The other morning – early morning – when the sky was dark and the floor was cold, I found myself in that curious transition between sleep and wakefulness; the one where your mind is on the threshold of consciousness but you’re still under the influence of make-believe. They call it a hypnopompic state and it can break your heart. It was in this moment that I found myself walking to our bedroom window, opening up the blinds and discovering huge snowflakes falling from the sky – they were dropping in pairs of two, gathering across our backyard in a million points of light. My heart was hammering against my chest and as quickly as I could pivot to bellow the excitement to my son, it all disappeared. Just like that; in the deceitful way of a dream.
I do miss the magic of the snow (especially this time of year) and the high-pitched squeals of my younger boys when they would discover the white wonder that had fallen overnight. School closure ‘snow days’ filled with playdates, toboggan runs, unsuspecting snowballs to the body (boy thing?) and hot chocolate. Dredging through heavy snow banks, picking up movies (remember those days?), skating on the Rideau Canal (speaking of magical) and warming wet boots and toes by the fire. The stuff of winter; the stuff of childhood in Canada.
Of course the Canadian package also comes with 7-ish months of cold that I don’t miss so much and the scenery here this time of year while not white, is inspiring in its own right.
Elements of our surroundings often find their way into my food photography including these delicate white flowers with yellow interior that are from our backyard – they cascade along a wall behind our Japanese maple perked up by the autumn rains.
And these well-loved festive berries (the kind that will cost you a small fortune in shops) grow wild and abundant along our walking path – limited only by how much I can carry with dog, leash and poop bag in tow.
Muted blue California elderberry with their intricate umbels and stunning foliage bring my four-legged companion and I to a full stop. Nature is remarkable and there are reasons to fall in love with it no matter where you live.
And speaking of universal appeal, let’s take a moment to appreciate this chocolate mouuuusse.
I was flipping through my big binder of recipes that I started a couple decades ago and was reminded of this out of the ordinary dessert. The title reeled me in and I made it for American Thanksgiving (our son coming home from College was a perfectly good excuse for this Canadian family to celebrate).
What I find most interesting about this recipe is that it manages to deliver all the properties of a classic chocolate mousse – light, silky and luxurious while layering on some extraordinary flavor from the espresso and orange-flavored French liqueur.
It is rich and decadent (just as chocolate lovers like it) so a little goes a long way – a third to half cup serving was ample for us. We enjoyed it with some fresh whipped cream and a shake of cinnamon. There were swoons from one end of the table to the other. The recipe creates a boatload of mousse too which you can freeze! A great benefit as we could not possibly consume it all at once but didn’t want to toss it either.
For a festive twist you could serve this mousse in wine glasses or champagne flutes (just make sure you have a spoon that fits to the bottom) but any glassware, ramekin or decorative vessel of choice will work here.
Berries and fresh mint leaves are other service options but this mousse has such an explosive taste profile and beautiful texture that you may wish to simply let it shine on its own.
Melting chocolate and mousse making is not difficult but it does have its finicky aspects – be sure to read the Notes in the recipe card below for best results –
Cheers Chocolate Lovers and may you delight in the beauty that surrounds you wherever you may be!
- 1 + ½ pounds (680 grams / 24 oz) bittersweet chocolate chips
- ½ cup prepared espresso coffee
- ½ cup Grand Marnier (orange-flavored French liqueur)
- 4 egg yolks
- 2 cups heavy cream, chilled
- 8 egg whites
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Be sure to read through instructions before beginning.
- You will need 3 mixing bowls and a sturdy pot for this recipe.
- Melt chocolate chips in a sturdy pot on stove top over lowest heat, stirring until fully melted; remove from heat.
- Meanwhile, prepare espresso coffee.
- Add espresso coffee and then the Grand Marnier to the chocolate whisking to combine (the texture may change but shouldn't seize). Allow the chocolate mixture to cool to room temperature.
- Add the egg yolks to the chocolate mixture, one at a time, beating briefly after each addition.
- Transfer chocolate mixture into a large mixing bowl (you will be folding cream/egg whites into mixture and will need room to do this properly).
- In a second mixing bowl beat 1 cup of the cream until thickened.
- In a third mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until fluffy with soft peaks.
- Gently fold the egg whites into the cream using a spatula.
- Stir about one third of the cream/egg mixture into the chocolate mixture mixing thoroughly. Then add the remaining cream/egg mixture over the lightened chocolate base and fold together gently using a spatula (using soft broad strokes to maximize air bubbles and volume) until most of the streaks are gone and a uniform color is achieved.
- Fill serving dishes of choice with chocolate mousse (ramekins, parfait glasses, tea cups, wine glasses, champagne flutes - keeping in mind that this dessert is very rich and half cup servings are probably ample) - cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set and ready to serve.
- Tip: if you want to have etching/swirl designs rather than a flat surface, hold off on filling individual cups and place the mixing bowl in the fridge long enough for the mousse to begin thickening without yet setting - remove from fridge, fill individual cups and use the back of a spoon or a flat knife to create indentations - return to fridge to set. If you plan on topping the mousse with cream or fresh berries, a sprinkle of toasted nuts or chocolate shavings etc. a flat surface may be better.
- Depending on the size and depth of the dish used this mousse will take approx 30 mins - 3 hours to set - you can also make it up to 1 day ahead of time keeping it stored in the fridge.
- At serving time whip the remaining cup of cream - add vanilla and whip to soft peaks. Top each portion of the mousse with a dollop of cream and garnish as desired (cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, mint leaves, etc).
Raw Eggs: this recipe contains raw eggs which may pause a higher health risk for some individuals (including pregnant women) - consume according to your own comfort levels.
The Order: the recipe is organized in a certain order to prevent the chocolate from seizing and to maximize the aeration capacity and volume of the mousse - changing the order may affect your results.
Heating Chocolate: melting chocolate is a little finicky - coming into contact with small amounts of water or too much heat can cause chocolate to seize - be sure to use a dry pot for melting and melt only on the lowest heat possible.
The Sweetness: the original recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate chips and an additional ¼ cup of sugar which I knew would be too sweet for our taste (particularly in combination with the alcohol). I omitted the additional sugar altogether and found a bittersweet chocolate chip that contained 70% cacao (30% sugar). Bittersweet chocolate will vary in sweetness so if you prefer darker chocolate and less sugar look for a higher % cacao relative to sugar. Bittersweet chips/chunks typically range from 50% - 70% cacao.
The Coffee: it is definitely worth splurging on a good quality robusto espresso coffee for this recipe - I used Starbucks' Espresso Roast.
The Alcohol: the original recipe does not speak to the omission or substitution of alcohol which is unfortunate. While I did not try this particular recipe without the alcohol, my suspicion is that you can simply omit it altogether - the cooling of the chocolate base is what allows mousse to set so the absence of alcohol should not affect this.