Decoding chocolate mousse

There are probably as many ways to make chocolate mousse as there are pastry chefs, but they all come down to two simple steps: make a base that contains chocolate, and lighten it with whipped cream, whipped egg whites or both. The base can be a crème anglaise, a sabayon, or even a bavaroise. The classic French base is melted chocolate enriched with egg yolks and butter.

But here’s the thing: the base doesn’t really need to be anything but straight-up chocolate, and I’ve never understood why there’s anything else in it. Chocolate is a remarkable substance that already has enough structure to hold up a mousse. If you want a simple chocolate mousse to eat on its own, all you have to do is melt some chocolate, cool it slightly, then fold in whipped cream and let it set. (Of course, if you want to unmold it, or have a specific application in mind, such as a layer in a cake, you may need to use another technique to achieve the right texture.)

In fact, it gets better. It turns out that you don’t even need the whipped cream! Hervé This, in his book Molecular Gastronomy, notes that if you melt chocolate with water, then chill it in an ice bath while whipping, the cocoa butter will crystallize around air bubbles – just like butterfat does in whipped cream – and produce what is effectively a mousse that is nothing but pure chocolate. This calls it “chocolate Chantilly,” playing off of “crème Chantilly,” sweetened whipped cream.

When I made this type of mousse, melting 125g. of chocolate with 90g. of water until smooth, then whipping with a hand blender as I held the bottom of the bowl in an ice bath, the results were delicious. It wasn’t the airiest mousse I’ve ever made, but it was smooth, rich and more intense than most. And understanding the technique has given me other ideas, which will be the subject of my next post…

What’s your favourite chocolate mousse?

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3 Responses to “Decoding chocolate mousse”

  1. Here’s an interesting technique for melting chocolate (for a recipe that just asks for melted chocolate): pour hot water *over* it. Let stand for several minutes. Test with a toothpick. When there is no resistance, gently pour off the water.

  2. Matthew Kayahara November 8, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    That is interesting, Kim. I would be a little worried about water clinging to the chocolate and causing it to seize. Any idea what the benefits of that approach are compared to melting in a double boiler or the microwave?

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  1. Tweets that mention Decoding chocolate mousse | Kayahara -- Topsy.com - November 4, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Matthew Kayahara, Kim Meier. Kim Meier said: Low-cal chocolate mousse?! RT @mtkayahara: Decoding chocolate mousse, and making Hervé This' chocolate Chantilly: http://bit.ly/9Lz0pM […]