Chocolate Mousse and Bread, Wine, and Chocolate: The Slow Loss of the Foods We Love
The absolute first thing I did when I moved into the new place was set up the kitchen. This was partially because about 80% of the boxes were filled with kitchen things and thus needed to be unpacked so I could actually get to the other boxes and partially because the kitchen is the center of my home.
No, not literally. It's actually all the way at the back of the house, meaning Daily gets a lot of miles on those paws playing fetch while I'm cooking. But figuratively, yes, dead center, bulls-eye. It's where I cook, think, make grocery lists, talk on the phone, wonder if I've killed my plants, do laundry, creep out the back window to watch the alley like I'm a member of the neighborhood watch — you get it. If I'm home, I'm probably in the kitchen.
So after my kitchen was set up, I made the recipe at the center of my love of cooking: my grandmother's recipe for chocolate mousse. This indulgent dessert takes time, a little labor, and lots of whisking, and, as proven time after time, it's totally worth it. Chocolate is my comfort food, and chocolate mousse is the comfort food of all comfort foods (also the cholesterol of all foods forever, but hey, I'll worry about that the next time I bring myself to make a doctor's appointment).
It seemed appropriate to start off a new house's worth of cooking with one of the first recipes I remember treasuring, and it seemed appropriate that I should pair it with a book about comforting and indulging foods we're drawn to and why we should worry about them: Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love. So here you go, internet. This is my grandma's recipe, and it will knock your socks off. (The book might too, by the way.)
Grandma’s Chocolate Mousse
The best recipe ever. Period. End of story.
Grandma's Chocolate MousseBy Page & Plate, January 18, 2018
This recipe is one of the most important recipes in my arsenal. I've mentioned my Grandma (pictured above, looking like a movie star on her wedding day) before, and I've even posted her recipes (honey cake, anyone?), but all of that was just building up to the moment that I let you in on my best kept secret: the recipe for Grandma's chocolate mousse. This mousse is so heavenly that my dad and brother ask for it instead of birthday cake, it's transformed mousse haters into mousse lovers, and it's been eaten without shame for breakfast. As I've mentioned before, I carry it around in my wallet everywhere I go, both for mousse emergencies and for bragging rights. After all, this is a recipe (and a Grandma) worth bragging about.
Makes: 10-12 servings
- 2 cups of milk
- 1 cup of sugar
- 2 envelopes of Knox gelatin
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1/4 tsp of salt
- 12 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate (do yourself a favor and use the good stuff), roughly chopped
- 1 tsp of vanilla
- 2 cups of heavy whipping cream
- Put the milk in a small saucepan over very, very low heat. Add 1/2 cup of sugar. Mix with a whisk to combine.
- While whisking gently, slowly sprinkle the gelatin in the milk and sugar mixture. Keep stirring to combine.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks together lightly.
- Add egg yolks, salt, chocolate chips, and vanilla. Keep stirring until the chocolate is melted and smooth — it shouldn't appear grainy at all.
- Refrigerate the chocolate mixture for between 25 and 45 minutes. After about 30 minutes, the gelatin causes the mixture to mound, which means it's slowly turning into the right texture. Please do not misread this and think that a literal mound will erupt from your mousse and you will have a hill of mousse on your hands. At most, you'll get a slight swell, and then you will be both surprised and disappointed.
- About five minutes before you take the mixture out of the fridge, beat the egg whites in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or a hand mixer. Add the remaining sugar a few tablespoons at a time while whisking, keep that machine going no matter how scared your cat looks, and in about five to eight minutes, you'll have a meringue on your hands.
- Fold the meringue into the chocolate mixture. Make sure that there aren't blobs of white and try to get it as incorporated as you can.
- Refrigerate that mixture while you wash out your mixer of choice and whisk attachment.
- Using your newly washed and dried mixer and whisk attachment, beat the cream until it is the texture of, well, whipped cream. If you're getting to this point and considering using canned whipped cream, I'm going to be really disappointed in your choices. You've made it this far. Love is a major ingredient in this recipe, and this is where it comes in. Whip. Whip with love.
- Fold about 2/3 of the whipped cream that you whipped at home into the mousse. Reserve the rest for decorating.
- Pour the mousse into the bowl from which you will serve it, then pipe the whipped cream on top and decorate with chocolate chips.
- Serve, and be thankful for my Grandma.
Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love
Plot: In a journey that takes us around the world, Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love is an exploration of our favorite foods and how to save them.
Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. Aside from being an exploration into basically all of my favorite food groups (except the octopus, which seemed random anyway), the book is chock-full of really valuable nuggets of information about how our eating habits have evolved over time and the multitude of ripple effects those changes have set off. While I wish that some of those nuggets had been better developed and organized, the book was a call to action for eaters everywhere that was easy to connect to.
I also really enjoyed the voice of author Simran Sethi. Her frank and personal tone makes it easy to care about the subjects she discusses, even as she delves fearlessly into the technical aspects of the production of these foods. While in some places it felt awkward to be inserting personal narrative into the story of the cacao plant, it ultimately became endearing and made me invest more into her stories.
The one thing I wish Sethi had addressed further in this book was how to take action to change our eating patterns and support the biodiversity that we've been destroying. Tell me where I should be buying coffee that is grown right and benefits the farmers. Tell me how to tell where the beer I'm drinking gets its hops. Tell me how to be a part of the positive change, not just how to taste these wonderful things (again, except octopus. Shudder.).
Verdict: Definitely worth a read if you're someone who has ever enjoyed any of these foods / beverages. Which is everyone who has ever eaten. It'll make you think harder about your role in the food chain and in the world, and that's never a bad thing.
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