With summer in full swing in Europe at the moment, a chilled dessert is the ideal way to end a nice meal. That or a big bowl of ice-cream. And one can hardly go past the quintessential French classic, a mousse au chocolat.
My husband’s grandmother is well-known for her chocolate mousse, a treat which she often served up when my husband was a wee little boy and well into his adulthood. Alas, given her advancing age, she retired from the kitchen some time ago but I was ever thankful when she shared her “secret” recipe with me and my sister-in-law. I was bemused, but not overly surprised, to discover that her secret ingredient was the humble bar of milk chocolate, something which gave the mousse a nursery sweetness and which made it just right for the palates of little (and big) babes.
For a more grown-up chocolate mousse, this indulgent recipe from Rachel Khoo is hard to go past. Most chocolate mousses are very airy and light, but this one is quite rich and decadent, in part because it is made from a chocolate crème pâtissière, the French equivalent of a thickened custard, which is then lightened with a meringue mixture and whipped cream. Rachel Khoo’s recipe takes a bit more time to prepare than your typical chocolate mousse recipe with a lot of steps and different components; it’s a fiddly recipe but not overly complicated, and you will be thankful once you taste the end result.
For this recipe, you will need to find some cocoa nibs. These are essentially crushed pieces of roasted cocoa beans which taste a bit like roasted coffee beans, although they taste more of bitter chocolate than coffee. Cocoa nibs are an interesting way to add texture and flavour and I happen to think that they work really well here in a chocolate mousse, providing a bit of crunch and bitterness between the sweet creaminess of the mousse. I haven’t been able to find cocoa nibs in Zurich but, as I love a foodie hunt of any sort when I am travelling, I was happy to discover them at G. Detou in Paris, a small but bountiful store, well-stocked with an amazing array of baking goods and other delights.
If you can’t find cocoa nibs, Rachel Khoo suggests coating some finely chopped nuts with cocoa powder for a similar effect. An easier alternative would be some tiny dark chocolate chips – heavenly if you are a chocoholic.
And speaking of chocolate, a chocolate mousse will only be as good as the quality of the chocolate used to make it. Whenever I am making a dish where chocolate is the star ingredient, I always opt for best-quality chocolate and cocoa powder. For this recipe, I used Lindt Ecuador chocolate buttons with 70% cocoa content, and a very dark unsweetened cocoa powder by Comptoir du Cacao. If you are making this chocolate mousse to serve to children, I would suggest using a chocolate with at least 60% cocoa content; there is quite a bit of sugar in the recipe to sweeten the mousse and to dilute the bitterness of the dark chocolate.
Chocolate mousses make for a great dessert if you have people coming over for dinner, especially since they have to be made in advance (they keep in the fridge for 2-3 days), and there is something to be said for having a small bowl of pudding just to yourself. Just be sure to make extra in case your guests want seconds.
In Rachel Khoo’s recipe, ingredients are listed for what she calls a chocolate meringue, including 1 heaped tablespoon of cocoa powder. However, nowhere in the recipe are there instructions on when to add this cocoa powder. Also, in the episode of The Little Paris Kitchen where she makes this chocolate mousse, no cocoa powder is added to the meringue. Perhaps this is an error in the book? Has anyone else tried this recipe? I would love to hear your thoughts.