"I have always thought a good chocolate mousse is an aphrodisiac, the more intense the taste of chocolate, the more erotic the spell," says food critic Gael Greene, whose favorite recipe calls for a pound and a half of chocolate.
Some chocolate mousse lovers go even further. "It's not a food, it's a concept," says one indulgent male. "It's like illicit sex. It's so good but so fattening. It gives you pimples. It's a sin."
Chocolate mousse is a concept.
With the exception of chocolate, which should be of the very best quality, there are no standard ingredients for a mousse. It can be made with or without egg yolks, with or without whites, with or without heavy cream, with or without butter.
It can be chilled or frozen, served in or out of molds, in cake shells, in pie shells, or heaped in a bowl.
Just as ther are two, deeply divided schools of thought about chocolate chip cookies -- hard or soft, so there are two chocolate mousse camps: light, airy and pale in color or "wonderful, wicked deeply chocolate," the Gael Greene school.
Greene has an unexpected ally, the new White House pastry chef, Albert Kumin. Kumin makes his chocolate mousse, which he has already served at the White House, without egg whites. "If you put egg whites in it, I think you take a little bit away from the goodness," Kumin said. For goodness, read richness.
The Swiss-born chef's mousse was created only three years ago, when he was at the New York restaurant, Windows on the World. It is flavored with the Israeli liqueur, Sabra, a blend, Kumin thinks, of kirsch, creme de cacao and orange liqueur.
Not all cooks are content to serve mousse au natural . They like to dress it up. Some have even called it overdoing. There was the time Greene gilded her favorite mousse recipe, which she prefers to describe as "almost like adult fudge with little bits of chocolate in the middle," to a fare-thee-well.
She described the concoction recently: "I put a chocolate cookie crumb crust in the bottom of a spring form pan and line the bottom and sides with Dione Lucas' chocolate roll. You know the one without any flour in it. Then I added a little bit of chestnut puree because if I'm known for anything it's excess. Then I filled it with the chocolate velvet and put a circle of the roll on top. Then I froze it. When I took it out of the freezer, I frosted it with whipped cream.
"The guests screamed in outrage... as they ate it. The next dinner I was so intimidated by their reaction, I served strawberries."
Greene says the best way to "cut" the chocolate is to put a little sour cream in with the whipped cream topping, "instant creme fraiche ."
Obviously she has no trouble dealing with chocolate mousse. But then there's the person who refuses to deal with it at all. A successful behavior modification dieter, who lost 40 pounds in 9 months, said: "Chocolate mousse. What's chocolate mousse?"
This elaborate version of chocolate mousse finds it in the form of a pie. It has become extremely popular in Los Angeles and may be one of the richest mousses on either coast and in between.
CHOCOLATE MOUSSE PIE (16 servings)
12 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 3 tablespoons
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brandy
15 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup coffee
2 1/4 cups heavy cream
Beat yolks in top of double boiler with 1 1/2 cups sugar, vanilla, salt and brandy, over simmering water, until mixture is thick. Remove from water and set aside.
Melt chocolate over hot water or over direct heat, carefully. Remove; beat in butter a little at a time. Gradually beat chocolate into yolks until mixture is smooth. Beat in coffee.
Beat whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in 3 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form. Beat one cup of whites into the chocolate mixture to thin it. Then fold in remaining whites until well blended. Whip cream until stiff and fold into chocolate mixture. Pour into prepared crust and chill overnight in refrigerator.
Or spoon mixture into 16 individual souffle cups, each holding less than 1/2 cup.
1 1/4 cups chocolate wafer crumbs
3 tablespoons melted butter
Crush cookies to make crumbs. Use rolling pin, blender or food processor. Mix with melted butter and pat into bottom and sides of 10-inch spring form. Bake at 325 degrees 8 to 10 minutes. Cool and fill.
For a very light chocolate mousse, try this one made with egg whites, only.
AIRY CHOCOLATE MOUSSE (6 servings)
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons liqueur (orange-flavored or brandy)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Melt the chocolate over very low heat or over hot water. Add the salt to the whites and beat until stiff. Gradually beat in sugar until mixture is stiff and glossy. Beat in liqueur and vanilla. Fold whites into chocolate and spoon into 6 serving dishes. Chill at least one hour, longer if desired. If desired, serve topped with whipped cream.
This is my favorite recipe for chocolate late mousse. The mousse is encased in a brownie crust. For chocaholics -- nirvana!
DOUBLE CHOCOLATE THREAT (12 servings)
1/3 cup butter
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
2/3 cup unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 pint heavy cream, whipped, for garnish
Melt butter and chocolate over low heat or in top of double boiler over hot water. Remove from heat, add sugar and eggs and mix well. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir into chocolate mixture. Add vanilla and pour into greased and floured 8- or 9- inch square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees 20 to 30 minutes, until brownies are baked, but not dry. Cool. Remove from pan and cut into strips wide enough to come most of the way up the sides of a 2-quart souffle dish or charlotte mold. Cut the strips through the center to make 2 thinner layers. Line bottom and sides of dish with brownie layers. Don't worry about piecing; it won't show.
While brownies are baking, make: Filling
1 1/2 pounds semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup strong coffee
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup coffee liqueur
1/2 cup heavy cream
Melt chocolate with coffee over low heat or in top of double boiler over hot water. Remove from heat. Beat yolks until pale in color; stir into chocolate. Stir in coffee liqueur. Cool. Beat whites until stiff but not dry. Whip cream stiff. Fold whites and cream into chocolate mixture and spoon into brownie-lined dish.
Chill overnight in refrigerator, well wrapped, or freeze. To serve, defrost if frozen. To remove from pan, loosen from sides with knife, then dip into hot water to loosen and turn out onto serving plate.
Whip 1/2 pint heavy cream until stiff and cover top and parts of sides with cream. Serve small slices.
The classic version for which the best quality chocolate should be used.
MOUSSE AU CHOCOLAT (6 to 8 servings)
1/2 pound sweet chocolate
3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 inch scraped vanilla bean
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
In top of double boiler over hot water, melt the chocolate with the water and sugar. Remove and cool. Add the yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla bean. Beat the whites until stiff. Fold into chocolate mixture. Spoon into 6 or 8 individual pots, souffle dishes or ramekins. Refrigerate. To serve, top with whipped cream.
The new White House pastry chef has a mousse recipe serving 115. This recipe has been reduced.
ALBERT KUMIN'S CHOCOLATE MOUSSE (16 servings or more)
8 egg yolks
3 ounces superfine sugar
3 or 4 ounces Sabra liqueur
1 pound semi-sweet chocolate
1 quart heavy cream
Beat the yolks and sugar together until light. Mix in the liqueur. Mean-while melt the chocolate over hot water and whip the cream. Mix a little of the cream into the yolk mixture. Then mix in the chocolate until it is smooth. Then fold in the whipped cream and spoon into individual serving dishes. Chill.
Kumin says in place of the liqueur you can use a mixture of creme de cacao, kirsch and orange liqueur with a little instant coffee dissolved in water. "You have to play around with the flavors to find what you prefer," he explained.