As a professional chef, I love throwing (and attending!) dinner parties, and I’m not shy about going back for seconds. But I’m also not one to skip dessert, so when it comes to the sweet stuff, I like to go one of two ways—something light and fruity that won’t overwhelm my guests after a big meal, or something intensely chocolatey that will satisfy a sweet tooth with only a few bites. For the latter, my go-to dish is chocolate mousse.
If you search for a chocolate mousse recipe on the internet, you’ll come up with thousands of variations, because the truth is that there are several different ways to make this classic dessert. Some recipes are even as simple as whipping up some cream and folding it into melted chocolate. But we can do better than that! For your next dinner party (or Netflix binge, I’m not here to judge), I challenge you to make chocolate mousse, the cheffy way.
First, let’s clarify what exactly we’re making. “Mousse” is French for “foam,” so when we make chocolate mousse, we’re making a combination of a chocolate element and something foamy. For our cheffy recipe, we’re going to make not one, but two foams—this will give our mousse an amazingly light texture and cut through some of the sweetness, all while preserving the complex flavor and intensity of the dark chocolate. This is restaurant-quality mousse that is velvety smooth, stable enough to last several days in the fridge (good luck with that), and that really lets the quality of your chocolate shine through without being bogged down by an excess of whipped cream. Of course, this also makes our recipe slightly more complicated than some of the others out there, but it will all be worth it in the end.
The first of our foams is a familiar one: lightly whipped cream. This adds an interesting mix of lightness (from the air) and depth (from the milk fat) to the finished mousse, as well as a creamy mouthfeel, and it’s present in most chocolate mousse recipes. The second foam is perhaps not as well-known. It is called “pate a bombe,” which is another French term used to describe the egg yolk-based foam that serves as a bit of a covert basis for many classic desserts—and can even be a dessert in and of itself when flavored with a touch of liqueur. The pate a bombe serves as the main body of our mousse; the proteins in the egg yolks are strong enough to hold all the air bubbles we’ll incorporate, even after being mixed with melted chocolate and whipped cream. It’s rich, velvety, and makes the best chocolate mousse in this chef’s opinion.
So if you’re ready to impress your friends with your classic French dessert skills, get your electric mixer out and let’s make some chocolate mousse. And if you’d like to learn to make even more decadent and delicious desserts, be sure to check out our new Pastry Boot Camp!
Dark Chocolate Mousse
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2 cups dark chocolate (I recommend 64-80%)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
12 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
Whip the 3/4 cup cream to soft-medium peaks. Set aside.
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepot with a candy thermometer attached. In the clean bowl of your stand mixer, start whipping the egg yolks on medium speed. Let them whip for a couple of minutes before starting to heat your sugar—don’t rush your eggs! You want them to come to ribbon stage, meaning that if you wave the whip above the mixture, it will leave a trail on the surface that takes no less than three seconds to dissolve back into the mix. You’ll notice the color become a lot paler as well.
As the yolks are approaching ribbon stage, begin to heat the sugar and water.
When it reaches 248*F (soft ball stage), slowly pour the hot sugar into the whipping eggs. Try to pour in between the side of the bowl and the whip—if you pour against the bowl the sugar will harden there and not be incorporated into your eggs, and if you pour onto the whip the sugar will be flung around and also won’t get incorporated. Let the eggs continue to whip until the bowl no longer feels hot to the touch.
Meanwhile, using the same pot you used to cook the sugar, heat the 1 1/2 cups cream to a simmer. Combine the chocolate and salt in a large bowl.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for one minute to melt.
Use a whisk or spatula to combine the chocolate and cream into a smooth ganache.
Use a spatula to fold the pate a bombe into the ganache in three additions.
Gently fold the whipped cream into the mixture until no streaks remain. The mousse may seem loose at this point, but it will set up in the refrigerator.
Portion the mousse into serving vessels and let set in the refrigerator for at least one hour.