Being a chocoholic, I often find myself craving chocolate mousse. I found some in the frozen foods section of the grocery store, that, believe it or not, was amazingly good. Only problem is, the serving size was ridiculously small (like, 1.4 ounces), there were only four servings in the box, and the box cost $6.99. Actually, even the powdered mix packets (if you can find them) are kind of on the expensive side, and again, those packets don’t make many servings. So, as daunting as the task seemed, I decided to try making my own.

I was torn between whether I wanted to make the gelatin-based mousse, or the egg yolk-based mousse. I will eventually have both methods under my belt, but for the time being, I opted for the gelatin-based. I’m actually having trouble finding pasteurized eggs, so that was the main tie-breaker between the two methods. As a side note, I know that, in this day and age, the risk of salmonella poisoning from raw eggs is infinitesimally small (thanks to refrigeration, a miracle of the modern age that allows us to enjoy our food longer and significantly reduces the risk of food illnesses), but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

I scoured the Internet for recipes, and finally decided to use Alton Brown’s (“Good Eats”) recipe. Now, I’m not here to tell you that I thought this or that was wrong in his recipe – he’s the expert pulling in the big bucks – but I will point out where I had difficulty, so that you can be forewarned and plan accordingly.

Here’s the link for the recipe I used; take a gander at it, then come back here for the skinny: Alton Brown’s Chocolate Mousse.

The first red-flag in this recipe is in the ingredients: QUALITY semi-sweet chocolate chips. I used Nestle’s, because that’s all I had. I don’t like Ghirardelli, and I don’t often buy Hershey’s because I grew up on Nestle’s; it’s like I’m programmed to go right for the yellow bag every time. I’m sure Alton Brown (whom I really enjoy watching, by the way – he’s so informative and entertaining) has access to all kinds of quality chocolate for his recipes, but Li’l Old Me is on a budget.

The second red-flag, also in the ingredients: DARK RUM. I didn’t have any dark rum, so again, I used what I had on-hand – coffee liqueur. I could have probably even used my homemade vanilla. And when it comes right down to it, I could have probably just used water.

The third red-flag is in the instructions: A DOUBLE BOILER. I don’t have a double boiler. I actually tried to find one in Target, but they didn’t have any. What I settled for was a set of four, nesting, glass mixing bowls for $14.99 (much cheaper, I’m sure, than a double boiler). I started heating some water in a large sauce pan. While I was waiting for the water to come to a steaming simmer (not a boil), I added the coffee (I used my Toddy coffee concentrate), liqueur and butter to one of the larger glass bowls and put it in the microwave for 45 seconds, just long enough to start the melting process. Then I stirred-in the chocolate chips, and put that bowl on top of the large sauce pan. Voila! The instant Poor Gal’s double boiler.

Now here’s where I REALLY had problems with this recipe – MELTING THE GELATIN. Alton says to put ¼ cup of cream in a metal measuring cup and add the gelatin; you’re supposed to let the gelatin, “bloom” in the cream for ten minutes, then hold it over a low flame (or candle) while swirling the cup. First of all, I don’t have a metal measuring cup, so I settled for a one-cup glass dish with handles (it’s like a super, super mini-casserole dish). I wasn’t about to hold a glass dish over fire, so I rested it over a small saucepan with simmering water and gently stirred. Guess what? It was more clumpy than homemade gravy, so, I stirred it more to try breaking up the clumps. Guess what? I ended up with a congealed blob. I was afraid to keep stirring, so I went ahead and added that to my chocolate mixture. And that’s where I went wrong the first time; the first batch tasted good, but the texture was off BIG TIME because the gelatin never really melted. I had originally intended to make two batches, anyway (one dark, one milk, so I could layer them in the dishes), so I was determined to not make the same mistake on my second batch.

Thinking about making flavored gelatin (you know, Jello), I remembered that HOT water makes the gelatin dissolve, and COLD water makes the gelatin congeal (duh!). All he says in his recipe is to make sure that the gelatin doesn’t BOIL. So, the second time, I did the same thing I did the first time, only when it congealed into a blob, I continued to stir it over the simmering water. Eventually, it melted back to a liquid…Eureka! I kept feeling it to make sure it wasn’t getting hot, and it stayed a nice, luke-warm the entire time. In retrospect, I think that the cream should be closer to room temperature before adding the gelatin, and the next time I make this, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

So, there you have it. The second batch, milk chocolate, was delicious; the texture was just the teeniest amount off, which could have been the “quality” of the chocolate chips, now that I think about it. I spooned the first batch, dark chocolate, into 5-ounce glass bowls, filling halfway, then spooned the second batch on top of the first. I grated some white chocolate and sprinkled it on top for garnish. I’m definitely making this again, but next time, I’m doing three layers (dark, milk and white).

It’s nowhere near as difficult to make mousse as I thought it would be. It’s almost like an assembly line process, so after doing it once and getting a system in place, it gets easier every time. I also like the fact that you KNOW what’s in it; no twenty-five letter ingredients that are essentially just unnecessary chemicals. In fact, the ingredients are really, very basic when you think about it…. It’s incredibly cool that you can make something so yummy and indulgent (and okay, FANCY-SHMANCY) with a handful of basic ingredients, isn’t it? If you try this recipe, remember what I wrote here, particularly the part about the gelatin, and…Enjoy!

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