Chocolate Mousse (AKA the dessert that gave me a reality check)

25 Jan

When cooking, there are few ingredients that can bring you crashing back to reality like egg whites can. Sitting flat and not at all resembling a peak, you can almost hear them taunt, “You think you can cook?! You can’t cook! You can’t even whip me, a simple egg white, into a peak!”

These big-mouthed, critical egg whites came to visit me on Sunday night, along with B’s parental units. It was my in-laws first visit to our place (they aren’t local) so it also happened to be the first meal that I’ve ever cooked for them. Of course, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to show them my cooking skills and I attempted, for the first time, to make chocolate mousse. Yep, the plan was to woo them with my mousse. Unfortunately, the mousse had other ideas.

As is pretty typical for me I had left everything to the last-minute so I was still preparing the mousse (in my sweat pants) when they arrived early. Not very Nigella of me! I continued trying to make the delicate mousse whilst also trying to finish the appies and fetching drinks. This was a baaaad idea. Not only did I over-whip the cream (no worries, I just made some more) but I also over-whipped my egg whites. They had reached the point of no-return and instead of glossy peaks, I had chunky, dry egg whites. I should have thrown them out and started again but I didn’t. Instead, I served up flat, dull chocolate mousse. Doh!

Well, I was not going to let the chocolate mousse win this! Back in the kitchen the following night, I said to B through clenched teeth “I will show that mousse!” And damn straight, did I show it! The result (when you aren’t under time-pressure) was a fluffy, light, creamy chocolate mousse. Yay! I had done it! I had made a mousse to be proud of! Just a night too late…

So if a lesson can be learned from my experience, here it is: take your time. Watch those eggs and the cream with an eagle eye. For the minute you take your eye away – BAM – ruined! One tip with this recipe is that I don’t think it really gives you six servings. My experience was that it made four decent servings or two decadent servings! 🙂

Chocolate Mousse – Makes 4 servings

4 ounces (115 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
2 large eggs, separated
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream

Garnish: (optional)
Whipped Cream
Fresh Raspberries
Shaved Chocolate


In a medium-sized stainless steel bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Then whisk in the two egg yolks. Refrigerate while you whip the egg whites and whipping cream.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), whip the two egg whites with the cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually add two tablespoons of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form, yet the whites are still glossy and not dry. Set aside.

In another bowl, whip the heavy cream, remaining one tablespoon sugar, and vanilla extract until soft peaks form.

Remove the chocolate mixture from the refrigerator, and stir a couple of spoonfuls of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, and then fold the remaining whites into the chocolate mixture, gently but thoroughly. Fold in the whipped cream.

Spoon the chocolate mousse into four or six individual serving dishes or glasses. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Optional: Serve with additional whipped cream, fresh raspberries and/or shaved chocolate.

The recipe is from the Joy of Baking website and can be found here.


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