I want to share a very special secret with you. If you learn nothing else from me, this one thing is all you really need to impress your friends and throw fantastic dinners.
With none of the added cream, sugar, or butter that you find in most chocolate mousse recipes, this version is much lower in fat and calories. And since it’s dairy-free, you can serve this dessert to pretty much anyone. Your lactose intolerant friends will keep asking you if it is really okay for them to eat this mousse, because it’s so rich no one will believe you when you assure them for the umpteenth time that there really is no cream. Unless someone is allergic to chocolate (poor soul!), you are good to go.
Though it’s not your typical Tuscan fare, this is probably the most important recipe that I took away from my cooking lessons in Florence. Others have tried to replicate it but if the proportions are off or you use the wrong chocolate, you will end up with an ugly, chalky-texture mess. It has even happened to me on occasion.
Due to the ease and impressive nature of this mousse, I often cook it “on location” when visiting friends. While it may seem painfully annoying to beat a dozen egg whites by hand, it is actually a great opportunity to get a group involved in the kitchen (instead of getting in your way). Everyone takes turns beating and the men start having contests of strength and buffness to see who can go longer.
Coincidentally, when I was first devouring the “French Women” books, I found an almost identical recipe. Mireille calls it a faux souffle, but the ingredients, proportions, and cooking method are essentially the same. I guess great minds do think alike.
It is easy to scale this recipe up for a large crowd. However, the mouse is so rich, most people can only handle a few spoonfuls. If you have enough glasses on hand, it is best to chill and serve the mousse in shot or espresso glasses because that is the ideal portion size.
If you make the mousse the night before, you can keep it in a single large glass or metal bowl and let guests serve themselves. The more surface area, the faster the mousse will chill, so use individual glasses if you have only made the mousse a few hours before it will be served.
Prep time: 15 minutes (plus at least two hours to chill)
- 6 of the freshest eggs you can get your hands on
- 200 grams dark unsweetened chocolate*
(No, I did not forget the rest of the ingredients; that is really it!)
- Set up a bagna maria (double boiler) on your stove top. If you don’t own one, it is easy to cobble together. Find a large, slightly wide pot or sauce pan and another small saucepan or metal bowl that fits comfortably inside the first.
- Fill the larger pot with two inches of water, cover, and set over high heat.
- Using your hands, break the chocolate into rough chunks.
- Separate the eggs from the whites, placing the whites in a large bowl and the yolks in a small one. (You can find a great video on how to do so here.)
- Once the water has come to a boil, place the chocolate in the smaller sauce pan or bowl and rest it in the water. Stir occasionally with a wooden sauce spoon until the chocolate is completely melted and very smooth.
- With a whisk or a fork, begin to beat the egg whites. You are aiming for foaming, but not stiff whites. The amount of time required will depend on how hard you beat (and if you have doubled or tripled the recipe), but make sure to use a consistent oval motion, using only your wrist. Check out the video here if you aren’t sure how (skip ahead to 2:02 for the whisking).
- When the chocolate has melted, remove from heat and add the egg yolks one at a time, stirring *very* quickly. If you go too slowly, the chocolate will start to solidify.
- Skim off a spoonful or two of foamy egg whites and combine with the chocolate. Continue to add the egg whites a couple spoonfuls at time until you run out. Beat any running egg whites into foam as you go along.
- Pour the mousse into individual glasses or a large glass bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to serve. I usually serve it plain, but feel free to garnish with a bit of whipped cream or some fresh berries.
Note*: Aim for 50-60% cacao. If the percentage is too high, the chocolate will not bind well when you add the eggs. Also, make sure to use a nice, expensive brand of chocolate, because that is where all of the flavor comes from. If single-batch artisinal is out of your budget, no worries, Ghirardelli, Perugina, or Scharffen Berger are fine.