Big Girls, Test Kitchen: Airy Chocolate Mousse
I was going to Phoebe’s a couple Friday nights ago. She was making pastas and had invited a nice round group of 10 to eat before going out into the (rainy) evening. I, of course, volunteered to bring dessert.
Since the pastas would be rich and carb-loaded, I decided I would make something less heavy than ordinary. While not weightless, the chocolate pudding I had planned would leave us more likely to actually leave Phoebe’s apartment than after downing, say, a buttercream-iced cake or some such. When I decided to make two kinds of shortbread to go with the pudding, the whole not-too-heavy idea underwent a slight revision, but still, I had balance in mind.
Little did I know, when I started mixing that second batch of shortbread, that an even bigger revision was in store. My chocolate pudding wouldn’t set. I usually thicken puddings with a mixture of egg and cornstarch, and so far this has worked just fine. It didn’t work at all that Friday. Perhaps I didn’t heat the pudding long enough, perhaps I skimped on the cornstarch or tried to overload the dessert with more chocolate than it could bear, but after an hour spent cooling in the fridge, the pudding was no thicker than the moment I’d put it in.
Since I still had plenty of time, I decided to have a second go. At this point I lacked milk or half and half, I only had two eggs left, and I had little desire to go to the market. But I remembered reading, long ago, an old Alice Medrich (champion of chocolate) recipe that made mousse without adding any dairy. I thought about where the airy texture would come from, and I finally remembered that eggs alone could support a mousse–though many mousses have it, you don’t really need to fold in whipped cream.
So I melted the rest of my chocolate, my fingers tightly crossed, and I started whipping up eggs. I kept those fingers crossed while the mousse was setting in my fridge, being transported on the subway, and chilling some more at Phoebe’s before serving. Luckily, by the time we’d devoured Phoebe’s pastas (more on those soon) and were complaining how we had no room for dessert, the mousse was ready to be spooned out and garnished with shortbread. By then I had almost forgotten my kitchen disaster, and I kept my mouth shut about it, so no one had to know the mousse was born of out of desperation.
From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Airy Chocolate Mousse
This also works well with milk chocolate. Just omit the butter and reduce the sugar sligthtly. What’s also nice about it is that it’s nearly dairy free, so people who don’t each much dairy can still indulge.
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
3 extra large eggs (or 4 large)
pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
Melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl with the water and the butter. This takes about 2 minutes in my microwave–you want to remove the bowl when the chips still hold their shape, then finish the melting by stirring. This way the chocolate never gets too hot.
In a double boiler (or makeshift double boiler: use a heatproof bowl set over a skillet or pot of simmering water), heat the eggs with the sugar. Stir constantly with a fork or a whisk until the eggs are incredibly foamy and a drop of the liquid on your wrist feels legitimately hot If you have a candy thermometer, this should measure about 180 degrees. But be careful not to let the eggs curdle.
Remove the heated egg mixture from the stove and start beating it with electric mixers on high speed. Beat for about 5 minutes, or until the eggs are very light yellow, quite enlarged, and nearly cool.
Mix about a quarter of the eggs into the cooled chocolate to lighten. Fold in the rest of the beaten eggs very carefully, trying to keep in all the air you can. It’s okay if there are a few swirls of chocolate.
Transfer to a container and refrigerate 2 hours or more before serving. (It’s also wonderful frozen, when it starts to resemble ice cream.) Scoop into pretty flutes or bowls, and garnish with cookies or fruit.