Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Jacques Pépin’s Chocolate Mousse

I got an email last week inviting me to enter a contest in celebration of famous French chef Jacques Pépin’s new book, Essential Pépin. We were given three recipes to choose from and, of course, I gravitated towards the only dessert on the list - classic chocolate mousse.

I used to watch Jacques Pépin on PBS all the time when I was younger. My favorite of his shows had to be Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home with Julia Child. Those two cracked me up when they were cooking together. It was kind of an odd dynamic that just worked. At the time, I never imagined I'd ever make any of his recipes. As a teenager they just seemed so complicated and way beyond my skills. Turns out I've come a long way since then because this recipe didn't seem too bad at all and I knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity to enter. 

Chocolate Mousse
From Jacques Pépin’s Essential Pépin
Serves 6
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons cognac (or another liqueur like Grand Marnier)
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 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.

Hot tap water in a skillet to cook the yolks

Before whisking
After three minutes

My best attempt at folding the egg, chocolate, and whipped cream together without deflating

Here are the small changes I made to the recipe:
  • I only made half of the recipe based on what I had on hand and who was going to be around to share with me.
  • I used Kahlua instead of cognac. It's what I had in the house and coffee is a classic pairing with chocolate. 
  • The dark chocolate bar I bought was only the equivalent of about 3.5 ounces. I made up the balance of the 5 ounces I needed with good quality semi sweet chocolate chips. 
The one thing I'd always been worried about when watching TV chefs making chocolate mousse was ending up with scrambled eggs when cooking the egg yolks. I really appreciated the tip about filling the skillet with hot water instead of using a double boiler. The one mistake I think I made was not mixing the chocolate vigorously enough with the whipped egg mixture. The texture looked and felt right but I did end up with some solid bits of chocolate in the mousse that I don't think were supposed to be there. Delicious nonetheless.

I feel like I cheated a little bit by only making half of the recipe. I didn't have anyone to share this delicacy with and didn't figure I needed to have six (rather generous) servings of chocolate mousse around the house this week. I don't think I had any problems relating from cutting it in half. If you're feeding a smaller group, probably up to four, you can definitely get away with half. This stuff is delicious but super rich, even to me who usually can't get enough of sweets in any form. All in all, this recipe was a lot easier to pull together than I anticipated considering it's a French classic from a classic French chef.

Have you ever taken on a recipe that you thought might be intimidating?


  1. And so did you enter the contest? What will you win?es

  2. When do you know if you win? Do you get to see the other competitors?


  3. I did enter the contest. It's not being judged based on how well you made the recipe. I believe they're determining the winner by drawing from all the entries. The grand prize is a fancy KitchenAid mixer but, for being one of the first 30 entires, I get a copy of the cookbook. I think the contest closes in mid-December so I'll know some time after that.

    They're posting links to all of the entries on their facebook page http://www.facebook.com/ThomasAllenandSon?sk=wall


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