But come on, maybe just once we should make dessert the first course rather than the finale of the meal. Our whole perspective on eating could undergo profound changes. We might never again say or hear the phrase 'If you eat your dinner, you can have dessert' spoken again. Who knows, just the elimination of those bribing or threatening words (it all depends on one's perspective) could positively change the whole eating experience at dinner tables across the country! 'Eat your vegetables' may no longer be the words many kids (and some adult kids too) have come to think of as a fate worse than death.
I don't know about you, but more often than not I cannot eat one more bite after the 'meal'. When dining with friends in a restaurant, having dessert ends up becoming a vicarious experience no matter how compelling the dessert menu or tray looks (okay, remember I said 'more than one' bite as I have been known to take a taste of someone else's dessert.) So the concept of dessert first is rather appealing, particularly if it is something decadent and definitely made of chocolate. Something like a rich, creamy Chocolate Mousse.
There are only five ingredients in this Chocolate Mousse: chocolate, eggs, whipping cream, vanilla and a pinch of Kosher salt. But these five ingredients are transformed into the most insanely delicious, perfect texture confection. It is hard to believe how something so simple to make can taste like it was made by a five star restaurant pastry chef. Whether you have eaten in a five star restaurant or not, you can now create a five star dessert without ever leaving the comfort of your own home or making a serious dent in your bank account.
There are hundreds of recipes for Chocolate Mousse out there, many with the same ingredients but with different proportions. Further differentiating these recipes is the process how the mousse is made. The ingredient prepared the most differently is the whipping cream. It is how the whipping cream is used I think is just one of the reasons for putting this Chocolate Mousse in a category of its' own (which would be the to die for category). Here's the whipping cream game changer. It is not whipped and incorporated into the mixture, rather it is heated to the boiling point, used to melt the chocolate and emulsify the egg yolks. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The recipe calls for six, room temperature, large eggs separated. You will use all six yolks but only four of the egg whites. You can always use the remaining two egg whites for another recipe, so nothing goes to waste.
The kind of chocolate you decide to use matters. I prefer using a bittersweet chocolate (one with a 60% cocoa content) over a semi-sweet chocolate, but either one will work in this mousse (just know the depth of chocolate flavor will be affected). The chocolate, vanilla and salt are placed in a standard size food processor fitted with a steel blade. In a small saucepan, the whipping cream is heated to the boiling point, poured into the food processor and mixed for 30 seconds or until all of the chocolate has melted. The six egg yolks are added and mixed in for 6 seconds. This is just enough time to incorporate them without overprocessing them. The entire mixture is then transferred to a large bowl and allowed to cool. In my experience the time it takes to beat the egg whites is all the time needed.
The four room temperature egg whites are beat until stiff in a standing mixer, or with a hand mixer or if you are really ambitious with a whisk. When egg whites are room temperature their whipped volume will be greater (a good thing). If you over beat the egg whites, they will break down and liquify (not a good thing). The stiffly beaten egg whites are then gently folded into the chocolate mixture. Fold until no white streaks or lumps remain.
This Chocolate Mousse needs to set up in the refrigerator. So you have a decision to make after the egg whites have been fully incorporated. Either transfer the mousse mixture to a serving bowl or pour into individual ramekins, custard cups or the single serving size dishes of your choice. I like to put the entire mixture into a single bowl so that everyone can take as much or as little as they want (because sometimes you have people who only want one bite). Once you make the serving container decision, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight (recommend chilling overnight).
I thought it fitting to have the last blog post of 2013 be a dessert. Had I given it more thought twelve months ago I would have started with dessert first to honor the spirit of Jacques Torres' words of wisdom. Hmmm, maybe I have more traditionalist leanings than I would like to believe and just fantasize about being a little bit of a radical. But regardless of how you live your life, live it as happy as possible in the year ahead. I wish you a very happy, blessed new year.
And oh, before I forget, some of you may have noticed that I have created a list of labels to help you better navigate the blog. Until I can get the search feature working better, I hope this is a time saver for you. The list of labels are under the heading 'Browse By' located in the righthand side column of the blog.
12 ounces of semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (My preference of chocolate chips are the Ghiradelli Bittersweet Chocolate Chips (60% cocoa content)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
6 egg yolks (from large eggs)
4 egg whites, room temperature (from large eggs)
pinch of Kosher salt
Optional garnishes: Freshly whipped cream and chocolate espresso beans
1. Place chocolate chips, vanilla and salt in food processor fitted with steel blade.
2. Heat whipping cream to boiling point, add to food processor and mix for 30 seconds until chocolate has melted.
3. Add egg yolks and mix for 6 seconds. Transfer to a large glass bowl to allow to cool.
4. Whip egg whites to stiff peak stage. Gently fold egg whites into chocolate mixture until no white streaks remain. Transfer to serving bowl or whatever serving dishes you want to use.
5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
6. Top with piped whipped cream and chocolate espresso beans or serve the whipped cream on the side.
I really do believe the 'life is short' part of the Jacques Torres quote. I am not sure this is because I am getting older and have so many things left on my list to do and experience. Or whether it is because I have been witness to and experienced the impact of 'time and distance' or even the 'I am really busy' decisions I or others have made. Regrettably, I have been guilty of putting time and distance between myself and others in times of conflict particularly if they aren't high on my list of those important to me. And as a result, it has sometimes affected a friendship or a relationship. Not that we can't make repairs (we can if we want to), how long it takes us to make them often determines whether or not the conflicts are 'done, over with and forgotten' or ones that chip away at trust. There is a reason why procrastination has gotten such a bad rap.
With the tradition of setting new year's resolutions less than 48 hours away, I already know what is going to be on the top of my list. And no, it's not eating dessert first! Having 'lived alone' for the past two years has changed as well as reinforced some of the things I believe really matter. Those things are not things at all, but people, more specifically, the people in my life who have brought and continue to bring immeasurable value to it. As much as I am one who believes in the concept of second chances, I have lived long enough to know that sometimes we don't always get that second chance. Yes, 2014 will be the year guided by the mantra 'life is short'. Yes, this will be my simple little reminder to always keep both the short and the long views of life in mind.