Jan 30, 2020
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Whipping Up Chocolate Mousse Is Stressful. A Blender Makes It Easy.

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I was impressed by Danou, a family friend who lived next door to me in rural France, not just because she was significantly older (retired) and smoked Gauloises (one pack a day) and had two dogs (two!), but because her go-to dessert was chocolate mousse. She had a life outside the kitchen, but so much of the time I spent with her was on the weekends, hanging around her house as she got ready for Sunday lunch, helping her make that mousse. It was a process, the same each time, and my responsibilities were fairly small. I cracked and separated the eggs and checked the bowls for egg shell. I broke the chocolate along segment lines and checked the bowl for foil bits. I set a pot of water on to boil, to melt the chocolate. Then I climbed onto the counter to get the Bowl.

Danou didn’t mess around with martini glasses or tiny coupes, which is another part of what was so impressive about her. She whipped and folded and scraped the dark, airy batter into a giant ceramic bowl and shoved it into the fridge, which was already jammed full. Later, after the batter was set, after dinner, she dared me to turn the bowl upside down over my head — it was so heavy, it hurt my wrists. She served mousse family-style, the bowl passed around with an enormous metal spoon, everyone helping themselves. I know it now as a restaurant dessert — a chilled ramekin pulled from the fridge — but this is the spirit of chocolate mousse. A big bowl going around, again and again, the portions never uniform or predetermined.

I don’t know anyone who makes chocolate mousse at home now, let alone once a week. Maybe because the traditional method that Danou employed, for which you melt the chocolate over gently simmering water, then beat hot cream into the melted chocolate, and then split your eggs into whites and yolks, and then mix the yolks, at room temperature, into the chocolate, and then whip the whites into a stiff meringue — but not too stiff! — and then fold the meringue into the chocolate until there are absolutely no streaks, but also not for too long, because the mousse starts to deflate, is so stressful. And because an imperfect mousse will announce itself immediately with tiny lumps of some kind or an unappealing density.

But chocolate mousse is a home cook’s dessert — fast and unfussy. Not Danou’s version, but blender chocolate mousse, which is infinitely more reliable, and which would be an affront to traditional chocolate mousse, if it didn’t work so well. The recipe I’m now devoted to came to me via the pastry chef Natasha Pickowicz, who runs the pastry kitchens at Café Altro Paradiso and Flora Bar, in Manhattan. It has somewhat murky origins in a Junior League cookbook from the 1980s, and like all great shortcut recipes, it was shared and shared. The mousse passed through kitchens in Florida and New Jersey, getting tweaked along the way, most recently traveling with Monica Stolbach, a pastry cook, to Pickowicz’s kitchen in New York, and ending up on more than one dessert menu because it’s so delicious and straightforward, especially for cooks who don’t typically make desserts.

Pickowicz, who does typically make desserts, ups the egg yolks and adds butter to make the mousse richer and includes some instant coffee for the depth that comes only with bitterness, but as she put it, “The base recipe is pretty untouchable.” So I don’t touch it.

Crack eggs into the blender, add chopped dark chocolate, then pour hot sugar syrup in with the motor running. This cooks the eggs and melts the chocolate at the same time — if you don’t have a fancy blender, just keep yours going, and it will, eventually, do the job. Fold this cooled mixture into softly whipped cream, and you’re done. There’s wiggle room with the additions, but I stick with a bit of very strong coffee, a splash of brandy or rum — the original recipe called for Kahlúa — and some vanilla essence. However you tweak it, the mousse sets within a couple of hours, airy and firm, smooth and creamy, with no chance of bits and no pocked surface of fallen, broken bubbles. The blender does all the work.

If you’re feeling flashy, you could put the mousse straight from the blender into ramekins or glasses or some other cute little bowls and then spoon over a little extra whipped cream and grated chocolate when it comes time to serve. But I like it best in a massive bowl, passed around just as it is — Danou-style — the dark, glossy surface daring you to tip it upside down.

Recipe: Blender Chocolate Mousse

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