Dark Chocolate Mousse
If I could ever be tempted to join the dark side, this is the dish that would do it. Normally I am a card carrying member of the lemon-heads; people who choose lemon desserts whenever possible. Yet, when staring at a silky dark chocolate mousse that melts in your mouth, each bite an oxymoron of dense fluffiness- my lemon-loving-lips begin to quiver. A whiff of the chocolate-meets-coffee-and-cream aroma and I’m done for. In plunges my spoon and with the first taste of mousse my eyes close in rapture. I’ve stepped into the dark side and there is no going back.
Dark chocolate, sugar, eggs, butter, and a touch of coffee- the ingredients are not necessarily unusual, but when they are combined with care they can create a work of culinary art beloved by all- chocolate mousse. In my search for the perfect chocolate mousse recipe (because if I’m leaving lemon behind it better be for perfection!) I found this recipe by the King of Desserts, David Lebovitz. Reputed to be an adaptation of Julia Child’s favorite chocolate mousse, I knew that this was the pedigree of perfection.
High quality dark chocolate (70% or more) is not wasted here. Instead it will shine brightly, bringing the mousse to a new level of excellence, so use the best dark chocolate you can find. Tempered until smooth with butter and coffee, it is then slowly mixed with egg yolks, sugar, rum, and then barely folded into heavily whipped egg whites. The process appears deceptively simple but actually requires precision and complete attention. This is not the time to multi-task and check your email! Once the mouse has formed, it is spooned into serving dishes and chilled until you are ready for chocolate nirvana.
During the busy holiday season, chocolate mousse is the perfect make-ahead dessert for a special dinner. It will happily sit in the fridge for up to four days before serving, cruelly tempting you each time you rummage for the milk. If your holiday gatherings are characterized by chaos and craziness then consider this your own personal gift for making it through to the end. One bite and you’ll forget the overflowing garbage sacks and sink full of dishes, loosing yourself for a few moments in a state of sheer chocolate bliss.
6 ounces (170g) bittersweet or semisweet dark chocolate, chopped
6 ounces (170g) salted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup (60ml) dark-brewed coffee or espresso
4 large very fresh eggs, yolks and whites separated
2/3 cup (170g), plus 1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons (30ml) dark rum
1 Tablespoon (15ml) water
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Special Equipment: 2 bowls that will work as a double-boiler, meaning they nest securely in the top of a saucepan without allowing steam to escape.
Fill a saucepan one-third full with hot water. Set the pan over medium-low heat, bringing the water to a low simmer. Set a bowl on top of the pan (as a double-boiler). It should be large enough to nest securely in the pan without steam escaping from the sides. In the bowl, melt together the chocolate, butter, and coffee, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat, but leave the pan in place.
Fill a large bowl with ice water and set it to the side.
Place the second double-boiler bowl on top of the simmering water. In the bowl whisk together the egg yolks, 2/3 cup of sugar, rum, and water. Whisk constantly for about 3-4 minutes until the liquid has thickened, like a runny mayonnaise. (If you have a hand held electric mixer, you can use it to whisk the liquid.)
When the liquid has thickened, remove the bowl from the heat and set the bowl into the larger bowl of ice water. Make sure that the small bowl is stable, and then continue to beat the egg yolk mixture until it is cool and thick (like a loose custard). Once it is thick, fold in the melted chocolate mixture, whisking until well combined.
In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until they are very frothy. Continue to beat the egg whites until they start to thicken. Add in the tablespoon of sugar and continue beating the egg whites until they are thick and shiny but not totally stiff. Then add the vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form.
Gently fold 1/3 of the stiff egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then add in the remainder of the whites and fold them in until just incorporated. Do not over mix the egg whites and chocolate or else the mousse will lose volume.
Spoon the mousse into a serving bowl or dishes and chill for 4 hours or until firm. The mousse may be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days before serving. Serve with a small dollop of freshly whipped cream and a few fresh raspberries.