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The mousse that roared

Ideas for topping chocolate mousse include spicy candied pumpkin seeds, chopped crystallized ginger, or toasted almonds.

By Laura Silverman
February 12, 2014

What would Valentine’s Day be without chocolate? Although the origins of their association are rather muddled (aphrodisiac properties and Cadbury commercialism are the most commonly floated theories), since Victorian times never have the twain been parted. To this day, nothing says love like a Whitman Sampler. The cacao bean at the root of it all has a much deeper history, of course, having been an important part of Mesoamerican culture going back more than 4,000 years. Aztec sacred ceremonies featured cacao drinks, with the fermented, roasted and ground beans whisked into water and sometimes mixed with corn or chilies. They were onto something truly delicious, and the later addition of sugar by the Europeans kicked chocolate into the stratosphere.

If you’d like to woo your beloved with something dark and seductive, you might consider making a meal that weaves chocolate throughout. Rick and Michel Mast, Brooklyn maestros of bean-to-bar chocolate, recently published a cookbook, “Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook,” that include recipes for such savory enticements as Cocoa Coq au Vin, Chocolate Cranberry Pork Tenderloin and Cocoa Balsamic Vinaigrette. These may sound crazily ultramodern but, as my recent trip to Mexico revealed, unsweetened chocolate has long been an element in the traditional Oaxacan moles that blanket everything from stuffed tortillas to roast turkey. Surely a dinner featuring any of these dishes would conquer even the hardest of hearts.

But for all its versatility, and its often decidedly earthy notes of smoke, leather and wine, chocolate in its sweet incarnations is what really drives people wild. So with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it’s only fitting that I offer you a couple of recipes for what is rightfully perceived as a classic of the dessert genre: chocolate mousse. After all, it’s French and who does love better? Generally a matter of lots of cream and eggs, my mousses require neither, though top quality bittersweet chocolate is essential. In fact, both these recipes are velvety, voluptuous and—wait for it—vegan.

Silken Chocolate Mousse
Serves 6
1/2 cup organic chocolate soy milk
10 ounces best quality semi- or bittersweet chocolate
12 ounces silken tofu
2 tablespoons Kahlua
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional
Sea salt

In a small saucepan, bring the chocolate milk to a simmer. Cool while you melt the chocolate in a double boiler. (If you don’t have one, just use a metal or glass bowl set over a pan of hot water.) Remove from heat.
Combine the soy milk, silken tofu, melted chocolate, Kahlúa, almond extract, if using, and a generous pinch of sea salt in a blender and puree until completely smooth. (An immersion blender also works here.) Taste and adjust for flavor, as needed
Chill in one large bowl or 6 ramekins for at least 2 hours or overnight. The mousse sets up perfectly as it cools.

Whipped Chocolate Mousse

Serves 4
10 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate
1 cup water
Flaky sea salt

Create an ice bath in a large bowl with lots of ice and a little cold water. Nestle a smaller bowl in the ice bath.
Place the chocolate and the water in a small pot and heat over a medium flame. Whisk until mixture is melted and smooth, 3-5 minutes.
Immediately pour melted chocolate into the bowl in the ice bath. Vigorously whisk chocolate mixture until thick, 3-5 minutes. The chocolate should be fluffy and form a mound when dolloped with the whisk (it should generally have the texture and appearance of mousse). If the mixture does not thicken, add a bit more chopped chocolate and re-melt over the heat, then whisk again. Spoon into serving bowls and garnish with a sprinkling of sea salt.
*Make this in the interlude between dinner and dessert, or prepare it ahead of time, but be prepared to rewhip it for a minute before serving.