There was a period last summer when I was obsessed with making parfait, not the layered fruit-and-yogurt parfait, but the French parfait, which is like ice cream. The parfait-making technique calls for heating a sugar syrup to 230ºF, then pouring it into beating egg yolks. The hot syrup cooks the yolks as they whip, then whipped cream is folded into the mixture once it has cooled. The parfait is then frozen until serving.
I was intrigued by the method, which I had read about in the Tartine Cookbook, for a number of reasons but mostly because it allowed for making ice cream without an ice cream machine, which many people appreciate. And while I loved the taste and texture of the finished parfait, I never posted the recipe because parfait, despite not requiring an ice cream machine, isn’t necessarily a piece of cake to make. As I noted, it requires heating syrup to a precise temperature, pouring the syrup, which tends to get tangled in the whisk, into the whipping yolks, setting up an ice bath, folding in whipped cream, etc. — I don’t find these to be easy tasks. That said, parfait, which is French for “perfect,” is just about that, and I will certainly be revisiting the process this summer.
Anyway, what does parfait have to do with chocolate mousse? Well, parfait has a mousse-like texture, which can be attributed not only to the beating of the egg yolks and sugar to that thick, ribbon stage but also to the folding in of the whipped cream. In my search these past few weeks for a perfect chocolate mousse, I came across Julia Child’s recipe on David Lebovitz. In addition to containing booze and coffee, Julia’s recipe calls for a technique that resembles parfait-making but that is simpler. In her recipe, yolks and sugar get whisked until thick, first in a double boiler then over an ice bath. Beaten egg whites get folded in at the end.
Lebovitz describes Julia’s mousse as having “a perfect, slightly-gummy texture, backed up by a wallop of pure dark chocolate flavor.” This “gumminess” or chew is what I love about parfait and what I love about Julia’s chocolate mousse — it doesn’t just taste like chocolate-flavored whipped cream. It has body with a lightness coming exclusively from beaten egg whites.
I adjusted the recipe slightly by using less sugar than called for because I was using a sweeter chocolate, and I’ve made notes in the recipe. Chocolate mousse is a great make-ahead recipe if you plan on spending Valentine’s Day at home, and, I mean, as much as I love love love those vanilla bean pots de crèmes, Valentine’s Day calls for chocolate, right?
Anyway, what are your plans for Valentine’s Day? What are your essentials for a romantic dinner at home? For us it’s good bread, stinky cheese, stinky pickles (details below), some cured meats, some sort of tinned fish, a simple salad and three little cubs pawing at our feet.
If all goes well this year, we’ll get the cubs to bed early and stay awake to watch the first episode of the new season of Foyle’s War! Did you hear?! Yes, it’s true, two of three new episodes have been released.
Have a wonderful Friday/weekend, Everyone.
PS: More Valentine’s Day Dinner Ideas here.
Julia Child’s Chocolate Mousse
Yield 4 servings
Adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking via David Lebovitz Notes: I used Guittard Chocolate, 64% cacao. Lebovitz used Green and Black, 72% cacao. I mention this because I cut the sugar to ½ cup because I was worried ⅔ cup sugar might be too sweet — I made one chocolate mousse last week that was way too sweet. Also, the Bouchon recipe, which I loved, only called for 1 tablespoon of sugar in the whole recipe. Anyway, ½ cup of sugar was a perfect amount of sugar for me, but if you are using a darker chocolate, you might want to stick with the ⅔ cup sugar amount. What I love about this recipe is that there isn't any whipped cream. One recipe I tried this week tasted too much like chocolate-flavored whipped cream. This one has body with a nice lightness thanks to the whipped egg whites. The key, I think, to making this recipe successfully is getting those egg yolks to that pale yellow ribbon stage — see DL's photo for guidance. If you don't get that consistency in the yolks, the finished mousse will not have that nice chew.
- 6 ounces (170g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (see notes above)
- 6 ounces (170g) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- ¼ cup (60ml) dark-brewed coffee
- 4 large eggs, separated
- ½ cup (116g) to ⅔ cup (170g), plus 1 tablespoon sugar (see notes above)
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) dark rum
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) water
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- dark chocolate for shaving over top, optional
- Heat a saucepan one-third full with hot water, and in a bowl set on top, melt together the chocolate, butter and coffee, stirring over the barely simmering water, until smooth. Remove from heat.
- Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.
- In a bowl large enough to nest securely on the saucepan of simmering water, whisk the yolks of the eggs with the ½ to ⅔ cup of sugar (see notes), rum, and water for about 3 minutes until the mixture is thick, like runny mayonnaise. (You can also use a handheld electric mixer. Note: Be sure this mixture is thick before removing bowl from heat. )
- Remove from heat and place the bowl of whipped egg yolks within the bowl of ice water and beat until cool and thick, as shown in the photo in DL's post. Then fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until frothy. Continue to beat until they start to hold their shape. Whip in the tablespoon of sugar and continue to beat until thick and shiny, but not completely stiff, then the vanilla.
- Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder of the whites just until incorporated, but don’t overdo it or the mousse will lose volume.
- Transfer the mousse to a serving bowl or divide into serving dishes, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm.
- Use a microplane grater or peeler to shave chocolate overtop before serving (optional).
These days, nothing is more fun or relaxing or special feeling for me than arranging a few cheeses and meats on a platter, making a simple, wintry salad and serving it with homemade bread. My latest discovery, which make a nice addition to any charcuterie platter, are pickled watermelon radishes, which I wrote about over on Food52 last week. Warning: They couldn’t be more delicious but they also are about the stinkiest pickle/food I have ever tasted. Give them some time to breathe before serving, or as one commenter suggested, open the jar outside.
This tinned octopus is kind of a splurge, but it’s delicious, and when you’re staying in for Valentine’s Day, you’re saving a boodle anyway: