One of my Dad's favourite desserts is a homemade chocolate mousse. Because of this it turned into something of a treat pudding in our house, so it became one of my favourites too. I know my Mother has her own recipe which I've made a few times before, but I came across my recipe for a typical, simple, three ingredient traditional French chocolate mousse in a book my Grandfather gave me last Christmas: Sweet Paris by Michael Paul. It is such a beautiful book with stunning photos of all things sweet around Paris, the stories behind all of the various desserts and their histories, and some rather good recipes I've been working through, too.
I know most people don't really see chocolate mousse as a 'treat' dessert, but when it is something you've made yourself, when you serve it in a pretty dish (this one is from Zara Home, my new go to for cute kitchen and dining stuff), and you top it with edible gold stars I think it would make a lovely family dessert for Christmas Eve or New Years Eve. Now, there are two things to note with this dessert. First, that I'd say in generous glasses it would serve 4, but really it can't be predicted. It is up to the size of your dishes, really. You could even make it as a sweet New Years Eve canapé in shot glasses with little egg spoons. The second thing to note, is that I've screwed this recipe up a couple of times so you don't have to. If you try adding the egg yolks to the melted chocolate while the chocolate is too warm still the eggs will cook and the mixture will be ruined, you'll have to start again with new eggs and new chocolate. But, if you follow the instructions it is actually really easy.
The recipe calls for, and some other traditional French recipes I've read say you can top it with a dollop of double cream, whipped until it just holds its shape with sugar beaten into it to sweeten it. I've done this once or twice if I've had a little cream left over in the fridge from doing something like making a chicken pie or a chocolate ganache, but I honestly don't think it is necessary and I like the chocolate to speak for itself here.
- 120g (4.25 oz) Plain (Bittersweet) Chocolate (I use Cadbury Bournville)
- 4 Large Eggs (though you should always use large eggs for baking)
- 25g (1 oz) Caster (Superfine) Sugar
This is my Mothers method of melting chocolate, and I think it is the best way to do it to avoid the screw up I described above. Use a heatproof glass bowl (we both swear by Pyrex) that will sit on the top of a small saucepan so only half an inch of the bottom of the bowl is in the saucepan. Half fill the pan with boiling water making sure that the bottom of the bowl is nowhere near touching the water. Put the pan on a simmering heat. It will be the steam coming up from the pan and hitting the bowl which will melt the chocolate. Break the chocolate up into small chunks and allow to melt in the bowl, stirring occasionally until it has melted. Never let the water underneath boil, as this will get the chocolate too hot and it will go grainy.
Remove the bowl from the heat and leave on a cool surface while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. You want it cool so it won't cook the egg yolks when you add them, but you don't want it to go completely cold as this will make it really hard to beat the yolks in later. Separate the eggs and set the yolks aside. Whisk the egg whites in an electric mixer or using a hand held electric whisk, gradually adding the sugar as you go along until the mixture has formed soft peaks.
Once the chocolate is cooler to the touch, but still warm add the yolks one by one, beating in vigorously with a wooden spoon. Add half the egg whites to the chocolate mixture and fold the egg whites in until combined gently, trying your best not to knock the air out. I've described the best folding technique in my Pear Soufflé recipe. If you add the chocolate to the egg white and not the other way around, the weight of the chocolate will knock even more air out. Repeat with the second half of the egg whites, and divide the mousse among your glasses. Chill in the fridge for at least two hours, and enjoy.
I hope everyone had a great weekend, and that you've got all your Christmas shopping done and finished ahead of the storm; and on that note that everyone has already managed to get home or wherever you're headed to spend Christmas safely. I'm warm and cozy at my parents house, and I've had a lovely weekend catching up with friends and having lovely long lunches in various local pubs around this beautiful part of Kent. Also, how great do Christmas trees look with all the nicely wrapped presents sitting underneath? It is almost enough to make me not want to open them!