28: Chocolate Mousse (Mousseline au Chocolat) — Mastering the Art of French Cooking
It had to happen. I’d been putting it off for too long.
Not because I was avoiding it. But let’s be real — you don’t START a cookbook project with Julia Child. You don’t throw Julia Child haphazardly into the middle. Heck, I’d been intending to END with Julia Child… but I also thought I’d be ending before June, and now I’m terrified of the heat cranking back up and foiling my fussy desserts — I’ve watched enough chefs more competent than myself foiled on the Great British Bake Off during a particularly hot day in the tent. And having learned several heat-related lessons the hard way earlier in this project (I’m going to re-attempt this clusterfuck someday), I figured rather than tempt fate any longer, I’d take advantage of this last gasp of unseasonable coolness and tackle…
“Who are Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck?” Fool, didn’t you see Julie & Julia?? Meryl friggin Streep as Julia Child? Ugh, stop, stop, go watch the movie. This blog will be here when you’re done.
Better now? OK. So though Child emerged as the star of the trio, the three women worked on the book together. Well, kind of: The dirt is that Bertholle didn’t contribute as much as Child and Beck; they got salty with her, and ended up having her cut of the proceeds slashed. Beck even argued to the publisher, “It is bad for the book for her to present herself as Author, as she really does not cook well enough, or know enough” — QUELLE SAUVAGE! (That’s probably not proper French, but I don’t care.)
If you want to know a bit more about this book, just read the Wiki. There’s just too much to include here.
The recipe is chocolate mousse. LET’S GET TO IT.
The Recipe (directly from the book, which you should probably get if you’re interested enough in food to be reading this blog):
Things to Note About This Recipe:
- One would think I’d know better than to be cocky and think something is going to be easy. So easy that I don’t carefully read the directions until just before I begin. Trust, I LOOKED at the recipe many times. I went through the ingredients. Nothing too scary. Whatev, I’ll just throw together a quick chocolate mousse, NBD. BD, MFer. BD. This dish secretly has Big Deal Energy.
- This recipe requires bowls, bowls, all kinds of bowls. You need to whisk 3 separate bowls of stuff, 2 of them using a handheld electric mixer unless you’re a total masochist (no judgement), and 2 of the bowls need to be mixed over simmering water. Ughhhhhhh. Nope, it’s fine. It’s FINE. Just make sure you have a couple metal or ceramic mixing bowls to work with. (I have the basic metal ones from IKEA, and they worked just dandy.)
- You cannot multitask while you make this recipe. FOCUS. You can have music on, but no podcasts, no audiobooks, no half-watching documentaries on Hulu, nothing that’s going to steal real amounts of your attention. Luckily, it’s not one of those “WORK FAST WORK FAST OH GOD” recipes, nor is it an “IF YOU WHISK THIS TOO LONG OR TOO HARD, YOU MIGHT AS WELL THROW IT OUT” recipes. Work efficiently, but you don’t need to rush.
- The recipe calls for “instant sugar (very finely granulated).” An easy way to achieve this without needing to hit the store? Throw some sugar into the food processor and blitz it a little finer. I do the same thing when making French Silk Pie, and it works very well.
- Hot tip: If you’re holding a metal bowl over a pot of water on the stove, maybe have some sort of heat protective element in place on your hand? It sounds obvious, but this is something I learned the dumb way. (Not today, but it bears mentioning.)
- The recipe calls for orange liquor. I don’t have orange liquor. Not my fave. Did I want to buy a whole bottle just for 1/4 cup? Nope. Elsewhere on the internet, I’d seen the recipe printed with the option to swap out the orange liquor for a number of options, including rum. Since I had dark spiced rum left over from making my Pinoffee Pie, in it went. (Additionally, Julia Child mixed rum with chocolate in her classic Reine de Saba Cake, so I felt certain she’d approve.)
- I do not recommend attempting this recipe on the same day that you return to the gym and jump into a class that’s way more physically strenuous than anything you’ve done in the past year. This afternoon, I was raising my mug of tea to my mouth, and I saw my arm begin to shake from the effort of holding it up with my exhausted muscles. But no, let’s go make a recipe that requires a whole lot of mixing and whisking! (Idiot.)
- The ingredients list notes to top the mousse with “lightly whipped cream sweetened with powdered sugar.” I happened to have leftover heavy whipping cream from the previous week’s baking adventures, so I whipped it up, but I decided to go unsweetened. I like an unsweetened whip on my very-sweet desserts. *shrug*
- And finally, when you go to beat the egg yolk and sugar mixture over the bowl of cold water, please remember, as you grab that bowl of water, that it is a BOWL of WATER and that if you casually grab it, half that water will end up on the ground.
How did it taste?
Mother of god. It’s too good. It’s too much. Knowing how to make this is too much power for any human to possess. GODDAMMIT. I’m so angry that I know how to make this now. IT’S AMAZING. It would be amazing with the orange liquor too, but it’s also amazing with the rum instead, especially playing off the flavor of the coffee. However, I fully stand by my decision not to sweeten the whipped cream. The mousse is plenty sweet on its own. And it’s infuriatingly delicious.
HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO GET ANYTHING DONE IN THIS WORLD, knowing that I could just be making and eating this chocolate mousse on an endless loop?
Would I make this again?
Um, yes. This is literally the perfect dessert to make if you want to impress someone, but you don’t want to seem like a show-off. You make it ahead of time, so that both it and you have plenty of time to chill. The presentation doesn’t have to be showy. You can just be like, “Oh yeah, it’s Julia Child’s recipe for traditional French chocolate mousse, no big deal.” Let that Big Deal Energy tell them everything they truly need to know. WARNING: This mousse may make people want to make out with you. Serve with caution.
Do I recommend this book?
It’s a classic for a reason, folks. It didn’t become one of the most revered cookbooks of all time by sucking. It can be a bit intimidating, especially if you’re used to books with big glossy pictures and just one recipe per page. But just remember: This book was literally written with American home cooks in mind (and ones without Google on hand to look up clarification on anything confusing)!
What’s the next recipe I want to make from this book?
Oooh, looking at the savory stuff… I’m thinking the Coquilles St. Jacques à la Provençale! It’s a scallop dish with white wine, butter, and onions, gratinéed with Swiss cheese on top. Mais bien sûr.
Down to the final two books on my list! Next week, I’m tackling the cookbook I’ve probably had longer than any other (AND STILL NOT COOKED FROM). Haven’t picked a damn recipe yet. Alors…