I have an experiment for you.
If you’ve been with us for a while, you may have noticed I’m a bit of a baking nerd. Whether it’s figuring out hydration percentages in bread recipes, calculating the volume of cake batter a recipe will yield so I can bake it in a different pan, or pouring over Serious Eats’ extensive recipe-testing posts, I’m a sucker for any and all things having to do with food science.
Actually, when I think about it, I guess my nerdiness reaches far beyond the world of baking. I’ve read all the Harry Potter books at least a dozen times, and if you were to challenge me to a Lord of the Rings trivia game, you would almost certainly lose. In middle school, I was the only girl in my class who shot up her hand when the teacher asked who wanted to take the lead in dissecting frogs. I was, and still very much am, that kid.
Oh, and I’m currently addicted to Pokemon Go. But if that makes me a nerd, then there are a whole lot of nerds on this planet right now.
But that’s why this mousse recipe instantly caught my attention. It was conceived by gastronomic genius Hervé This, who figured out how to make mousse with just two ingredients. Because as it turns out, all that’s needed to make a mousse is a high enough fat content. Typical mousses depend on egg yolks and cream for their fat, but This discovered that if you were to use chocolate with a high enough percentage of cocoa solids, it would provide enough fat to contain air bubbles when whipped.
That means that this recipe requires nothing more than your favorite dark chocolate and some water. That’s it.
I jazzed it up with some Grand Marnier and topped it with some sweetened whipped cream, but this mousse is divine all on its own. It’s basically like eating the best dark chocolate bar you’ve ever had in mousse form. It’s light in texture but rich and decadent in flavor, so servings don’t need to be more than a few bites. If you want to dress it up but still keep it vegan, top it with some sweetened coconut whipped cream or serve it with you favorite vegan ice cream.
Otherwise, though, I urge you to whip up a ton of heavy cream with a few tablespoons of sugar and serve each cup of mousse with a generous dollop. Or, if you taste the mousse and it is too rich for you (as it was for a few of my taste testers who prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate), then you can always warm it back up until it’s smooth and fold in a few cups of sweetened whipped cream. It will be lighter and sweeter, but still deeply chocolatey. Either way, it should be allowed to set for at least an hour before serving.
So let your inner nerd out, and whip up this mousse. It’s an experiment that will only take a few minutes, but you’ll be rewarded with a delicious testament to the awesomeness of gastronomic science.
A few quick tips:
If you over-whip it, just melt it down and try again. If you are over-whipping it very quickly, it could be that you have used too much chocolate or have too much fat in your mixture – if so, just add a bit of water when you melt it down again. If it is too loose and takes too long to thicken, return it to heat and add more chocolate. I used a combination of 70% Callebeaut and 53% Tcho chocolate, for an average of 60%. I find that this amount of cocoa solids consistently yields good results. If you use chocolate with a higher percentage, you may need to use more water to balance out the fat content, but try to whip it up first and see if it needs troubleshooting. This is an experiment, after all.
Chocolate ‘Chantilly’ Mousse
By L., recipe and technique from Hervé This
Yields 8 small servings
8 ounces high-quality dark chocolate (60% or higher)
3/4 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)
Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat the water, Grand Marnier, and chocolate on low heat, whisking gently and often until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is homogenous.
Pour into a medium bowl, place it into the large bowl with ice water, and either use a whisk or handheld mixer to quickly whisk the chocolate mixture until slightly thickened. You’re looking for the consistency of a thick pudding; you should only just be able to see the marks of the whisk’s tines in the mousse. If you over-whip it and it gets too stiff (which can happen quickly as it cools) then simply re-melt the mixture and try again.
Divide the loose mousse into individual servings, and let set for at least an hour either at room temperature or in the fridge. If you refrigerate them, remove them from the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving.
Serve with whipped topping of choice.