(Back to story, “I Used to Cook in a Piggery”)
There are many ways of making a decent chocolate mousse. It is basically a construction of melted dark chocolate to which is added egg yolks and then stiffly beaten egg whites that are gently folded in to obtain a chocolate foam. Some recipes incorporate lightly whipped cream as well as beaten whites, some melt the chocolate with water to make it easier to add the yolks without seizing, some add sugar… All rely on the quality of the chocolate, care in melting it and a light hand with folding. Otherwise, alas, it is all too easy to end up with a heavy truffle-like disappointment.
Texture, for me, is as important in a mousse as the taste. I favour one that is full of large air pockets — light, but still retaining a bit of “chew” — some resistance in the body that can linger a little on the palate rather than a froth that melts instantly.
If this is also your chocolate mousse dream, then this recipe should work for you. I have tested many and like this original version I did for the Piggery the best. It also has the virtue of using the same number of yolks as egg whites, which can be handy if you’re not making anything else requiring spare yolks. But if you are, this mousse can take two extra whites for an even lighter texture, in which case the air pockets will be smaller and the taste a little less richly intense.
Choose a chocolate whose taste you like a lot. I use a good semisweet 60% or 70% chocolate and add sugar to balance the bitter notes of the chocolate and give the egg whites extra stability. You could reduce the amount of sugar or leave it out altogether if you object. The amount in this version makes a firm meringue that folds in well without as much risk of deflating as beaten whites alone, and it is partly responsible for the firmer but still light texture that I personally prefer.
I like to serve it in a communal bowl, where everyone can serve themselves and have the pleasure of spooning into those beautiful airy gaps.
This serves 8, but can easily be halved for 4. It needs about three hours under refrigeration to achieve the intended texture, but could be eaten sooner if you don’t mind a looser set. It can be made the day before without settling too much; it holds well without weeping (which those made with water don’t always). Keep cold. And do remember that it contains raw eggs, so use the best and freshest you can find.
Piggery chocolate mousse recipe
- 200 g (7 ounces) 60% – 70% semi sweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
- 30 g (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
- 8 large egg yolks — as fresh as you can get
- 8 large egg whites — as fresh as you can get
- pinch of salt
- 120 g (3/4 cup) caster sugar (superfine sugar in the US is helpful but not essential)
- Melt chocolate with the butter in a large mixing bowl over a saucepan of hot water on low heat. Be patient, as overheating will make the chocolate grainy and bitter. Use a rubber spatula to scrape and stir as the chocolate melts. The bowl should not come in contact with the water or with heavy steam; the water should not boil, just barely reach a simmer.
- When the chocolate is almost melted, begin beating the egg whites with a pinch of salt. Let them get foamy on medium speed, and then gradually add all the sugar. Increase the speed and continue to beat until you have a stiff meringue (about 5 minutes).
- When the chocolate is just melted, take the bowl off the heat and add the egg yolks, two at a time, and stir well to amalgamate. The mixture will tighten a little initially, but should quickly become smooth. If it does get too tight, add another yolk and keep mixing in until smooth. (If it should seize hard, you can add another tablespoon of butter to smooth the chocolate.) Keep adding yolks until all are incorporated.
- Add one quarter of the beaten whites and mix in thoroughly to lighten the chocolate base. You don’t have to be delicate at this stage.
- Then very carefully fold in the rest of the meringue in 3 batches. Don’t overfold. Leave some white clumps at each go.
- Gently transfer the mousse to a clean bowl. You can use a table knife to stir lightly through any big clumps of white once it’s in the serving bowl. I don’t mind a bit of unmixed whites; I’d rather have that than deflated mousse.
- Cover and chill for about 3 hours or overnight. (If your mousse should stiffen too much, let it soften at room temperature for 30-40 minutes before serving.)
Keeps for two days.