I remember vividly the first time I ever had chocolate mousse. I was just a boy, working at Le Gavroche in London. We used to make the mousse with meringue italienne back in those days, to ensure it had the right light texture that only a meringue can give it. And we used to serve it with an almond macaroon on top.
You know, I'm not sure I've had chocolate mousse more than a handful of times since, and I have never tasted a better one. It is one of those things, like Proust's madeleine, that I will always remember. Maybe you are about to create your own madeleine moment?
If you are, there are two key secrets to chocolate mousse that you need to bear in mind: texture and flavour.
Many people can make a chocolate mousse, but can they make a good one? That all depends on the two factors I mentioned. The key to the texture is, of course, to make the mousse light but not too light. Rather like a souffle, a mousse needs to be treated with extreme care, to avoid total collapse. I'm not suggesting you need to make a meringue italienne. It's all about the way you treat the eggs and cream. Heat the cream with caution and whisk the eggs until they peak.
When it comes to flavour, what you end up with on your spoon depends on the quality of chocolate you use. If you live near Jones the Grocer here in the capital then pop in and buy some of my friend Willie Harcourt-Cooze's 70 per cent chocolate. If not, I like Valrhona, which I think is available in most supermarkets. Whatever you go for, make sure it is no more than 70 per cent. Any higher and it will be too strong.
I like to compare chocolate mousse-making to writing. Lots of people can write an essay, a letter or even a short story (as we saw in M's recent short story competition; look for the winning stories in August), but how many can write a whole book?
It's time to put yourself to the test. Are you a mere essayist, or a full-blown author?
MAKE IT YOURSELF
110g pasteurised egg yolks
1 gelatin sheet, bloomed in ice water
125g milk chocolate
125g dark chocolate, up to 70 per cent
Water as needed
100g egg whites
375g cream, whipped to soft peaks
Slivers of white, milk and dark chocolate for garnish
Note: the pastry chef uses only gram measurements for all ingredients here
1. Whip the egg yolks with the whisk attachment in a mixer until they are pale yellow and reach ribbon stage.
2. Bring the 50g of cream to the boil, add the bloomed gelatin sheet and stir until dissolved. Pour the mixture over the milk and dark chocolates to make a ganache.
3. Put the sugar in a small pot and pour in just enough water to cover. Heat and bring to a temperature of 120°C.
4. Whip the egg whites to soft peaks and in a steady stream pour in the hot sugar syrup to make an Italian meringue.
5. Assemble the mousse by folding the whipped yolks into the chocolate ganache, followed by the warm Italian meringue and lastly the whipped cream. Do not over-mix. Pour the mousse into four glasses and chill in the refrigerator at least one hour before serving. Garnish as desired.