top-secret chocolate mousse

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Last week I subsisted on pâté and Triscuits and chocolate mousse. It was obscene. But it was that kind of week. I also might’ve been just a tiny bit concerned about asteroids and crazy meteor showers and other things that are way beyond my control. Cuckoo, I know. Don’t judge. The good news is I have chocolate mousse for you.

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I mentioned a while back that I had been contemplating chocolate mousse. I finally decided to do something about it. I ended up testing two recipes. The first wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t great. I initially liked the idea of a chocolate mousse recipe that called for egg whites and whipped cream and butter. But it was a bit labor intensive and included a lot of calories that didn’t necessarily need to be there. I felt like I needed to go back to the drawing board.

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Since I was getting together with the boys for dinner on Sunday, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to try out a second recipe. I had a feeling when I stumbled upon Dorie’s top-secret chocolate mousse that the search was over. The recipe only called for a handful of ingredients and was super simple to whip up – I threw it together while catching up with one of the Gregs over bourbon cocktails, and did it all without a mixer.

As always, the Lady Greenspan did not disappoint. The chocolate mousse was rich, intensely chocolate, and perfectly textured – velvety and airy all at once. Totally decadent. It’s definitely a winner in my book. It was the perfect ending to our homemade pasta dinner (more about that later).

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top-secret chocolate mousse 

adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan

serves 4

3-1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped

3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature (use the freshest eggs available)

Pinch of salt

1-1/2 teaspoons sugar

3/4 cup chilled heavy whipping cream 

1 teaspoon sugar 

chocolate shavings (optional)

Gently melt the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Using a whisk, stir the eggs into the chocolate one at a time until smooth.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt until they start to form peaks. Gradually add the sugar while beating. Continue to beat until the whites are shiny and hold medium-firm peaks. Be careful not to overbeat.

Spoon about one quarter of the whites over the melted chocolate and stir until the mixture is almost smooth. Spoon the rest of the whites into the chocolate mixture, and very carefully fold them in with a large rubber spatula. Be as thorough as you can without overworking the mixture.

Spoon the mousse into a serving bowl or 4 individual bowls. Serve immediately or cover and keep refrigerated until set, about 4 hours.

Beat cream and 1 teaspoon sugar in another medium bowl until peaks form. Spoon whipped cream atop mousse. Garnish with chocolate shavings.

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pavlova

Do you ever read your old journals and cringe? Like you want to curl up and die or at least scratch your eyes out because you’re so mortified by the things you wrote and the feelings you felt and the boys you liked? I’ve kept a diary since junior high; my little brother used to call it my book of secrets. He also used to steal it and recite passages out loud when my friends were over. And I would die a little bit from the horror every time. Ugh.

I came across an old journal from 2006-2008 while I was doing some major housekeeping over the weekend. 2006 doesn’t even feel like it was that long ago, but it was like another person wrote it, which is why I couldn’t put it down. It was certainly entertaining. And embarrassing. And it made me remember people and things I hadn’t thought about in a long time. It was also sort of sweet, and more poignant than I had expected it to be. In a strange way it made me happy to be older, but it was also a reminder that no matter how old I am, be it twenty-five or thirty-something, my fifteen-year-old self will always be somewhere inside my heart.

My fifteen-year-old self was momentarily obsessed with baked meringue. As a child, the only meringue I knew was the foamy, squishy stuff found on top of lemon meringue pies, which I was never fond of. But I remember being really intrigued when I found a recipe for star-shaped baked meringue cookies. And I was so pleased with myself when those cookies came out of the oven; they were light and crisp and pure white. They were definitely the prettiest things I had ever made. Looking back on it now, I’m pretty impressed with the idea of my teenage-self making meringue cookies. She was kind of fancy.

I think my love for pavlova is rooted in that past infatuation with baked meringue. Pavlova is one of my favorite summertime desserts because it is the perfect platform for all of the gorgeous fruit that is so bountiful this time of year. The baked meringue shell is crisp on the outside and soft and almost marshmallowy in the middle. It’s so delicate that it practically collapses when topped with soft whipped cream and fruit. It’s pretty dreamy. And hard to beat.

pavlova

from Simple Essentials Fruit by Donna Hay

serves 6-8

4 large egg whites

1 cup superfine sugar

3 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 teaspoons sugar (optional)

a splash of rosewater (optional)

fresh fruit, to serve ( I used a combination of figs, raspberries, strawberries, and currants)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, beating well until the mixture is glossy. Sift the cornstarch over the egg white mixture and fold through with the vinegar and vanilla.

Pile the meringue mixture into an 7-inch round on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place in the oven, reduce the temperature to 250°F, and bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and allow the meringue to cool in the oven.

Just before serving, place the heavy cream and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high until soft peaks form. Add rosewater and mix until incorporated.

Top the meringue with whipped cream and fresh fruit. Serve immediately.