As a child, I was quite precocious when it came time for my chocolate. My family used to go to an Italian restaurant in Easton, MA where I lived until I was 11 – forget the pasta, I was all about the chocolate desserts! On our first family trip across the pond, I sampled the chocolate wares in each and every country we visited (Italy, France, the Netherlands, England, Switzerland…but, none could hold a candle to the chocolate in Belgium!) Not surprisingly, when we returned back home, the chef at my beloved restaurant assured me that they only used the finest Belgian chocolate in all their desserts: needless to say, a connoisseur was born.
First known as a drink in Mexico (the Aztecs prepared a spiced version called xocoatl), chocolate was introduced into the European continent by the Spanish explorers, but it was the Jesuits who first saw its profitability, transforming this drink with the additions of ambergris and musk – soon, it became the drink de rigeur of the Spanish elite. In 1615, Ann of Austria introduced it to the French court and it quickly gained popularity as a restorative and nourishing substitute permissible even during Lent. By 1705, an edict declared that Parisian cafes could sell it by the cup like coffee – and just as what happens when all luxury items become commonplace, the ladies of high society began to turn on the frothy beverage. Even Balzac claimed ‘the abuse of chocolate had something to do with the debasement of Spanish society’, and one of the early adopters, the Marquise de Sévigné wrote ‘it is cursed, accused of all the ills that one has, it is the cause of vapors and palpitations’. But, at least Brillat-Savarin, the author of one of the best known phrases regarding food – dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es (you are what you eat) – knew it was nothing short of a miracle. Luckily for us this treat has won out; the first guild of chocolate makers was established in 1761 and the creation of chocolate goodies has continued to tempt us ever since. So, let them eat cake, I’ll have this chocolate mousse flavoured with Grand Marnier and espresso instead.
170 g dark Belgian chocolate
150 ml whipping cream
4 tbl espresso
2 tbl Grand Marnier
2 tsp sugar
- Melt the chocolate with a bit of butter in a double boiler (place a small amount of water in a pot, bring to a boil and place a heat resistant bowl on top of it – the chocolate/butter will melt from the steam). When melted, remove from heat and set aside.
- Divide the eggs. Whip the egg yolks with the sugar until you reach the ribbon stage – it will become light and creamy. Add the melted chocolate, Grand Marnier and espresso.
- Whip the cream in a metal bowl until it becomes stiff (it helps if you put the bowl in the fridge for a few minutes first!). Fold the cream into the chocolate mixture with a spatula.
- Whip the egg whites until they become stiff and form peaks. Fold it into the chocolate mixture until you have a light, frothy uniform consistency. Place into cups, cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours to set.
- Garnish with ground pistachio and raspberries.