I realize that labeling this dessert “dairy-free” is a bit redundant, given that traditional mousse is made without dairy. However, many recipes do include dairy (usually whipped cream, which is an easy way to weasel out of the beating of egg whites); many savory versions are made with roux thickened sauces (like veloute or beschamel) which also include dairy. However, this is the very simple classic version with just a few ingredients. It is unbelievably simple to make (if your beating arm gets tired, you can use electric beaters), and will be a definite crowd pleaser. The prep takes just minutes, though you need to give yourself at least two hours of chill time (overnight doesn’t hurt either).
Double boiler or blender
Mixing bowl w/ wire whisk (electric beaters work too)
4 individual-sized ramekins (or wine glasses if you’re fancy; I’m not)
4 eggs, separated
1/4 tsp (5 mL) cream of tartar (omit if you have a copper mixing bowl, as the copper of the mixing bowl creates the same chemical reaction as the cream of tartar).
150 grams of dark chocolate, broken up into small pieces (70% dark is best; this comes to a bar and a half. Use milk chocolate if you must, but I can’t guarantee results if you do. Cocoa powder is a no-no here. Use the good chocolate in the baking aisle and not that Hershey/Nestle crap).
1/4 cup (60 mL) sugar
5 tbsp (75 mL) liquid*
*Options: the liquid can be water, brewed coffee, or–my favorite–orange liqueur (I use Cointreau). If you go with the blender, the water needs to be hot when it goes in so it melts the chocolate. If you use the double boiler, it won’t make any difference.
You may use a blender for this if you don’t have a double boiler. If you have both, go with the double boiler. The first time I made this, I stupidly assumed the blender would be easier. It isn’t. You may get around having to heat up your stove or dirty a pot, but getting the chocolate out of the blender is a huge pain, and cleaning a blender is much more involved than cleaning a double boiler.
*Whatever you do, do NOT melt the chocolate over direct heat. Chocolate is the fastest and easiest thing in the world to burn, and it will burn even at low temperatures over direct heat. It will become grainy and your mousse will suck, ruining your dinner party and possibly Christmas. You’ve been warned.
*Separate 4 eggs. Set the whites aside in a large mixing bowl.
*Gently beat egg yolks until smooth.
*Fill the bottom of your double boiler (a fancy way of saying a smaller pot inside a slightly bigger one) with about an inch and a half of water. Your top pot should not touch the water (see above on direct heat). Turn the burner on the lowest setting. The water should simmer/steam, but not boil.
*Gently melt the chocolate, sugar, and liquid in the double boiler. Watch closely, and set aside once melted.
*Off heat, temper the egg yolks first by mixing a little of the chocolate with the yolks. Then add the yolk mixture back in with the chocolate mixture. Mix well, and set aside. (It is important to temper the egg yolks first; if you just dump them into the warm chocolate mixture, they could scramble, again ruining dessert for everyone).
[Alternate blender instructions: set the blender on low and blend the chocolate, sugar, and the hot water or coffee. Allow to cool a bit, then blend in the egg yolks and set aside. Have fun scraping all that out of your blender!].
*Beat egg whites (with whisk or electric beaters). At first, beat 1-2 minutes until they get foamy. Then add the cream of tartar and beat until stiff peaks form. I prefer beating them by hand, because the exercise makes me feel less guilty about eating the mousse. Do what you will.
*Add the lightened chocolate mixture with the remainder of egg whites, and gently fold in with a rubber spatula. It is very important to fold and not stir, as stirring will deflate the egg whites and defeat the purpose of making mousse in the first place.