Valentine's Day. Love it or hate it, one should always take advantage of the opportunity for eating that it provides. This eating however, particularly when cooking at home, should be simple. Gloriously simple, because there is nothing better than only doing a few things but doing them very well. Case in point: chocolate mousse.
During my culinary school days, we would make mousse after mousse after mousse, tempering the chocolate, and whipping all manner of things until we knew how to "fold through" with our eyes closed. Despite the repetition, I always considered this old-school dessert the most perfect balm for the soul. It's soft in texture yet rich in taste; being both intense and light at the same time. And if there is anything the past year has taught us, it is that this kind of indulgence is not a crime. With this recipe, everything can be whizzed in a blender and called done in no time at all. Add a few "I made extra effort" adornments and you'll have Valentine's Day sorted.
This makes about five serves – I'm not about to divide an egg for the sake of serving sizes – and this is the kind of leftovers one should have lurking in the fridge, ready for when the need for something sweet comes calling.
I haven't added any additional sweetness to the mousse because I am presuming you will add a little razzle to decorate it, but if you prefer to serve the mousse plain, you could add about a tablespoon of maple syrup after you add the hot water.
Basic blender mousse
- 1 egg, room temperature
- 225g semisweet dark chocolate (about 70 per cent cocoa and excellent quality – this is not the time for cheap chocolate chips), broken into pieces
- 2 heaped tsp vanilla bean paste
- ¼ cup boiling water
- 275ml thickened cream, divided
- pinch sea salt
- Add the egg, chocolate and vanilla to a blender. Boil the kettle and pour ¼ cup of boiling water over the chocolate mixture and immediately begin to blend. The chocolate should begin to melt.
- Meanwhile, add half the cream to a saucepan and heat gently.
- Once the cream is warm (not boiling, just warm), pour the cream slowly into the top of the blender, add the salt and blend for 1 minute. The mixture should be creamy and smooth, with no pieces of chocolate remaining.
- Add the remaining cream to a bowl and whisk to soft peaks, then gently fold the chocolate mixture through until incorporated. Pour into serving vessel or vessels, cover and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour. (If you can't be bothered whipping the cream, just pour the cold cream into the blender mixture and give it a pulse for about 30 seconds or until incorporated. You will still get an excellent mousse; it just won't be as light as if you whisked the remaining cream first.)
- Add your desired toppings (see below) just before serving.
Serves about 5 (or 2 with plenty of leftovers)
Arrange a mixture of chocolate-covered freeze-dried or dried fruits on the surface of the mousse, and add a combination of dried flowers, fresh edible flowers and crisp chocolate pearls. A quick trip to a specialist grocer should sort you for most of these lavish adornments.
Turkish delight and halva crumble
Add 1½ teaspoons of ground cardamom to the mousse mixture, stirring through to evenly distribute. Top the set mousse with a sliver of Turkish delight, some crumbled halva and a sprinkle of freeze-dried raspberries or strawberries.
Dark 'n' stormy
For those who like taking rich and decadent to the extreme, add a scoop of dulce de leche caramel, a few chunks of honeycomb, shards of waffle cone and white chocolate shavings.
Mix some cornflakes and melted white chocolate and allow to set, then break the crisp crumble into chunks and use it to top your mousse, adding some fresh and freeze-dried berries, and chocolate wafers.