By Marilyn Harris
If it's Valentine's Day, the dessert simply must be chocolate, and a chocolate treat delivers an even sweeter message if you make it yourself. You don't have to spend hours on some fancy chocolate creation. My favorite chocolate mousse isn't difficult to make. Garnished with a swirl of freshly whipped cream, it's attractive and a delicious indulgence for someone special.
There are a lot of chocolate mousse recipes out there, but they certainly aren't all created equal. For instance, an authentic French mousse should begin with cooking the eggs and sugar together. This one calls for extra yolks, which give it a richer and silkier texture.
Another essential for making the best chocolate mousse is to splurge on the highest quality chocolate. There are a number of premium brands available. For a delicious, full-bodied chocolate flavor, use a semi-sweet or bitter-sweet chocolate with 70 percent cocoa content.
My cooking students often hear me say my absolute favorite flavor combination for dessert is chocolate and orange. I adore orange cream-filled chocolate bonbons and truffles. I think the small amount of orange juice and zest adds an elegant flavor touch to what is otherwise a traditional chocolate mousse. To further enhance the delicate flavor, add a splash of Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur to the sweetened whipped cream used to garnish each serving.
This mousse recipe can be prepared up to 24 hours ahead. The small amount of gelatin helps set the mousse into a beautiful velvet texture.
Ladle the finished mousse into pretty individual ramekins or bowls. Then you'll need to just remove them from the refrigerator, garnish and serve.
You may choose to leave the mixture in the mixing bowl to chill, then spoon it out with an ice cream scoop into crystal wine glasses or goblets just before serving. A few coarse shreds of fresh orange zest may be sprinkled over the top or grate chocolate over the whipped cream garnish before serving.
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
5 tablespoons water
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 cup whipping cream
1 rounded teaspoon unflavored
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Extra cream for garnish, stiffly whipped and lightly sweetened
In a small heavy saucepan, melt chocolate with the water; cool. Whisk eggs, yolks, zest, and sugar in a double boiler until mixture is light and fluffy and lemon-colored.* Remove from heat, place pan over ice water and whisk until completely cooled. Fold in melted chocolate. Whip the cup of cream just until soft peaks form and fold into the chocolate mixture. Sprinkle gelatin over the orange juice and allow to sit a few minutes to soften. Place over gentle heat and shake pan until the gelatin is dissolved. (Do not stir or the gelatin will become rubbery.) Cool and fold into the mousse. Chill at least 4 hours.
To serve, garnish with extra sweetened whipped cream and orange zest or grated chocolate. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
*Note: Eggs cook at a low temperature. When cooking such a base which has eggs and egg yolks as the binding or thickening ingredient, do not allow the temperature to climb too high or the egg yolks will quickly become overcooked.
When the mixture is thickened and feels very warm to the finger tip, it's done.
Powdered gelatin should always be softened in a cool or room temperature liquid before being dissolved in a boiling liquid. It is best not to stir it, but shake the pan gently as the gelatin dissolves.
Contact Marilyn Harris by mail: c/o Cincinnati Enquirer; fax: 768-8330; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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