The secret to summer’s best no-sweat dessert – The Denver Post


By Genevieve Ko, The New York Times

I didn’t fully understand the appeal of chocolate mousse until a decade ago, when I had it at the home of my friends Cecile and Tom Renna. They hosted brunch on a July afternoon so oppressively humid, I couldn’t imagine eating much at all.

But then Cecile brought out two big metal bowls — one piled with chocolate mousse, the other with whipped cream — so chilled from the refrigerator that they immediately began sweating as much as we were.

Cool, silky and so light, the mousse was perfect for the hot weather. It disappeared in your mouth like cotton candy but delivered a deep chocolaty flavor. And the casual way Cecile served her dessert — family-style for us to scoop straight out of the mixing bowls — made it feel as fun and welcoming as birthday cake.

Chocolate mousse can seem intimidating because it is often layered into martini glasses and crowned with chocolate curls in formal dining rooms. But in France, where Cecile grew up, it carries the low-key familiarity of our chocolate chip cookies. She has been making mousse since childhood and now loosely follows the instructions on the back of a “cheap” French Nestlé dark chocolate bar. “It’s the recipe that everyone makes in France,” she said.

Someone ladled out seconds, revealing a bright cloud of whipped egg whites that hadn’t been incorporated into the chocolate. Instinctively, I tensed. At the restaurant kitchens where I had worked, the chefs would have whisper-screamed about how unacceptable it was (in more colorful language).

Instead, Cecile glanced at the pupil of egg white surrounded by its chocolate iris and laughed. She preferred it this way, she said with a nonchalant confidence, adding that it was better to have pockets of egg whites than to fold them in so thoroughly that the mousse deflates.

When I asked her about her perfect-is-the-enemy-of-good approach to mousse all these years later, she said, “The moment you’re afraid of doing something, it paralyzes you.”

But there is nothing to fear about making mousse, especially since there are endless variations on it. The word loosely translates to “foam,” and that is the one thing it needs. “Larousse Gastronomique,” the culinary tome, describes it broadly as a “light, soft preparation.” That lightness can come from eggs, cream or, simply, air, as is the case with the chocolate-only version from molecular gastronomist Hervé This.

Making an Unfussy Dessert

Most mousse recipes follow some basic steps: melting chocolate, then folding in foamy egg yolks, whites or both and sometimes whipped cream. Many enhance the mix with coffee, alcohol, spices or other seasonings. In “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” Julia Child calls for beating egg yolks at room temperature, then over steaming water, then over cold water, before also beating egg whites. She also melts an astonishing amount of butter into the chocolate, as does Ina Garten, a generation later.

In The New York Times, Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey shared their “ne plus ultra” formula, which involves a folding a sabayon (a custardy dessert sauce of egg yolks and liquor), then sweetened whipped cream, then stiff egg whites into chocolate.

The thing with chocolate mousse is that any type is going to be delicious as long as it’s smooth and airy. I wanted to create a version that captured the laid-back spirit of Cecile’s — both in the cooking and in the sharing. To taste the effects of different ingredients in varying proportions and understand potential pitfalls, I experimented with nearly 20 variations to land on a formula that combines simple pleasures and easy preparation. There are some key steps to achieving it.


Source link