Mmm, chocolate mousse. Light, creamy, chocolaty spoonfuls of deliciousness. A friend of mine used to think that chocolate mousse was just a fancy “French” name for chocolate pudding. Well “mousse au chocolat” if you want to get technical. (I did take 2 years of high school French for nothing. Almost for nothing. I still remember a few words, mostly swear words.) I couldn’t blame her because it does kind of look like pudding but it is something better. The creaminess is different than a pudding’s creaminess. It should feel light and airy yet still have substance.
I love to order chocolate mousse when we go out to eat but sometimes it’s nice just to have it at home, especially for a special meal. Since I’m hosting the family Christmas dinner this year (again), I wanted to have something different than the usual cheesecake or yule log for dessert. I find chocolate mousse a nice thing to have after a rather large meal since it doesn’t take much to feel satisfied. I wanted a practice run to get the timing down and taste test was in order, of course.
The last chocolate mousse I made was back in high school using Julia Child’s recipe. I’m sure it had something to do with French class but I don’t remember much about it except that it wasn’t like the ones I’ve had in restaurants (aka, it was kind of sucky). This is not to say that Julia Child’s recipe was at fault in anyway, it was the cook. Although I still have that recipe (and cookbook), I went with Pierre Hermé’s recipe. There are recipes that use whipped cream instead of whipped egg whites but I wanted to stay with the traditional way. Now here’s the disclaimer. Y’all know about the risks with using raw eggs, right? So if you’re worried about that but still want to use raw eggs instead of whipping cream, you can always use pasteurized eggs but make sure they are okay for whipping. Try to find the most freshest eggs you can, especially if not pasteurized.
How do you know if your eggs are fresh? Unless you’ve got your own hens laying the eggs for you like Leanne of Three Dog Kitchen, then like me, you’ll have to read your egg carton. Egg cartons have code dates usually with “Exp” or “Sell by” or “Best if used before”. There will also be a Plant Number that starts with “P” and a bunch of numbers. This tells you what plant the eggs were packed in. But I find the most useful information is the Pack Date. This tells us the day of the year that the eggs were processed and placed into the carton. It’s a three-digit code representing the day of the year. For example, January 1 is shown as “001″ and December 31 as “365.” So the closer the number is to the day you buy it, the better. Today is the 354th day of the year. If the carton says “299″, uh, you might not want to buy that because that means the eggs are well past USDA’s maximum length of time that consumers can expect eggs to maintain their quality when stored under “ideal conditions”, which I believe is 45 days.
So now that you know more about egg dates than you ever wanted to know, let’s get back to the recipe. I love Hermé’s recipe. This recipe is close in texture as some of the best mousse I’ve had. The taste, well, that all depends on the quality of the chocolate you use. I used Baker’s semi-sweet, it was the only thing I had on hand, so the flavor wasn’t as rich as it could have been with fine chocolate. I highly recommend using the best chocolate you can find. But I can’t complain because this was still pretty darn good for a test run. I plan on buying fine chocolate for the actual meal.
If you have a hand mixer, use it. A hand whisk will work but it will take a lot of whisking. A lot! I actually prefer using the hand mixer than the stand mixer for this one.
Adapted from Pierre Hermé: Chocolate Desserts
- 6 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, or you can use a combination of each
- 1/3 C whole milk
- 1 egg yolk
- 4 egg whites
- 2 Tbps sugar
Chop chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl large enough to contain all of the ingredients and accommodate the folding process. Place the bowl over a pot with simmering water, not boiling. Make sure the bowl is not touching the water and the water is kept at a simmer. Stir the chocolate around until almost all the chocolate is melted. Take off the heat. Smaller pieces will continue to melt after it’s off the heat.
In a small pot, gently bring the milk to just boiling (scalding the milk). You’ll know when you see milk bubbles forming around the inside edges of the pot. If you don’t stir the milk, it will form a skin on top. You won’t see the skin if you stir it. Remove and pour the scalded milk over the melted chocolate and slowly hand whisk to combine. Add the egg yolk and whisk until fully incorporated.
Whip eggs whites on medium speed until they reach a soft peak. If you don’t know the different stages of beating egg whites, Baking Bites has a great pictorial and explanation here. Of course skip the cream of tartar for this recipe. Once the egg whites reach soft peaks, increase to medium high and gradually add sugar in a slow steady stream until egg whites are firm and glossy. The chocolate mixture should be cooled by the time the egg whites are ready.
Add 1/3 of whites to chocolate mixture and gently whisk to combine and lighten the chocolate mixture. Gently fold in remaining 2/3 egg whites until there are no streaks. I do this in 2 steps, adding 1/3 at a time, folding until almost incorporated and then adding the last 1/3 and folding until completely incorporated. Pour into individual servings or a large bowl. I used my nice China tea cup since they are the perfect size and gave it a bit of elegance. Chill for about 1 hour. This will allow the mousse to set and become lighter. If chilling for longer, wrap with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator up to 2 days. The texture will become a bit more dense but it will still taste delicious! This mousse is fantastic on its own but if you’re so inclined, add a little bit of fresh whipped cream on top. Bon appetit!