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chocolate mousse

28 September 2021
How did the chocolate mousse come about?

Its origins date back to the 6th century, when Anthime, a Byzantine physician, was the first person to whisk egg whites into “snow” for medicinal purposes. However, it was not until the Renaissance that this technique became widespread. In the 17th century, the mousse was seen as something for ladies to eat! The thinking was that it allowed them to eat without chewing, so they would not distort their faces at the table. Practical, maybe, but a bit bland as food goes! It was then in the 18th century that Louis XVI succumbed to this delicate pleasure. Charles Fazi, his cook at the time, was known for his inventive talent. He it was who perfected this famous dessert by adding chocolate.

The recipe gained official recognition in 1820, when it appeared in “The Royal Cook”, signed by chef André Viard. From that moment on, French people were able to make their own chocolate mousse at home.

From the 19th century, chocolate started to become a regular feature of the dessert table; it was becoming more accessible, and recipes started to be developed. It breathed new life into kitchens in the last quarter of the century: Yule logs, Easter eggs, truffles, palets d’or, Black Forest gateaux, Opera cakes… chocolate was the thing to have!

The chocolate mousse marked the start of a new era in cookery. 

But what are the secrets of this emblematic dessert?

The ingredients are simple: egg whites, egg yolks, butter and chocolate. Resting time is very important, and needs to be calculated according to volume; this step allows the dessert to set.

There are a few mistakes to avoid, if you want your chocolate mousse to be a success. First of all, remember that the mixture needs to be prepared quickly, energetically, and in an organised way. You must follow the recipe step by step. 

First of all, you need to whisk the egg whites until firm, ensuring they do not become grainy, keeping the mixture nice and smooth. Next, the chocolate must be warm enough (40–45 degrees) when you incorporate the egg yolks. Straight after that, you need to add a little of the egg white to prevent the chocolate hardening too quickly, and then you gradually add the rest. You must keep the egg whites moving constantly.

For this creation, it is advisable to use a chocolate that is not too rich in cocoa butter, otherwise the mousse will become too hard. A 60 or 65% chocolate is perfect! Take my word as a chocolatier!

These days, there are a number of variants allowing the recipe to be adapted to particular dietary requirements or to suit the particularities of the most discerning palates. 

A lot of pastry chefs have had to turn away from using egg yolks – used raw in the recipe – because of the complications of selling to the public. However, it is possible to make a mousse using just chocolate, stiffly-whisked egg whites and sugar. This will just make the mousse lighter. For the more indulgent, you can add some whipping cream, but be careful how much you use, or you will make your mousse too heavy!

For vegans, or people with an egg intolerance, you can still enjoy this treat using the water from a can of chickpeas (preferably organic). When mixed with sugar and whisked, this water whips up very quickly, resulting in a texture that closely resembles that of stiffly-whisked egg whites. The other advantage is that your mousse will keep longer! 

Margaux Caron

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