I’ve still got chocolate mousse on my mind. It’s because chocolate mousse is a great “skills” recipe. It includes so many of the basic techniques a baker needs to be successful in the kitchen. Knowing how to melt chocolate will lead you into truffles, patisserie, cakes and cookies. Simple syrups are the building blocks of caramels and cocktails. Learning to whip eggs and cream to the perfect ribbon-stage will give you the foundation for tiramisu, génoise cake, crème brûlée and opera cake. Knowing how to fold ingredients together correctly is a skill that is used in so many recipes, baking and cooking alike, that it’s almost as useful as knowing how to use a knife.
This recipe uses them all. The four basic steps of any chocolate mousse recipe is: 1. melt the chocolate. 2. whip the eggs and cream. 3. make a simple syrup. 4. fold the ingredients.
There are two ways to melt chocolate. The traditional way is over simmering water. Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl that fits snugly over a pot of simmering water. The water should not touch the bowl. The chocolate will melt gradually without much stirring needed. When most of the chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat, stir a few times till smooth and set aside to cool.
The second way is to melt the chocolate using a microwave. This is easier and much faster but you have keep a watchful eye on it. Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl and microwave for 10 seconds. Take it out, give it a quick stir and microwave another 10 seconds. You may need to microwave two or three times, at 10 second intervals until it’s fully melted and smooth. Why not just microwave it for 30 seconds all at once? It will melt unevenly and some of the chocolate will burn.
MAKING SIMPLE SYRUP
This is quick and easy. Boil equal parts sugar to equal parts water. Pour the water and sugar into a pan, mix well and bring to a rolling boil. Let it boil for about a minute, uncovered. Add the hot syrup gradually to the whipped eggs, stirring constantly. The hot syrup will lightly cook the eggs so they are not raw. If you like being particularly accurate and you have an instant read or candy thermometer, boil the simple syrup to 250°F ( 121°C).
THE RIBBON STAGE
The egg yolks and the cream need to be whipped until they reach what is called the ribbon stage.
The ribbon stage is where the mixture thickens to the point that it will drop from the whisk in thick ribbon-like drizzles. You could even draw little figure eights with the drizzling mixture. If you want to see lots of good examples, Google “ribbon stage” and you’ll find lots of great pictures available.
HOW TO FOLD
Folding is basically a gentle stirring usually used when incorporating a light mixture, such as egg whites, into a heavy mixture, such as melted chocolate or a custard. With all the work you just did to whip air into the eggs and cream, it would be a shame to deflate it right at the end.
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When folding, it’s more manageable to add small amounts of the lighter mixture into the heavier mixture, about 1/3 at a time, fully incorporating it before adding the next 3rd.
1. Take a small amount of the lighter mixture and whisk it into the heavy mixture. This will lighten up the heavy mixture, making it easier to work with.
2. Place 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate. Using a spatula or even a whisk, swipe down the middle of the bowl, scooping under the mixture and bring what is on the bottom, up and over so it is now on top, so that you have folded the heavy mixture over the lighter mixture. Continuously rotate the bowl with one hand as you continue to swipe through the mixture, using the spatula or whisk to grab what’s underneath and bring it up and over the lighter mixture…folding the heavy mixture over the lighter mixture. This incorporates the lighter mixture without over working it.