Mousse Mess

I made my dinner guests some chocolate mousse the other night, and I think field dressing an actual moose would have been easier than this recipe.  Only a French version of a Stepford Wife  would have the stamina.  I will tell you, when I folded the egg whites (which I had whisked at 145 degrees for 15 seconds before whipping to firm peaks) into the yolks, (after giving them the same vigorous treatment) the whites collapsed, wheezing out every ounce of their hard-won aeration.  The whole wacky mousse mess deflated, leaving a mere shadow of what should have been a prodigious, feather-light mass.  I remembered why I hadn’t made a true, multi-step mousse since I made it for my high school boyfriend.  I dirtied 13 kitchen vessels that day, but I served it in black pumps and a bubble skirt.  It was 1988.

I remember the very first time I tasted chocolate mousse.  It was on a rare night out to dinner with my family when I was about ten.  I knew it was a sophisticated dessert, for people who lived at the Ritz and wore fox collars.  I wanted some mousse, and everything it stood for (I had only had one Shirley Temple at that point so I still had a clear head). I ordered it; it was fancytastic and I was not disappointed. Sadly, my older brother started calling me Moose after that and it took awhile to shake the nickname.  But never mind him, he’s a Philistine.

Maggiano’s Cake

Flash forward to last week.  No pumps and bubble skirt, just flip flops and jeans this time, (with no high bangs) and though the process was laborious and not entirely successful, my company liked it, and the next day my daughters shoveled up the remainder.  By then I was hot on the trail of a simpler recipe.

Ever since I had Maggiano’s Chocolate Zuccotto Cake with that surprise, smooth whisper of licorice in it, (and by the way, this dessert actually makes an appearance on many websites called things like “Foods That Will Kill You Dead,” and “You Have A Right To Know,” but I have only had the cake ONCE, Eaters, one time) I have been eager to make a chocolate dessert with Sambucca.

I took a trip to Total Wine, where I wandered, glassy-eyed and mumbling, for an hour. Until the privatization of liquor stores, Washingtonians were accustomed to modest establishments with limited choices; we just didn’t know the world harbored so much booze.  As often occurs, I was overwhelmed by variety and stuck to a wee bottle of Sambucca, (evening bag size, I guess) just enough for one recipe.  I also bought rum for fruitcakes, and though there was a city block long isle of tempting bottles, I don’t pay more for rum than your average pirate is willing to cough up.  Whatever pirates use to soak their dried fruit for Christmas fruitcakes that they send to their pirate friends is good enough for me.

I found this chocolate mousse recipe and I am going to try it with Sambucca rather than Frangelico.  If you have not had chocolate with that hint of licorice then you are going to be delighted.  I thought I liked chocolate desserts before, but now I am seeing the world as Dorothy did, post-tornado.

In a pinch and need some right now?  I’ve been there!  Here’s another option from one of my early culinary mentors, the Swedish chef.  Once you subdue the moose, the rest is a snap.



3 thoughts on “Mousse Mess

  1. Sorry about your egg whites collapsing. That moment when they collapse, so defeating.:( Ok, so I’m only half-French and not a Stepford Wife (I guess it depends who you ask) but I want to offer a quick word on mousse: Are you familiar with Camille Glenn? Her book, “The Fine Art of Delectable Desserts” is out of print BUT I HAVE IT. All of her recipes remind me of France: classic, simple, perfect. I don’t understand why Julia made it and she didn’t. I guess Julia just had a certain “Je ne sais quoi?”

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