If you’ve ever been in a food emergency, by which I mean needed to make delicious food last minute, I have the recipe for you!
When I was in AP French a long, long time ago, we were assigned the daunting task of baking or cooking French food for our final project. The talk of the town, or rather of a bunch of 18-year-old kids, was of which food to prepare. Some students decided to make macarons, a feat that I knew I would never be able to pull off; they are notoriously tricky. Others thought of cakes or brownies decorated in red, white and blue stripes, mimicking the French flag, or covered in the black-and-white stripes of a mime with a baguette attached. Still others decided to buy something from the local Trader Joe’s and present it as their own, but I wanted to try my hand at baking like a veritable French chef.
After much agonizing, I settled on a chocolate mousse, partially because I love chocolate. The larger, and albeit weirder, reason is a memory of mine from childhood. My family took a brief trip to Alaska when I was about six years old and, besides almost falling into a glacier, the only memory I have is of a chocolate mousse in the shape of a moose.
I don’t know why that image stuck with me through all throughout elementary, middle and high school, but it was burnt into my six-yearold mind for life. However, before serving as a strange anecdote, this vivid memory came to my aid in this baking crisis. Not being a cook, I scoured all the recipes in my mother’s cookbooks and chose a simple one with a great photo that called for a surprisingly large number of bowls.
Set a pan half-filled with water over a low fire on the stove and bring to the water to a boil. Melt the chocolate in a bowl that is placed in the pan over the simmering water. After it has melted, set the bowl aside to cool down. Separate the egg yolks from the whites (this was surprisingly fun) and whisk the yolks together with the bourbon, sugar and water in another bowl over the simmering water for about three minutes until the mixture is thick. Remove this bowl from the water, and place the one with the yolks in a bowl of ice water. Beat the yolks until the mixture is cool and thick, and then remove it; gently pour in the chocolate and mix until smooth.
In a separate bowl, mix the egg whites with salt until it becomes frothy. Whip in the sugar until the mixture is shiny, but not thick, and then add the vanilla. Slowly add the egg whites to the chocolate; pause after adding a third of the whites and mix, then add the rest of the bowl’s contents and mix again. Pour the mixture into six to eight bowls, and refrigerate them for at least four hours until the mousse is firm.
Finally, present to your French class and hope to bask in the glow of the teacher’s praise. When I arrived to class I displayed my creation along with everyone else’s on the table. Everyone’s culinary experiment had turned out beautifully, and we enjoyed eating our way through the scrumptious, though admittedly high-calorie, feast. Our teacher put on some French music and tried some of every students’ final project as well, commenting on each of them and determining our grades. I was a little apprehensive; I hadn’t tried any of my chocolate mousse before I turned it in, which, as any MasterChef viewer would know, is a rookie mistake. “I haven’t tasted it yet,” I warned. I watched as she took a bite and smiled. “This is delicious!” she announced. I tried some myself and had to concur.
The moral of the story is that you can always rely on a good chocolate mousse to save your French grade or to help you out in almost any situation. Parents on you about getting a job? Make some mousse. Trying to get on a professor’s good side? Make some mousse. Want to break the ice with someone down the hall? Make some mousse.
Finally, I have to wonder whether the true winner of this story was our teacher, who got to eat a bunch of free dessert under the guise of a French final. We may never know, but either way I think we can agree that she is living life right.
6 ounces (170g) bittersweet chocolate
6 ounces (170g) unsalted butter
4 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup (170g) plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons (30ml) bourbon
1 tablespoon (15ml) water
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract