Monday, February 28, 2011

Back to blogging... from Gent! AND, fabulously decadent Chocolate Mousse

It's been about a year since I last posted on this blog. I originally started it because a few friends had asked me to share some of my recipes with them, and also so I could share my ideas and finds with my far-flung dear ones. I didn't resume posting when I moved to Belgium in September for my Fulbright, although in some ways it would have been a great way to share my life here. This has been met with some complaints, so I'm starting it back up. So, here's a mishmash of my life here and the things and people I love. And, since I'm required to tell you here and in the "about me" section, this blog in no way reflects the Fulbright Commission, or the Institute of International Education, etc. Actually, I can't remember the exact wording I'm supposed to use and can't find that paper anymore, but anyway, if you are deeply offended by anything I say here it's totally on me and they can't be held responsible for anything stupid that I do or say. Okay?

What better way to start up my blog from Belgium than with a chocolate mousse? That stuff is everywhere here and boy, do I love it. LOOOOOOVE it. Chocolate mousse is one of the world's perfect foods. It's soft, creamy, chocolatey decadence. I got this recipe, as I get so many recipes, from smitten kitchen. Really, she's great. I have not yet tried the Julia Child via David Lebovitz version yet, which I suspect may be a little more traditional, but this was so perfect to me that I am reticent to mess around. In fact, the second time I made it I served it to new friends from Paris and it was met with hearty approval, so I'm going to feel free not to try the other recipe until my curiosity gets the better of me.

It should be noted that my dear friend and fellow cellist, Anna Katharina, helped me on my maiden mousse voyage. It would not have been possible without her as I do not have a mixer here! She lugged the appliance from Brussels to Gent, kept me company and helped me make the mousse. Now that's a friend!

I made this recipe twice. The first time it was very dense and almost bitter, and I loved it. The second time it was softer and perhaps sweeter, and I loved it.

Rather than copy the recipe out here, I'll ask that you just follow the provided link above. I followed it pretty much exactly. Instead, I'm going to give you some pointers that I obtained from experience (the whopping 2 times I made this), and from what I gleaned after quizzing the interwebs.

1. If you are afraid of raw eggs, or cream, or butter, or liquor, do not make this. Find something else to make. Do not ruin this
perfect creation. I'll be honest and admit that I was kind of afraid of the raw eggs myself. But after one bite of this stuff, I was totally over it-- my love for this mousse helped me to see how statistically improbable and fairly insignificant a day or two of vomiting would be. That said, if you are preggers or feeding a very young child, maybe pass this one up for awhile.

2. The texture of the mousse is dependent on how much you whip the egg whites and the cream, and you probably don't need to whip it was much as you might imagine. The first time I made it we whipped them for a long time, until the cream was starting to almost resemble butter and the whites were well on their way to meringue. I didn't mind the density, which made the chilled mousse almost sliceable, but it's not usually what people are going for with mousse. The second time I did it I still whipped the cream a lot but whipped the egg whites a lot less, and the texture was rich but not too stiff or heavy.

3. Because there is no added sugar in this recipe, the kind of chocolate you buy will determine the sweetness of your mousse. It will also affect the quality, so spring for some decent chocolate. I prefer dark chocolate. I used a Cote d'Or "Noir de Noir" for this, which was 54% cacao, and it was perfect. If you want a very intense, bitter mousse, I guess you could use darker, though almighty Deb at Smitten Kitchen says no more than 60%. You could also use lighter, but what's the point? And if you have the gall to use white, I don't want to know about it.

4. Play around with your liqueur options and measurements. I used cognac like the recipe indicated, and it was great. However, I could see kahlua working really well, or even something fruity like grand marnier or créme de cassis. The first time I made it, the very dense time, I upped the amount of cognac to 2 tablespoons. It gave the mousse a pronounced cognac flavor, and brought out the bitterness of the chocolate. I followed the recipe exactly the second time and kind of missed its presence, though that's purely a personal preference.

Happy Moussing! I'm grateful to have this gem in my repertoire now... and am glad that I don't have a mixer with me in Gent so that I won't make this too often :)