Anyone who has ever come to my house for dinner knows that I try to be as unfussy an entertainer as possible. But last weekend I went off-roading a bit…
My friends were stopping by on Sunday night with their two young kids. Much to my delight, they do this fairly frequently, and most of the time I just throw together a big pot of pasta or a few pizzas topped with whatever I scavenged up at the Saturday farmer’s market. Maybe some chips and guac to start, maybe salsa. Maybe some cupcakes from the local bakery for dessert. Like I said, unfussy.
But this past weekend, I decided to make one of my favorite desserts that also happens to be kinda famously fussy: chocolate mousse. You have to separate eggs, you have to melt chocolate and bring it to the right temperature, you have to whip the whites to the right stiffness. (None of this is hard per se, but it does take more focus than swinging by the local bakery.)
But when I make it, I always think the same thing: Wow, is there a better dessert in the world than elegant, old-school, light-as-air chocolate mousse? When I was a kid, it was the ultimate Fancy Treat, especially when piled high with whipped cream.
And now, as an adult, I have a whole new appreciation for the dessert because I can make it in advance when people are coming over. (In fact, mousse takes at least three hours to set, so in fact I have to make it in advance.) And those people almost always gasp with pleasure once it makes its way to the table. You can prepare it in individual portions of course, but lately, I’ve been into prepping the whole thing in a large-ish bowl topped with a big mess of freshly whipped cream.
Old-School Chocolate Mousse with Whipped Cream
Be vigilant about not introducing any water or moisture to the chocolate or it will seize, resulting in a grainy mousse.
7 ounces good-quality chocolate (between 60-70% cacao)
pinch of salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in a metal bowl placed over a pan of simmering water. Set aside and let come to room temperature. (This is important.)
Separate six eggs into two medium-large mixing bowls. Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and whip thoroughly until stiff. (You don’t want any runny-ness or liquid in those whites.) Stir the melted chocolate into the egg yolks until just combined. Then, using a rubber spatula, delicately fold in egg whites to the chocolate-egg mixture until combined. You do not want to overmix. Pour batter into a serving bowl (or individual bowls) and refrigerate for at least three hours.
When ready to serve, make your whipped cream: In a small-medium mixing bowl, using an electric mixer (or a strong, enthusiastic wrist), whip the cream and vanilla extract together until stiff peaks appear. Spoon whipped cream on top of the mousse, the more artless you are about this, the better.
Thoughts? Do you love chocolate mousse, too? (At the restaurant Chez Janou in Paris, they bring a giant bowl to your table and give you a few heaping spoonfuls. It feels like one of life’s great pleasures!)
(Photos by Alexandra Stafford for Cup of Jo.)