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Essential Pepin: Chocolate Mousse

The chocolate pistoles I used for Jacques Pepin's chocolate mousse.

My first two experiences with recipes from Essential Pepin, the composed salad and tarragon chicken, have been easy walks in the park. Maybe just because I’m not really a dessert guy that was not the case for the chocolate mousse.

Don’t get me wrong, the result was delicious and brilliantly chocolate-y, but the texture just wasn’t right. Picture chocolate ice cream with chocolate chunks or a very loose brownie with bits of fudge. It’s tough to complain about either of these but they’re still not a smooth, integrated mousse.

With a Google search I’ve found that some of the other bloggers who have experimented with Essential Pepin have had similar results. This post on Dinner with Julie demonstrates what I was expecting and shooting for while this one on Baking in the ‘Burg is closer to what I got.

Now, this could have been my fault. I’m trying to master the technique of separating eggs in my bare hands and I may have accidentally let some of the whites sneak in with the yolks. Water and a quickly dropping temperature are the two most likely culprits when melted chocolate seizes and egg whites are full of water. Also, I subbed screech for the Cognac but because rum is a suggested alternate (and screech is essentially Newfoundland rum) I don’t think this was the problem.

From checking other recipes there seem to be a couple of modifications that might help those attempting the recipe in the future. First, I don’t see why whipping the cream should be done between heating the egg yolks and introducing the chocolate to them. Cream will stay whipped for five minutes but the eggs will cool in that time and that could have caused the yolk-chocolate mixture to seize.

Also, Pépin says to add a small amount of fat (some of the cream) if the mixture starts to seize (and I did) but I’d rather do what many other recipes suggest and take preventative measures. This is easily accomplished by melting a tablespoon of butter with the chocolate and that way the fat is already there as insurance.

I used chocolate pistoles (pictured at the top of this post) that are so much easier to measure by weight than bars. Mine came from the Delicious Food Show but President Choice has some as part of their new Black Label line.

Jacques Pepin’s Chocolate Mousse

From Jacques Pépin’s new cookbook, Essential Pepin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food

Jacques Pepin's Chocolate Mousse

Made with a warm emulsion of egg yolks and sugar, and finished with cream, this is the most classic of chocolate mousses. Cognac works well with chocolate, but it can be replaced by dark rum or Grand Marnier for a different flavour. I’ve add my comments and modifications in italics like these.

Prep time: 15 minutes Total time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Yield: Six generous servings

  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 10 ounces (284 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted with one TB unsalted butter
  • 2 C (500 ml) heavy cream (whipping cream to us Canadians)
  • 2 tsp Cognac
  • I would whip the cream before heating the egg yolks and sugar. Both can be done with a hand mixer but be sure to scrupulously clean and dry the beaters between the two operations.
  • Reserve 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and combine the rest of the sugar with the egg yolks in a stainless steel bowl. Place the bowl in a skillet of hot tap water (or use a double boiler), and whisk the mixture for 3 minutes, or until it is fluffy, smooth, and at least doubled in volume.
  • Beat the reserved sugar with the cream in a large chilled bowl for a few minutes, or until soft peaks form; do not overwhip. Transfer about 3/4 cup of the whipped cream to another bowl to use as a decoration, and refrigerate.
  • Using a rubber spatula, combine the melted chocolate (that has been melted with the tablespoon of butter) with the yolk mixture and the cognac. If the mixture starts to seize or break down, immediately stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of the whipped cream to smooth out the mixture. Gently fold in the remaining whipped cream until incorporated. Transfer the mousse to a decorative bowl, cover, and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.
  • At serving time, whip the reserved 3/4 cup whipped cream until stiff peaks form. Spoon the cream into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and decorate the top of the mousse with the cream, or spoon dollops of the cream onto the top of the mousse. Serve.

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  1. Michelle says:

    Thanks for linking to my mousse post. I’m glad I’m not the only one who tried their hardest for the “perfect” consistency and ended up with something a little less than perfect. I totally agree. The result was still very tasty, just not what I was expecting. I’ll have to try it again sometime with the modifications you’ve suggested.

  2. Hmmm it’s weird that so many people had different results with this one. Mine was smooth like Julie’s when I first made it but the next day it was definitely a little firmer but still luscious and silky. I find working with emulsions tricky but this time I got lucky(though I had to re melt the chocolate since I accidentally added the liqueur too soon and it seized). In any case, it was a tasty experiment, right? Julia Child’s mousse is similar in consistency to what yours looks like (no cream) – have you tried hers?

  3. foodwithlegs says:

    Hi Mardi, thanks for commenting. You’re right that it definitely was tasty even if the texture wasn’t perfect. I served it to the whole family on Sunday and everyone enjoyed the mousse. I haven’t tried Julia’s recipe. Is it in The Art of French Cooking?

  4. Robert Umfer says:

    I did something wrong when trippling it. The chocolate seized but by adding some extra whipped cream I managed to make something not TOO far from a mousse. I also added framboise to it (I always do that instead of cognac). The dessert tastes delicious, but it just isn’t a mousse. So when I bring it to dinner tonight, I won’t call it a mousse, but I’ll come up with something else…. perhaps un gâchis au chocolat. No one there knows French. :)

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