Monday, June 20, 2011

A Different Kind of Mousse

When I came across a recipe that used water to make a chocolate mousse, I was fascinated. Common wisdom says that water and chocolate are enemies, and if you’ve ever melted chocolate and had a drop of water fall into it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

However, if you have enough water, the chocolate behaves itself. Interesting, no?

Removing dairy from the mousse changes the flavor. A lot. All you taste is the clean chocolate flavor without the richness of the dairy. Of course, you can add a few other flavors to enhance the chocolate. But in the end, you’re going to taste a lot of chocolate.

If you’ve ever thought that good-quality chocolate was a waste in desserts because of all of the competing flavors, this is the recipe where that favorite chocolate indulgence of yours will be the star.

And of course, if you’re cooking for someone with dairy issues, this dessert can be completely dairy-free, if you read some labels. Not all chocolate is dairy-free, so read the labels and check with your dairy-free friends and see if the little bit of dairy in some chocolates is a problem.

This dessert comes together in very little time, so you can make it and serve it right away. Or make it ahead and refrigerate it.

Most of the recipes for this type of mousse suggest that you should whisk by hand. You can do that, if you want to. But you can also use a hand mixer. It makes it a little easier to beat more air into the mixture and is a little less work, particularly if you whip too long and have to start over. And that’s another benefit of this recipe - if you mess up, the fix over is easy.

As you whip, the chocolate will transform from a runny liquid to a thicker liquid, to a pudding-like mixture, and finally to a fluffy mousse. Once it begins thickening, it happens pretty quickly. Just as quickly, it can get a little too thick because it’s fascinating to watch it change and pretty soon you’ve gone beyond fluffy into something else. But that’s not a problem. Warm it up again and start over.

Salt acts as a flavor enhancer in sweets, just as it does in savory dishes. If you’re watching your salt intake, you can leave it out. If you want a little extra boost in flavor, you can use some brewed coffee for some of the water.

Dairy-Free Chocolate Mousse

8 ounces (by weight) good-quality chocolate
8 ounces water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
Powdered sugar (to taste – only if needed)

Sample your chocolate. This is what your mousse is going to taste like. Ponder a moment or two whether this is going to be sweet enough, or whether you might want to add just a bit of sugar.

Break the chocolate into small pieces and place them in a medium bowl. If you’re working with a large bar of chocolate, the easiest way to do this is to cut it with a serrated knife. It will break and crumble into small bits.

Have a second, slightly larger bowl ready, with ice in it. You don't need a vast amount of ice - a tray of ice or about a dozen cubes should be fine. The bowl with the chocolate should fit into the larger bowl so the bottom of your work bowl touches the ice.

Add the salt to the chocolate.

Heat the water to boiling and add it to the chocolate in the bowl. Let it sit for a few seconds, then whisk until the chocolate is melted. Add the vanilla extract, if you’re using it.

Place your work bowl into the second bowl and begin whisking the chocolate - or beat it with an electric mixer. It won’t take long before the mixture begins to lose its shine and it becomes lighter in color and a little thicker. Give it a taste and see if you want to add a bit of sugar. If so, add the powdered sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking (or beating) to combine it with the chocolate.

Continue whisking/beating the chocolate until it thickens to your desired consistency. If it gets too thick, just place the bowl with the chocolate in it over a pan with simmering water and re-melt the chocolate. Then place the bowl back on top of the ice in your second bowl and whisk again until it thickens.

You can refrigerate the mousse in the bowl and serve from that when you’re ready, or scoop it into individual serving bowls.

If you don’t need to keep the dessert dairy-free, it’s nice with just a bit of whipped cream on top. Or you can serve it plain, or with a non-dairy whipped topping, if you prefer.


Janie said...

Wow! This is really different. I am eager to try it out...I will have to go check out my favorite chocolate (dark of course)

mia maria said...

I wish I had good chocolate! I could do it right now!

CatBoy said...

Not to sound to Oprah-ish, but this is a life-changing moment for me. I could use one of the stevia-sweetened chocolates (there are several available now) and have a dairy-free, sugar-free chocolate dessert. That's pretty remarkable, all things considered. Depending on the texture, it might also make a nice frosting for those who want a dairy free cake.

Donna Currie said...

Catboy, you're going to love it. You can play around with the texture A LOT depending on how long you beat it, anywhere from a flowing pudding to something every thick. And if you don't get it the way you want it, melt it and whip again.

Anonymous said...

Since the chocolate I used came in 3 oz bars, I used three and increased the water to 9oz. The mixture didn't thicken with hand wisking, so tried the hand mixer and still has not thicken. What went wrong? It's in the freezer now hoping things improve.

Donna Currie said...

Interesting. I've never had it NOT set. Did you have it set over another bowl with ice in it? The simultaneous beating and cooling is what sets it. Try beating again when it's a little colder.

Anonymous said...

Moved the mixture to the fridge over night and tried whisking again with no luck. Suggestions on the type of chocolate? And ideas of what to do with the mixture as it does taste good and contains $10 worth of choclate? : )

Donna Currie said...

I used Scharffenberger chocolate this time - I think it was the 62% on in the tan-yellow wrapper, but any similar chocolate should work. If I was you, I think I'd find a cake recipe that uses that much water and make a batch of cupcakes.

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