St. Julia’s Day, Part 2: Mousseline au Chocolat

August 23, 2009

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If you’re serving coq au vin for dinner on St. Julia’s Day, then it follows that you should serve chocolate mousse for dessert. The recipe in Mastering is the second chocolate mousse recipe I learned; the first was taught to me by a college friend. It involved a bag of toll house morsels, whipping cream, sugar, and egg whites, and resulted in a final dish I’m told is not unlike what is served at all-you-can-eat buffets.

Julia’s recipe doesn’t add that many more ingredients: four eggs separated into yolks and whites, sugar, “semi-sweet baking chocolate,” 1 1/2 sticks of butter, strong coffee, and orange liqueur.

Mise en place

I began by chopping the chocolate (Valrhona 62% bittersweet) and adding it, along with four tablespoons of the coffee (made from Folger’s instant – Chez Belm is a  tea-drinkin’ joint), to a bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water.

Chocolate and coffee

While the chocolate melted, I buzzed 3/4 cup of sugar in a food processor for a few seconds to create superfine sugar (Why pay extra for something you can make on demand?). I added the sugar to the egg yolks and beat until the mixture was “thick, pale yellow, and [fell] back upon itself forming a slowly dissolving ribbon.”

First Ribbon

I added 1/4 cup of the orange liqueur (I was out of Grand Marnier, so I used the triple sec reserved for margarita fixin’s) and continued to beat the eggs over a second pot of simmering water until the sugar was dissolved.

Beating Yolks

Once the yolks were too hot to touch, I placed the bowl in an ice water bath and continued to beat until the yolks had cooled and the ribbon formed again.

Second Ribbon

If the eggs look familiar, it’s because the technique is similar to that used to make a zabaglione, as I have attempted twice before.

By this time the chocolate had melted. I removed the bowl from the heat and added the butter bit by bit, stirring until the mixture was smooth.

Chocolate and Butter

I beat the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks and sugar.

Chocolate and Yolks

The egg whites had been sitting during the rest of the prep, which brought them up to room temperature – always beat egg whited when they’re warm. I added the whites and a pinch of salt to my stand mixer and started beating.

Beating Whites

When the whites formed soft peaks, I added a tablespoon of sugar, and continued beating until I had stiff peaks.

Stiff Peaks

I stirred 1/4 of the whites into the chocolate/yolk mixture to thin it out, then carefully folded in the remaining egg whites, trying not to deflate the mixture as I folded.

Folded Mousse

The finished mousse went into the fridge to set. About six hours later, it was time to serve with some raspberries and homemade whipped cream:

Final Plate

I still remember the shock of tasting this the first time after a year or two of eating the chips-and-cream version. It had much more depth, contributed by the coffee and liqueur, and more richness from the butter and yolks. The taste was still as I remembered it, but now I feel the coffee somewhat overpowers the other flavors. Back in 1961, the coffee was a necessary addition, given the quality (or lack thereof) of “baking chocolate.” The current availability of high-quality single-source bittersweet chocolate adds all the depth the mousse requires.

I probably won’t make this recipe again for quite a while. Julia improved upon it in Julia Child and More Company, where she doubles the amount of chocolate and adds it to a crème anglaise which is supplemented by a small amount of gelatin. And you can never go wrong with more chocolate.

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