Was junior high fun for you? For me, not so much. Sure I had good friends like Suzanne who I’d walk with back and forth to school. Or Lauren who loved the Beatles as much as I did. Yet there were the days that I was mercilessly teased about my not-so-cool Levi’s corduroys. Or maybe one of the older boys called me Big Nose Barnett once again. (So original those older boys.)
While it wasn’t quite Lord of the Flies, to have good day meant being stealthy enough to fly underneath the seventh grade radar, usually by hiding in the school library during recess.
I looked forward to the three o’clock bell and returning home to the quiet support of my family. After being greeted by Mom at the front door, I’d put away my jacket, and stow my books in my room. Then it was off to the kitchen for an afternoon snack.
Usually, I started my search for the perfect treat by staring into the pantry and opening drawer and cupboards. Did my sister eat the rest of the Chips Ahoys in the cookie drawer? Was there any Ovaltine left?
I opened the refrigerator door figuring I could have a Dannon coffee yogurt. Then I gazed upon a large glass serving bowl covered in Saran Wrap. Immediately, the small hurts and anxieties of the day vanished. While I was at school, Mom cracked open her worn copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and graced our family with something special - Julia Child's chocolate mousse.
That cheap, faux crystal bowl contained a luxurious concoction of scrumptious contradiction – heavy but fluffy, bitter but sweet, rich but light as air. It was dark chocolate, sugar, butter, eggs and cream – plus maybe a little rum – whipped up into a frothy, edible pillow of afterschool comfort.
Who cared if my nose was a smidge too big or I needed to pay closer attention to my wardrobe? Every delicious spoonful eliminated the bitterness of the day and showed me that the world could be a sweeter place, at least for a little while.
This Mama’s tips
- You can use sweet or semi-sweet high quality chocolate chips instead of the baking chocolate. They’re much easier to measure and melt.
- If you are concerned about raw eggs, use pasteurized egg whites. Look on the container to make sure they are suitable for whipping.
- You may wish to serve the mousse with dollops of whipped cream. But why challenge perfection?
- On a healthy note, I recently cooked up the recipe using I Can't Believe It's Not Butter instead of real butter, stevia instead of sugar, and Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate since it's higher in cocoa and lower in sugar. It turned out GREAT! But don't tell Julia as she's probably rolling in her grave about the lack of real butter and sugar.
Julia Child's Chocolate Mousse
- 8 ounces sweet or semi-sweet, high quality baking chocolate
- 1/4 cup strong coffee
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons rum or an orange, coffee or vanilla-flavored liquor
- 3 egg whites
- 1/4 cup instant (finely ground) sugar
- whipped cream (optional)
- In a double boiler, slowly melt the chocolate with the strong coffee over barely simmering water.
- Gently beat the butter into the melted chocolate. Then one by one, beat in the egg yolks.
- Remove from the saucepan from the heat.
- In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters, beat the cream (and optional liquor) until it leaves light traces on the surface.
- In another bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
- While beating the egg whites, sprinkle in the sugar by the spoonful. Continue beating until stiff shining peaks are formed.
- Scrape the chocolate mixture down the side of the egg-white bowl, and delicately fold in the whipped cream. Do not over fold the mouse or it will lose volume.
- Transfer the mousse into attractive serving bowls or one large serving bowl.
- Cover and chill several hours until firm.
- Serving size: 1/8 of recipe
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