Classic French: January’s Dark Chocolate Mousse

It’s time to try my very first dark chocolate mousse recipe ever!

I gave a lot of thought to how I would start my monthly mousse adventure in which I will try a different dark chocolate mousse recipe each month during 2013.  Do I want to start off with a vegan recipe or some kind of alternative ingredients?  Start with whatever looks the simplest and later get into something more complex?  Try to invent the recipe right off the bat? If not, then whose recipe do I use?

I started my search and found a handful of “to die for” dark chocolate mousse recipes and chose to begin with a classic recipe as rendered by one of the most famous french cooking teachers of all time–Julia Child!

No one would be better to learn from–she a Paris-trained chef who wanted to help American women learn the art of french cooking–teaching me, a neophyte mousse maker venturing into the deep end of desserts.  I got the idea while doing a Google search for recipes and came across a David Lebovitz adaptation from Julia’s famous book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  I was all set to use this adaptation but decided to get the recipe from the source herself.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

“Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck

After looking at several likely cookbook teachers (Betty Kettlebottom Crocker, Mark Bittman, the editor of Cook’s Illustrated, Rachael Ray and others) I decided that Julia’s Chocolate Mousse recipe will set an excellent standard for comparison with others I will make for the rest of the series. In fact, I was so impressed with this book and the way it instructs, I bought it.

She states:

Among all the recipes for chocolate mousse this is one of the best, we think;

I shopped for all my ingredients and I embarked upon my first ever Dark Chocolate Mousse!

This mousse consists of semi-sweet dark chocolate, sugar, egg yolks, unsalted butter, a couple spoonfuls of strong coffee and orange liqueur. That’s it! I did alter the recipe a bit by substituting organic, unrefined cane sugar in place of the extra fine white sugar called for. This is still sugar–there’s no way to deny that–but at least it is less refined and retains some of its minerals. (I will definitely get into sugar-free versions later in the series.)

The instructions in this book were so easy to follow! Once I had all the ingredients ready, such as the butter softened and the chocolate weighed out, it only took my husband and me about 20 minutes to make this mousse.

The first step says:

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until mixture is thick, pale yellow, and falls back upon itself forming a slowly dissolving ribbon.

That turned out to be a perfect description of how this first mixture would look. We used a handheld electric mixer but you can also use a wire whisk. We continued beating this yolk mixture after moving it to the stove and putting the bowl over a pot of not-quite-simmering water. Then it was off the stove and putting the yellow mixture over a bowl of ice water until the mixture cooled again and we achieved the desired “ribbons.”

“How did they figure out all these steps?” my husband asked.

“Just three women playing around with eggs and things,” I said.

Next we melted the chocolate and beat the butter into it. This is when I really understood that this dessert should be served in pettite portions.  Thank goodness we already cut the recipe in half! No use tempting ourselves with five cups of butter, sugar and chocolate at one time!

Freshly made, this dessert was very smooth and mousse-like. Excellent for a first attempt! We did our little photo shoot before putting the rest of the mousse in the refrigerator. Here is Miss January!

We used a color wheel to determine that Miss January would look smashing dressed in purple silk with a touch of mint green bling.

We used a color wheel to determine that Miss January would look smashing dressed in purple silk with a touch of mint green bling.

The rest went into the refrigerator and I took a little taste the next day. It was firmer than I expected. My solution was to bring it out of the refrigerator a short while before serving it and the mousse quickly became creamy again.

I note here that David L’s adaptation includes folding in beaten egg whites. This would definitely affect the density and is one of the options given in MTAOFC. I am considering making the original Juila Child recipe again using her egg white option and if I do, I will let you know how that turns out.

And what did our Dark Chocolate Mousse Aficionado think of this month’s classic french dessert? He liked it better after it had been chilled:

Great texture–really creamy even right out of the refrigerator. Thick, but not sticky. If I chew it, I detect a slight graininess from the type of sugar we used, but overall it is very creamy. The orange flavor is more developed and the color is darker now, like you would expect.  I’m tasting layers of flavors–creamy chocolatiness followed by the orange. A little cognac poured over this would be good!

~~~

The idea here was to duplicate this recipe and I did that except for the type of sugar. For this reason, I cannot include the entire recipe here because it isn’t mine. I didn’t “adapt” it, I followed it almost exactly.  This is a point of personal integrity as well as legal copyright and I’m sure you understand.

If you don’t want to purchase the entire cookbook, check with your local library to see if they have copies, browse the local bookstore to find the exact recipe or try the David Lebovitz adaptation.

I have never made this dessert before and usually don’t work with sugar, egg yolks and this much butter. This is foreign territory for me which is what makes it fun, even if risky!  How much will the outcome of these 2013 mousse recipes be determined by the composition of the recipes themselves and how much by the fact that they are being prepared by me–a novice?

Now that I have my first dark chocolate mousse classic under my belt (Literally. No doubt this experiment will go straight to my waist and continue south), I will forge ahead on my Quest and perhaps I will create a fabulous dark chocolate mousse recipe of my own or come up with the cleverest of adaptations to give you.

Do you have a favorite dark chocolate mousse recipe to recommend or have you got one of your own? Let us know and send us your link!

Top Five Last-Minute Christmas Gifts for Your Cooking Life

I often receive kitchen and cooking-related gifts at Christmas and I love to give them, too. Recently I have found some great gifts for cooks covering a broad price range so I thought I’d share them with you here.  (I know I said there were five but I ended up naming seven because there was a lot of good stuff to choose from. We’ll call the last two a bonus!)

1.  My favorite dishwashing tool is this little Scotch-Brite ™ “dishwand.” It’s a scrubber that holds the soap in the handle and has a nice scrubby sponge head that can be replaced. I heard some of you groan and chuckle! Commonplace and mundane as it is, I think everyone should have one of these.  Under $5. Buy it in any grocery store.

Dishwand

2. A vital necessity for keeping wooden cutting boards from drying and splitting especially in dry climates is Boos(R) Block Board Cream. Amazing stuff to use in between mineral oil treatments.  Really works.  Buy it in stores catering to cooks and cookware or online. Under $15.00.

Boos Block Cream

3.  Lovely New Mexican linen hand-printed dishtowels made by Kei & Molly Textiles, LLC.  Beautiful for drying glassware and they make great props for food photography.  Only $10.  The website is http://www.keiandmolly.com

RASTA PASTA 2

4.  Cooking for only one or two made simple with the Ohsawa (R) Pot.  You place this earthenware pot inside of your pressure cooker and you can cook small amounts of rice, beans and other things instead of a big potful.  And it comes out great! Starting at about $60.  Order from Gold Mine Natural Foods www.goldminenaturalfoods.com.

Ohsawa Pot

5.  Chocolate.  Gimme  Give someone chocolate from Kakawa Chocolate House in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Great “forgive me for being late” gift in case you didn’t shop in time for Christmas Day.  And remember, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner!  Prices vary. Quality is consistently excellent.  Go to their website:  www.kakawachocolates.com or better yet, just come to visit in Santa Fe and get free samples.

6.  Amazing and versatile condiments from Olaecea olive oil and balsamic vinegar company.  Try expresso dark balsamic, roasted pumpkin seed oil to die for or lemongrass mint white balsamic and dozens of others.  Each bottle is under $20.00  You can visit them in Santa Fe too and get samples or visit their website at http://www.oleaceaeoliveoil.com.

7.  An excellent cook’s reference book that I keep nearby and use is the New Food Lover’s Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst published by Barron’s. Answers all kinds of questions about ingredients, cooking methods, converting measurements etc. with over 6,700 entries.  Great for food/cooking bloggers, too, by the way!  Under $20 at any bookstore, Amazon, etc.

Cover of "The New Food Lover's Companion&...

Cover of The New Food Lover’s Companion

Happy last-minute shopping!