in heavy cream. I'm definitely okay with that - as I've mentioned before, I've been taught since I was a child that uncooked egg whites might be a death sentence, and it's something I haven't been able to fully shake.

I got out my electric mixer and beat in 1 and a 1/4 cups of heavy cream with 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks formed. My mom says I'm good at whipping cream and egg whites, but I'm not sure it's really a skill I should be bragging about. I just whip it until it's done?

Anyway, you stir about a third of your whipped cream into your chocolate mixture, and then carefully fold the rest of it in. Why stir and then fold? Not sure. Maybe it helps make sure the chocolate's consistently incorporated without collapsing the whipped cream too much. I don't know, I didn't go to culinary school.

Nice and simple, right? I spooned mine out into ramekins because I really wanted to use my new ramekins. In retrospect, I should have used smaller dishes.

This gets chilled for at least half an hour, although it does taste good at room temperature too. Fun fact, apparently chocolate mousse used to be served frozen from time to time, and thus had a lot in common with ice cream. I'd kind of like to give that a try someday!

Now, I don't want to oversell this, because it tasted like basically every chocolate mousse I've ever eaten, but this was really, really tasty. The kind of tasty where you want to keep eating even though you feel like you're going to explode! Everyone really enjoyed it, so I'd definitely say this is a solid recipe that's going to be a crowd pleaser if you give it a try yourself. It makes enough to comfortably feed eight or so people, maybe more if you give people tinier portions. You really don't need a lot of it to feel satisfied.

Now that the mystique of mousse has been cleared up for me a bit, I'm interested to see what other kinds of mousses I can throw together. I'm not sure I'll ever try something like a salmon mousse (I prefer my fish to be a little sturdier...), but making a mouse cake or filling for a cake would be cool. Maybe you'll see that sometime in the future!

Next time, I definitely want to try freezing it!

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