Every week, at Food52.com, we're digging up Genius Recipes -- the ones that make us rethink cooking myths, get us talking, and change the way we cook.
Today, just for you, Valentine: a completely forgiving, undemanding, and lovable chocolate mousse.
- Kristen Miglore, Senior Editor, Food52.com
It took a brilliant, adventurous chemist to discover the simplest way to make chocolate mousse at home. "I invented it -- but it was so easy, I'm embarrassed!" Herve This told Wired magazine in 2007.
He also invented the study of molecular gastronomy -- but his book of the same name doesn't read like a science manual. The book instead is about simple, scientific surprises and improvements in home cooking.
He explains everything from getting crisp skin on a roast chicken (don't baste with the juices) to whether gnocchi are truly done when they bob to the surface (not necessarily).
... And how to make a flawless, creamy chocolate mousse out of just chocolate and water. Oh yes he did.
It's just like whipping cream: Heavy cream froths up readily when whisked in a chilled bowl -- so all you have to do is aim for a ratio of water to fat (cocoa butter here) that mimics that of whipping cream.
>> RELATED: See Nancy Silverton's Genius Recipe for whipped cream.
Melt the chocolate and water together, cool it over an ice bath, and whisk till you have mousse.
Like other emulsions (vinaigrette, aioli), it works as if by magic. As you whisk, microscopic bits of water get suspended in the fat, thickening it and making it seem creamier. Then still more air is whipped into it and the cooling chocolate crystallizes around the air bubbles to make a remarkably stable foam, a.k.a. mousse.
The best thing about it -- aside from its dumb-founding magicalness -- is that it tastes like pure, unobstructed chocolate. There's no cream or egg to confuse the issue, like in normal mousses. (It also happens to be vegan, if you use dark chocolate without any added milk.)
This all happens fast as the mixture cools, so chances are you'll go too far on your first try. But if this happens, Mr. This is nonplussed - just return it to the pan, melt it, and start over. (It's even easier than saving overwhipped cream, which he's also figured out.)
Once you have the rhythm down, you can flavor it as you wish with liqueurs or coffee or spices; sweeten it to your liking; or just keep it dark and intense. In all of these scenarios, a little whipped cream up top is never a bad idea.
Hervé This' Chocolate Mousse
Adapted from Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor (Columbia University Press, 2008)
8 ounces chocolate (we used 70% bittersweet - choose a high quality chocolate you love)
3/4 cup (6 ounces) water
freshly whipped cream for topping (optional)
1. Simply pour water into a saucepan. Then, over medium heat, whisk in the chocolate. The result is a homogenous sauce.
2. Pour the chocolate mixture into a bowl set over an ice bath, then whisk the chocolate sauce, either manually with a whisk or with an electric mixer (if using an electric mixer, watch closely -- it will thicken faster). It will thicken and strands of chocolate will form inside the loops of the whisk. Pour or spoon immediately into ramekins, small bowls or jars and let set.
3. Note: Three things can go wrong. Here's how to fix them. If your chocolate doesn't contain enough fat, melt the mixture again, add some chocolate, and then whisk it again. If the mousse is not light enough, melt the mixture again, add some water, and whisk it once more. If you whisk it too much, so that it becomes grainy, this means that the foam has turned into an emulsion. In that case simply melt the mixture and whisk it again, adding nothing.
4. Serve immediately, or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream if desired.Save and print this recipe (and see what others are saying about it) on FOOD52.
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by James Ransom