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Quilted glass jam jars are the perfect vessel for my easy-to-make yet lavish, airy Chocolate Mousse. The bitterness from deep, dark chocolate is enhanced by a touch of nutty Kahlua liqueur creating a smooth and romantic final course to a special meal. Top these little jarred treats with fresh strawberries, raspberries, or perfumy cherries (if in season). Or, if you are up for a life changing experience, spoon a few ambrosial Italian Amarena Cherries along with a swirl of the syrup they swim in for a truly decadent touch. Go ahead, you deserve it!
Although this mousse tastes truly indulgent, its nothing to lose sleep over. It won’t blow your diet (a dirty word) or ruin your healthy eating for the day. The typical mousse taught by Le Cordon Bleu has almost 600 calories and 48g sugar per comparable serving. That’s in large part due to the amount of heavy whipping cream, corn syrup, and sugar (from Italian meringue) used to give it a fluffy texture. Although I’m a sucker for the richness of heavy cream, I’m keenly aware that it boasts a whopping 800+ calories per cup. I’m always happy when I can find a way to omit it without sacrificing texture or flavor.
“I’m not a chef, I can’t make mousse.”
Of course you can! Many feel that mousse can be a frightening dessert to undertake if you don’t have formal training in the culinary arts. That couldn’t be further from the truth. If you can melt chocolate and whisk egg whites, you can make this mousse. I’ll walk you through the simple steps, show you how to fold in egg whites, and give you a few *Chef’s Tips* to “rescue” the mousse if you experience some common mishaps. Don’t be afraid.
Its all fixable, don’t worry.
Despite its simplicity, once this treat is dished up it’ll look as though you’ve been studying at Le Cordon Bleu. Its an impressive final course and exceptionally versatile. You can compliment it with different fruits, change up the liqueur, or just keep it simple and enjoy it as is.
Isn’t Cinnamon just Cinnamon?
When I went to Guatemala with my mom to finally see her home country, I quickly became obsessed with the nightly cup of hot chocolate my elderly aunt’s Mayan helper made for me. Twisting a molinillo between her two palms as if trying to start a fire, she’d whip small rounds of local chocolate into warm water, coaxing the scent from the pinch of cinnamon to waft up as I hovered behind. I’d use my internal voice to beg her to hurry. Her generous pinch of this infamous (and often overused) spice had my taste buds captivated. So, to give this mousse a more Latin flavor, cinnamon is the way to go.
In order to help this piquant spice stand up to bitter dark chocolate, it’s important to use a potent cinnamon. Saigon Cinnamon is what most people have in their pantry. And let’s be honest, its often been there for WAY too long, having lost most of the flavor and impact.
For dishes like this, or when I want cinnamon to be a star rather than to blend in with a collection of spices, I reach for “Tung Hing” cinnamon. It has stronger flavor, but not in a spicy-hot way. Its more fragrant and acts more as a strong co-star to the dark chocolate rather than taking up all the room at center stage. (Penzeys Spices has my favorite ground China Tung Hing cinnamon, however both The Spice Company in Chicago, and Sullivan Street in NYC have great selections as well. You can order these goodies on their sites.)
〈I prefer to use Saigon Cinnamon in the “sandwich part” of my Vegan Cardamom Creme Sandwiches, as well as in my Banana-Apple Bran Muffins (200 cal each).〉
So, mousse has meat?
Well, no. And…kind of. Many mousse recipes call for gelatin which is an animal product. Many vegetarians don’t realize that this is in quite a few desserts. Its used to give mousse body, to stabilize whipped cream so it doesn’t weep, and to make marshmallows the fluffy pillows we all can’t live without. Rather than gelatin, I use eggs to give this mousse its body, so it remains vegetarian.
Make it ahead of time and save yourself the stress
These are excellent for #Spoonies such as myself who have less energy than those without chronic illnesses. But for moms, dads, people who work long hours, or us who don’t dig a the work of entertaining, these are simple. Make them up to 3 days ahead and your dessert is done! Have a potluck for the holidays or work event coming up? Whip up these treats when you have a free bit of time and they’ll be ready to go when you need them. If making in jam jars, pop the lids on and they travel perfectly. If you aren’t a jam-a-holic like myself and don’t have spare jars lying around check out my recommendation for disposable mousse cups. No dish washing necessary, but entirely recyclable.
〈Looking for MAKE AHEAD DESSERT recipes? Try any of these.〉
There are so many small beautiful dishes out there that you can use to present your mousse. I typically use 4oz jam jars since I always have extra laying around because of my current diagnosis of “Jam-a-holic.” If you don’t want to have your cupboard full of tiny dishes, I recommend using small recyclable plastic drink tumblers. I love to use these when I’m making a lot of mousse for an event or dinner party. I used these back in Chicago when I doubled the recipe for a Presidential Debate Party. (See Pic Below) They were perfect and make clean up a breeze!
So what are your favorite fruits or garnishes to pair with chocolate? I love learning new ideas for topping these little cups-of-goodness!
Restaurant-Level Chocolate Mousse
Makes 5, 4oz servings
- 4 oz (little under 2/3 cup) quality* semi-sweet to dark (60%-70%) chocolate chips
- 1 tbsp caster or superfine sugar (Domino has a good one)
- 4 eggs, separated
- Pinch of (1/8 tsp) cream of tarter
- 2 tbsp Kahlua liqueur OR 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- That’s it!
*Chef’s note*- I’m partial to Guittard chocolate (photo above), but Ghirardelli has a great one too.
- Separate your eggs, placing the egg whites into the VERY CLEAN* bowl of your stand mixer, or a bowl that works well with your hand mixer (whisk attachment please). *Any oil, egg yolk, or residue will make it hard for your egg whites to whip up.
- Place your yolks in a small bowl and whisk them a bit to break them up and make them one blob instead of 4 separate blobs. Set aside, but keep near.
- Fill a saucepan about 1/3 of the way with water and bring to a simmer. Add the chocolate chips into a heat proof glass or metal bowl.
- Melt the chocolate with sugar (and cinnamon if using) in your Bain Marie. How the heck do you melt chocolate in a Bain Marie? Its a formal way of saying to melt the chocolate the right way so as to not burn it…NOT in the microwave. And Bain Marie is just French word for double boiler. But you don’t need any special equipment. Using an oven mitt, place the bowl over the simmering water. If the water is touching the bottom of the bowl, just pour a little out so you don’t have contact between the two. Holding the bowl with your covered hand melt the chocolate and sugar together, stirring it with the uncovered hand usung a whisk and/or flat spatula make sure it doesn’t burn on the upper edges.
- Once melted, move the bowl of chocolate off the saucepan and slowly whisk in the yolk by hand, not with your mixer. Add a little bit at a time whisking very well and quickly so that the egg yolk doesn’t cook in clumps. (This may take some practice, but don’t worry. I’ll tell you an easy way to fix it if you do accidentally cook up some scrambled egg.)
- Add in your liqueur if using. Set aside chocolate mixture aside.
- Add that pinch (1/8 tsp) of cream of tarter to your egg whites and whisk them to stiff peaks using the whisk attachment of your mixer/hand mixer. (*Chef’s Note* Stiff peaks is reached when you can lift up your whisk and have the whites on it stand at a peak without totally melting. It’s not going to be “stiff” as in hard. They’ll just have enough structure to stand tall for a bit.)
- Now you are going to “sacrifice” part of the egg whites. What does that mean? It means to give up a portion of your egg whites to the chocolate mixture to lighten it so that when you add it to the remaining egg whites, its weight doesn’t deflate the rest of the lightness the whipped whites have. So, take 1/3 of the egg whites and using a flat spatula, fold them into the chocolate mixture.
- Once you’ve sacrificed part of the whites, add that chocolate mixture to the remaining egg whites and fold to combine. Use large, sweeping folds rather than “stirring motions”. This will help to keep that airy, fluffiness of the egg whites so that you get a light mousse.
- Pour into your serving dishes (I like jam jars. See above.) *Chef’s Note* Now, this is when you can rescue your mousse eaters from any chunks of cooked egg! Pour the mousse through a fine mesh strainer into your serving dishes if you think you may have some cooked eggy bits.
- Refrigerate until set. I like to do this a day in advance of whatever event I have. Serve cold with your choice of garnish!
Serve with a dollop of whipped cream, fresh fruit or my favorite, Italian Amarena Cherries.