Chocolate mousse for Mom

May 11, 2018

If you haven't been paying attention to television commercials and gift displays in the local stores, you might not realize this Sunday is Mother's Day. As expected, restaurants throughout the area are advertising brunch and dinner menus to impress Mom. But, going out may not be the best idea, unless you can make reservations at a place with a well-earned reputation for excellent service, as there will be crowds.

I've always preferred spending busy holidays at home, taking the opportunity to make a special meal. I was searching for inspiration when I received an email from Jill Linden with a compliment about this column. She also asked if I'd like to read a monthly newsletter she shares with her friends and family. I'm glad I said yes, because she included a recipe perfect for Mother's Day - chocolate mousse.

Mousse (the food, not the hair styling product) is the French word for "foam," which almost describes its consistency. The delicate texture of mousse comes from whipping air into the mixture in the form of whipped cream or whipped egg whites. Different styles of mousse range from light and fluffy to thick and creamy, in flavors both sweet and savory, served warm or chilled.

There are four basic components to mousse: a flavor focus, a binder, an aerator, and seasonings. For example, in a savory salmon mousse, cooked and flaked fish provides the primary flavor; gelatin or flour may be used as a binder; whipped egg whites introduce air; and seasonings may include salt, pepper and perhaps dill weed.

Unlike puddings, mousse is too delicate to feature weighty additions such as nuts or fruits. Mousse differs from pudding in several ways: pudding uses cornstarch as a thickener; pudding needs to be cooked to activate the thickening agent, and its texture is much denser. Pudding wasn't originally a dessert, but a savory dish made from processed meat mixed with eggs, grains or butter, then steamed, baked or boiled.

Mousse, as we know it today, is not the same as "frozen mousse" which appeared in 18th and 19th century cookbooks. These were actually closer to ice cream or chilled pudding. These were followed by fruit-flavored mousses with the appropriate delicate texture. Food historians credit Chef Michael Fitoussi with the invention of white chocolate mousse in the late 1970s at the Palace, reputed to be the priciest restaurant in New York City at the time.

If you look for chocolate mousse recipes in modern cookbooks, you'll find a long list of ingredients: chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla and cream. And, there are a number of complicated steps, mostly to avoid cooking the eggs, and to prevent the chocolate from seizing. In the recipe Jill shared, there are only two ingredients: baking chocolate and heavy cream.

While Jill melts her chocolate in the microwave, I prefer using a bowl resting on a saucepan of simmering water. For the chocolate mousse in the photo, I also made another change based on the absence of Ghirardelli 60 percent chocolate in my cupboard. I used a combination of white baking chocolate and bittersweet chocolate. Of course, the heavy cream was from Lewes Dairy, and it readily transformed into lofty peaks in my mixing bowl.

I've included both recipes, so you can choose which version of chocolate mousse to serve for your Mother's Day dessert. I've also included a recipe for a savory goat cheese mousse that is delicious spread on crusty French bread. Happy Mother's Day!

Jill Linden's Chocolate Mousse 

10-oz package Ghirardelli 60 percent cacao bittersweet chocolate chips 
2 C heavy cream 

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate chips and 1/3 C cream. Heat on high for about 1 1/2 minutes; cream will be steaming and chocolate will be starting to melt. Allow to sit for 2 minutes, then stir until smooth; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whip remaining heavy cream until soft peaks form when beaters are lifted. Add 1/2 C chocolate mixture and stir until blended. With a rubber spatula, fold in remaining chocolate, stirring until completely combined. Divide mousse into 4 serving dishes and refrigerate until firm, covered with plastic wrap. Serve garnished with berries. Yield: 4 servings.

Basic Chocolate Mousse 

5 oz Ghirardelli white baking chocolate 
5 oz Hershey's unsweetened baking bar 
2 C heavy (whipping) cream 

Break chocolate into pieces and place in a small stainless steel bowl. Set the bowl on the rim of a saucepan of simmering water; do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Cook over medium low until the chocolate is almost completely melted. Remove from heat and stir to combine; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form.

Add 1/3 C chocolate mixture to the whipped cream and stir to combine. Fold in remaining chocolate with a spatula until uniform in color. Divide mousse into 4 serving dishes and refrigerate until firm, covered with plastic wrap. Serve garnished with berries or whipped cream. Yield: 4 servings.

Goat Cheese Mousse 

1 1/4 C heavy cream, separated 
10 oz goat cheese 
salt & pepper, to taste 
1 T snipped chives 

In a large mixing bowl, whip 1 C cream until stiff peaks form; set aside.

In another bowl, beat together remaining 1/4 C cream and goat cheese. Beat at high speed until goat cheese becomes smooth and cream is incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Gently fold a few spoonfuls of the goat cheese into the whipped cream, repeating until all the goat cheese is incorporated.

Adjust seasonings to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer mousse into a decorative serving bowl and cover with snipped chives. Serve with thin slices of baguette or pita triangles.