Chocolate Mousse

chocolate mousse

Chocolate is the dessert of choice on Valentine's Day, be it candy, truffles, cakes, or cookies, we crave chocolate. There is good reason: Somewhere along the line in history, dating back to Aztec times, chocolate became known for its stimulating effect, and was believed to be an aphrodisiac. Chocolate eventually becoming equated with the holiday of love because its exclusivity made it the perfect gift to show one's appreciation. It's no surprise why so many people love chocolate, it has been a part of our Valentine's celebrations for hundreds of years. Valentine's Day wouldn't be what it is without it.

The best way to enjoy chocolate, in my opinion, is in its purest form. Give me a bar of good-quality chocolate and I will be extremely happy. Many people love such desserts as chocolate cake and brownies, but those sweets don't always give chocolate due justice. A simple dessert that showcases chocolate in its top form combines just a few ingredients: melted chocolate, eggs, and cream, to create a spoonable chocolate cloud called mousse, the French word for foam. This is a dessert your Valentine will swoon over.

Most people would say chocolate mousse only contains those three ingredients. That's only partly true. There are recipes that make it without egg yolks, or others that add butter. Then there is Hervé This's chocolate mousse made with only chocolate and water. If you're thinking it's impossible, then you're wrong. I've seen it and eaten it first hand. But for this recipe I take the classic route and make a mousse that includes egg whites and yolks, cream, and butter. The latter two ingredients add creaminess and flavor that can't be achieved by anything else. I also add espresso powder, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt to bring out the chocolate flavor.

Mousse is both an easy and difficult dessert to make, just because the different components need to be at the correct temperatures when assembling. The melted chocolate should not be hot because the eggs will curdle when added. Nor should it be cold because the eggs won't incorporate smoothly. Make sure the melted chocolate is at body temperature. To test, dab a little of the melted chocolate on the inside of your wrist or your upper lip. It should be just warm. In fact it's like testing milk for a baby's bottle. The egg whites should be about room temperature and the whipped cream should be still cool after whipping. Follow these guidelines and you will be all set to create and enjoy a luscious chocolate mousse for dessert this coming Valentine's Day.

Chocolate Mousse

1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Whipped cream, for serving
Shaved chocolate, for serving

Whip the cream in a chilled bowl until soft peaks form.

Bring a pot with 2 inches of water to a boil. Turn off the heat. Set a bowl over the pot. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the espresso powder and stir until dissolved. Add the chocolate and stir until melted. Let the chocolate cool to just body temperature.

Meanwhile, whip the egg whites in a warmed bowl until frothy. Add the sugar and continue to whip until stiff but not dry.

To the chocolate, stir in the salt and vanilla. Stir in the egg yolks, one at a time, until smooth. Fold in the beaten egg whites in two additions. Fold in the whipped cream in two additions. Divide the mixture among six glasses. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve each glass topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Yield: 6 servings.