Making chocolate mousse

I am preparing to teach a class on French cooking. One of the desserts I will be doing is a classic chocolate mousse. It really is a wonderful dish to have in your repertoire for entertaining friends and family. There are a myriad of recipes out there but, in this Cooking Tip, I would like to explain the different styles of mousse so you can decide what would be best for you. These are general categories and you will find many variations on them. However, this will give you a solid start on understanding mousse.

A mousse always has two components. There is the base, which is the flavor, such as chocolate. Then, there is the lightener, which is something added to the base to make it airier, such as whipped cream or whipped egg whites.

The first style is called a Quick Mousse and that is just what it is. Start with melted chocolate and fold whipped cream into it. Mousse done!

A second style is Anglaise style. An additional step of making a crème anglaise is required. Crème anglaise is a custard sauce made from egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and dairy such as cream and/or milk. It is often the starting point for making ice cream. This warm anglaise sauce may be used to melt the chocolate. Alternatively, the chocolate may be melted on its own and then combined with the anglaise. After thoroughly incorporating the two, whipped cream is then folded into the mixture.

If you want to make a mousse without dairy, there is the Meringue-style mousse. In this case, you need to make a meringue with egg whites & sugar and then use that to lighten your chocolate base. The meringue can be either an Italian or Swiss meringue. I will discuss the different types of meringues in an upcoming Cooking Tip.

Pâte à bombe is similar to a meringue but is made from cooked sugar syrup and egg yolks (rather than whites), which are then whipped up into a light, creamy consistency. Add to melted chocolate and then fold in whipped cream.

A Pastry Cream mousse starts by making a pastry cream, which is a thick custard made with milk, eggs, sugar, cornstarch (or a mixture of flour and cornstarch) and flavoring. The resulting pastry cream can be used to melt the chocolate and then lightened with either whipped cream or whipped egg whites. This type of mousse works wonderfully as a filling for cakes, tarts or pastries.

A Bavarian mousse is great when you want to make decorative shapes. Because it is set with gelatin, you can unmold it and it will retain its shape.

Although you can make chocolate mousse from any of the above methods, the resulting taste and texture will be different. Which would be your favorite? You may just have to try them all before you can decide! If you do, be sure to let me know your thoughts.