By KEVIN FRISCH
I'M BACK AGAIN with another food column -- I planned to have one for last Tuesday, but unfortunately the New England weather got the best of me, and I spent last week in bed drinking tea. But it was not all a loss because while I was wandering around the Coop in search of Robutusin DM, I noticed a book, The Chocolate Lover's Handbook. Well, everybody seems to love chocolate -- so I decided to devote this week's recipe to chocolate.
First I was going to do this wonderful brownie recipe I have -- but I then realized that brownie recipes are everywhere, and that there are even some people who would rather make brownies from a box (sacrilegious as it may be). So, after some thought, I came up with something a little less common that not even Betty Crocker has managed to put in a box: mint-chocolate mousse.
Before I'd tasted mousse I believed that ice-cream was the only real dessert -- but the moment I had mousse I realized that I had discovered the true food of the gods. Unfortunately I was only eight when this happened, and was not quite into making my own food yet, so I asked my mother to make it for me. To my great happiness, the next day, when I came home from school, my mother presented me with a small tupperware container full of chocolate mousse. Fortunately, my brother was off at school at the time, so there was no competition for it (remember the kugel wars).
I wolfed down the mousse and wanted more, but as my mother had not had a very enjoyable time separating the yolks from the whites of the eggs, she was not very enthusiastic about my request. After pleading without success, I finally took it upon my eight-year-old self to make the mousse. Naturally, I failed -- what I created was neither airy nor edible, but rather, something closely resembling mud with raw eggs in it. Now, a full decade later, I have finally mastered the secret mousse-making techniques that I lacked as a child, and am thus prepared to present them to you.
What makes mousse such a wonderful dessert are the tiny air bubbles. These bubbles give the mousse a majestic texture and elegance practically unrivaled in the dessert world. I am sure that anyone who takes the time to make this fine dessert will feel the effort was well spent.
Peppermint Chocolate Mousse
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
2 tsp. peppermint extract
Start by separating the egg whites from the yolks. To do this, crack the egg open over a small bowl, and gently transfer it back and forth from eggshell to eggshell, until the white has fallen into the bowl below. Dump the yolk into a second bowl, and then transfer the whites from the small bowl, into a third, large bowl. Then crack the next egg over the small bowl. It's important to always crack each egg over an empty bowl, so if things go wrong, (like the yolk falling in) all the eggs that were already separated will not be mixed. The key thing to keep in mind is that no yolk must get into the whites, but if a little white is in with the yolks -- that's no problem.
Once you have all seven whites together in a bowl, beat them with an egg beater for about 15 minutes, until the fluff stands in stiff peaks when the beater is pulled out. When in doubt, beat more.
Beat the egg yolks with a fork, combine with the chocolate (melted in a small bowl, on low, in the microwave) and peppermint extract, and mix well. Using a spatula, fold the chocolate mixture into the whipped egg whites being careful not to break the small air bubbles. If the chocolate congeals and you find it impossible to get the mixture homogeneous, then use the egg beater to combine it. This will destroy more of the air bubbles than using the spatula would have but, admittedly, it is much easier. After the ingredients are well mixed, pour it into a container and chill for a about three hours before serving. For a more elegant appearance, pour the mixture into wine glasses. Makes about six servings.
If you wish, two teaspoons of liquor (especially Amaretto or Frangelico), or a different extract, can be substituted for the peppermint. But I have not yet found a better flavor for this mousse than mint.
Good luck and good eating.
(Please write to kevinf@athena if you would like to see more recipes of a certain type in this column, or have any comments or suggestions. -- KF)