As Valentine’s Day approaches, I present my beloved’s absolute favorite chocolate dessert – creamy chocolate mousse with orange liqueur. He often orders chocolate mousse in restaurants, but has yet to find one that can match this melt-in-your mouth version.
This mousse is adapted from a Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey recipe. Claiborne and Franey were prominent food writers, cookbook authors and “foodies” in the days before that term was fashionable. Besides having individual careers and accomplishments, they had an incredible 20-year collaboration that included food writing, recipes, restaurant reviews, and cookbooks.
Pre-internet, I eagerly anticipated each of their weekly recipes, printed in the Sunday New York Times magazine section, with the anticipation I now associate with a new season of favorite streaming TV shows. Only we couldn’t binge – one recipe per week, on Sunday, and no way to find it online if you lost your copy of the paper. I still have several of the recipes in newspaper clipping form, this one being my all-time favorite. I suppose I should scan them, but honestly there is nothing like the yellowing sheet of newsprint that holds so many wonderful memories, not to mention the whipped cream and chocolate stains.
Somehow I got on the topic of this mousse recently with my friend Marcia, of Grandma Ethel’s apple cake fame. She remembers this creamy chocolate mousse, lemon chiffon mousse, and banana bread from my early culinary adventures in our student housing.
We talked about why I had stopped making the two mousses in recent years. Both recipes use uncooked eggs. I’ve long been concerned about avoiding food-borne illness and raw eggs now carry just too much of a risk of salmonella. Pasteurization destroys salmonella, so once I discovered pasteurized eggs, my fears about using raw eggs in recipes were ended.
Now that I can again make this creamy chocolate mousse, Marcia and I decided to make it the centerpiece of a dinner. With this creamy mousse as dessert we worked backwards to grilled salmon with potatoes, asparagus, and salad. (Doesn’t everyone barbecue in the snow?) It was a wonderful way to push thoughts of winter far out of our minds and enjoy each other, great conversation, and a special meal.
This recipe follow the same basic pattern as the lemon chiffon mousse: a flavoring, in this case chocolate plus orange liqueur, gently mixed in a two-stage process – first with whipped cream and then with egg whites.
When Claiborne and Franey wrote their recipe, one had to carefully melt chocolate on the stovetop. These days, I opt for microwave melting, on a low setting with frequent stops to stir the chocolate.
In order to give the mousse body, this recipe uses a sauce of gently cooked egg yolks, sugar, and liqueur. (The lemon chiffon mousse uses gelatin for that purpose.) Sabayon or zabaglione as the sauce is known, is easy to make. You just have to keep a watchful eye over it and whisk or stir the sauce almost constantly to keep the eggs smooth and prevent them from scrambling.
Gently blending or folding in the whipped cream just takes a few sweeping motions with a spatula. The result is a dreamy, chocolaty mixture.
The final step is whipping and adding the egg whites. Here the key is patience. Rose Levy Berenbaum’s technique works like a charm, however I’ve found that getting the pasteurized egg whites to lovely, stiff peaks takes longer than she says.
Once you’ve fully merged the egg whites into the chocolate-and-cream, it’s just a matter of putting the creamy mousse in a large bowl or individual cups and letting it chill.