1 1/4 cups dark chocolate chipssweet
5 tablespoons robust coffee or espressoboiling hot
Running through the gamut of ideas recently, I recalled a website recently visited for Rosendale’s Restaurant, headed by Richard Rosendale, one of the brightest chefs in the US.
One of his regularly held classes was on molecular gastronomy, a somewhat new discipline in the Culinary Arts, perhaps dating back to the 1980s.
The ideas behind MG, as far as I can tell, are twofold. First, a good cook needs to understand, as Harold McGee, the grandfather of the science would say, “the scientific study of deliciousness”. Secondly, a goal of MG is to garner the powers of science in relation to foods and make them appear, feel and even taste different than if cooked in traditional manners.
I am no expert in molecular gastronomy, and in fact this is an area I have an interest in studying, but truth be told, everything I read indicates that the second mentioned purpose of MG is a dying art as we speak. Seen as more of a trend than anything, many consumers (located centrally in metropolitan areas since this is a fairly ‘assertive’ or progressive style of dining) are weaning themselves off of the agar-agar diet and heading back to the fares of yore.
The first set of reasoning, however, of knowing the science behind food, complements a cook’s ability to better understand that most mysterious of rooms, the kitchen.
And when it comes to chocolate, there are few things more mysterious than the fabled extraction of the cacao tree’s pod. From puddings to mousses to truffles, it has become an elixir of life for many, including myself, and new health benefits attributed to this glorious food even further excite chocolate lovers the world over as we figure out new ways to develop this gentle giant.
And this is why, when deciding to make a chocolate mousse, I scratched my head and put two pieces of a puzzle together. I seemed to recall that years ago, I had seen a chocolate mousse made by pouring hot liquid on chocolate in a food processor, and the chocolate would melt but not seize. Yet, when you add cold water to melted chocolate, it seizes and makes what we call ‘clay’. The latter is then great for sculpting flowers, and that is about it. It is grainy and unpleasant to eat, so if you do make this mistake, just plan on making some nice displays.
It was during this time of reflection that I remembered reading on the Rosendale’s website of the upcoming class on MG. The example utilized was none other than adding water to chocolate, at the right temperature, and in the correct amount, as to make a mousse and not clay. In this temporary, and I mean very temporary, moment of lucidity, the light bulb went off, and I said to myself “Self, that’s not molecular gastronomy; that’s just chocolate mousse.”
Technically, it is a great example of molecular gastronomy. The concept of chocolate seizing holds that the dry particles in chocolate become saturated with moisture and begin sticking together, causing that grainy feeling. And I know very well what happens to a bowl of melted chocolate when water is added. So, when hot liquid is added to pulverized chips in a food processor, why doesn’t it seize?
Oh, if only I could tell you. This is the gift of knowledge I hope will come some day, and when I have a solid answer, I will share, but for now, I will give you the simplest mousse recipe I have ever made. You will not only snicker at how simple it is, but also at how this method laughs in the face of science.
And just for fun, make this recipe two different ways. Melt the chocolate and add cold water, and then make it in the manner written below. Find out for yourself what happens. That’s the beauty of experimentation.
As far as taking classes in this discipline, I still will, and I look forward to it. And when I need a jolt for those late night study sessions, a bowl of this non-seizing, science-defying mocha mousse will come in very handy, indeed.
- Whisk the egg whites until at stiff peaks and set aside
- Put the chocolate coins in a food processor and pulverize
- Slowly add the hot coffee and process until melted and blended
- Add the egg yolks one at a time and blend thoroughly
- Run this mixture through a strainer to sift out any shells and egg chalazae (What my wife calls the ‘umbilical cords’)
- Add one third of the egg whites to the chocolate mixture and fold gently
- Add another third and do the same
- Add the final third, ensuring that all of the egg whites are mixed in well and the finished product is uniform
- Chill until set and serve with berries, whipped cream, creme Anglaise, chocolate sauce or sides of your choice