January 31, 2011

Chocolate Mousse with Orange-Zested Whipped Cream

Great Reasons to Make Chocolate Mousse:
- You're going to a potluck, and it seems schleppy to get something from the grocery store.
- You have slightly embarrassing memories of asking for samples of mousse at the deli counter as a child (that make you wonder where your mother was. Maybe pretending you weren't her child?).
- You were given a KitchenAid stand mixer for Christmas that you haven't used nearly enough yet.
- You've gotta break that New Year's resolution sometime. Why not now?

But let's be honest, who really needs a reason for chocolate mousse? The fantastic inspiration for this absolutely drool-worthy recipe comes from The Essential New York Times Cookbook, which (along with Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian) is my current obsession. A giant tome of over 1400 recipes, the collection was painstakingly tested and arranged by Amanda Hessler, who drew from 150 years of recipes published in, you guessed it, The New York Times. I feel like there's a big emphasis on what's new and inventive in the culinary world, and it's refreshing to see the recipes from the nineteenth century that my grandmother's mother may have read. There's not a picture to be found, but Hessler's notes about each recipe are lovely and helpful. Also helpful: the book is popular enough that your local library surely has a copy.

The chocolate mousse recipe is not so old, only from 1977, but it is hands-down the best I've had. Hessler warns that you'll likely "dirt[y] eighty-seven bowls in the process." I tend to clean up as I go (a habit my dad will happily explain comes from him, not Mom), so I didn't get a final count, but I didn't think it was so bad. And while there are several different steps involved, there's nothing really tricky about it. It took less than an hour altogether. Don't be scared away, it's definitely worth a little bit of work.

Not too sweet, it hits just the right note of decadently rich but airily light. This is a chocolate-lover's dessert, for sure. I swapped out the liquor in the original recipe for orange juice and zest and added orange zest to the whipped cream, as well, and it brought just a touch of brightness to the situation. On quick note: Very little liquid is added to the melted chocolate, so it will seize up a bit if you don't work quickly. Don't worry about that, I tweaked the recipe to make that happen on purpose. The slightly hardened chocolate can still be easily beaten into the whipped cream and egg whites, and you'll have delightfully teeny pieces of melt-in-your-mouth intense chocolate. The thought of those tiny chocolate bombs had me in the kitchen with a spoon an embarrassing number of times this weekend. If you don't want them, just add a couple tablespoons of water to the egg yolks. But also be aware that we cannot possibly be friends.

Chocolate Mousse with Orange-Zested Whipped Cream
Mousse adapted from The New York Times Essential Cookbook.
Whipped cream from my brain. 

Learn from my missteps: Gigantic clear bowls photograph strangely.
You could theoretically serve the mousse by itself or with just the canned stuff. Don't. The orange-zested whipped cream is quite possibly the most delicious thing I've ever tasted. Enjoy!

Chocolate Mousse
1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate (chips, or cut into small pieces)
2 cups heavy cream
6 large eggs, separated
zest and juice of a small orange
5 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Melt chocolate in double-boiler set over low heat, or in a small saucepan set over a pan of simmering water.

Meanwhile, put eggs yolks in saucepan and set over very low heat. Whisk constantly until the consistency thickens, about 2 minutes. Add orange juice and zest and continue to beat constantly until it thickens to the consistency of a hollandaise, about 3-5 minutes.

Stir chocolate into yolk mixture and transfer to a mixing bowl.

Beat very cold cream with 2 tablespoons sugar in a chilled metal bowl until it holds stiff peaks.Fold about half of the cream into chocolate mixture as best you can (remember, it's ok if the chocolate has seized a little), and transfer it back to the metal bowl. Beat on medium low just until fully combined, and move back to the mixing bowl.

Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until fluffy. Add remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and continue to beat until it holds stiff peaks. Fold into mousse. Transfer to individual ramekins or small bowls if desired, and serve with whipped cream.

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest

Beat cream in chilled metal bowl. As soft peaks form, add vanilla and sugar and continue to beat until it holds slightly stiffer peaks. Add orange zest and beat for just a few seconds more, until incorporated. Enjoy!

Serves 10. Or me, 10 times.

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  1. what kind of/how much liquor did the orignal recipe call for? i'm not saying i'm not intrigued by the orange, but i am saying that i love some liquor in my chocolate.

  2. It called for 1/4 cup of "sweet liquor." And you know I'm supportive of boozy chocolate, so no hard feelings.

  3. Oh wow! What a divine mousse you have created, I want to lick my screen, I would if I knew it would even slightly taste like that beautiful mousse in front of me.
    Thanks so much for your recipe. I am inspired to go to the kitchen and eat something or make something. Pretty positive I don't have any mousse :(

  4. oh perfect. i will use baileys!

  5. your orange zest has given me an idea of trying whipped cream with lemon zest (because I'm obsessed with lemons). Also, why doens't EVERYONE think it's schleppy to bring store-bought stuff to a potluck? *grumble*

  6. Mmm, that sounds weirdly delicious. Let me know how it turns out if you get around to it.

    And I try to be supportive of everyone's contributions to potlucks. Not everyone has experienced our wonderful girls' nights with three or four homemade delights from everyone in attendance. Plus, my sister usually just puts brie next to honey and calls it homemade (not that I'm complaining, the brie+honey combo is dangerously delicious).

  7. I decided to go ahead and spike the whipped cream with Baileys in place of orange zest, while I was at it. Oh and I added way more than a teaspoon.