Monday, February 10, 2014

Julia Child's Chocolate Mousse

Today was one of those very long Sundays that made me feel like breaking out a cookbook and browsing for ideas. As I scanned the shelf, I saw old standbys like 'The Joy of Cooking', a dog-eared copy of the 'Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook', Mexican cookbooks, Jewish cookbooks, and even a self published book by a family friend. But today was a Julia Child sort of a day.

Julia Child provided tremendous inspiration to generations of want-to-be chefs. With her patrician tones and sharp wit, she made millions fall in love with French Cuisine (and dancing chickens...), and even more importantly, attempt to create it themselves in their own kitchens. I can proudly admit that I spent many weekend mornings with Ms. Child when I was growing up, courtesy of our local public broadcasting station. I simply loved her. I loved that she played with her food. I loved that she would make a big mess while baking, just like my own Mum, with flour puffing everywhere. But, I really loved that she tasted everything she cooked and genuinely liked it.

I decided to take the upcoming Valentine's Day holiday as inspiration to try to make Mousseline Au Chocolat, better known as chocolate mousse. This is one of my favorite desserts to eat, but I had never made it on my own. I have been served chocolate mousse countless times as part of cakes or by itself, but it seemed silly not to know how to actually make it.

So, with the idea of creating a treat for my husband and kids, I set to work. Chopped chocolate meets strong coffee and egg yolks with sugar. Whipped egg whites are folded in to give the dessert body, and an optional splash of flavored liquor perks it up a bit. Topped off with a bit of freshly whipped cream and you have a dessert to impress any sweetheart!

Classic Chocolate Mousse
recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, & Simone Beck
makes about 5 cups

***4 eggs, separated into yolks & whites
3/4 cup instant sugar, or very finely ground sugar (I ran mine through a mortar & pestle)
1/4 cup orange liqueur (optional)
6 ounces of semi sweet baking chocolate
4 tablespoons strong coffee
6 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon sugar (for the egg whites)
pinch of salt

whipped cream, fruit, chocolate shavings, or glazed orange peel for topping

Set a medium saucepan filled halfway with water over medium low heat. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and 3/4 cup of sugar with a whisk until the sugar is incorporated. It should be thick and pale yellow in color. Beat in the liqueur, if using. Place the bowl over the pot of the almost simmering water (don't boil!) and beat the egg mixture for another 3-4 minutes until foamy and hot. Take the bowl from the stove and beat the egg mix over cold water for another 3-4 minutes until cooled. The mix should be able to make a ribbon if lifted from the bowl and have a mayonnaise texture.

In a separate medium sized bowl (glass or metal), melt the chocolate and coffee together over the pot of hot water. This is a double boiler. Once melted, remove from the heat and whisk in the softened butter, one small piece at a time until melted and smooth. Slowly beat the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk and sugar mix. You can also add in some of the glazed orange peel if wanted.

In a large bowl attached to a mixer, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until softly peaked. Sprinkle in 1 tablespoon sugar and beat until stiff peaks are achieved. Stir 1/4 of the egg whites into the the chocolate mix, then fold in the rest.

Place the mousse into individual cups, dishes, or ramekins. Chill for at least 2 hours. Top with desired additions.

*** Because you are using uncooked egg whites in this recipe, it's a good idea to use pasteurized eggs, especially if you are serving to children and the elderly.

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