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When I think about iconic French desserts, I immediately land on chocolate mousse. On its own, mousse may be considered "old school" when compared with the elaborate, multi-component masterpieces seen in modern fine dining restaurants. But I believe that there's a reason mousse has stood the test of time and still appears, in one form or another, on many dessert menus. The texture of mousse is to die for, and its pure flavor can trump many newer inventions.
The French word mousse means foam in English. Mousse became popular in the savory kitchen before the turn of the 20th century, and soon after, a very wise French pastry chef named Toulouse Lautrec came up with the idea of folding melted chocolate into meringue. Chocolate is by far the most popular flavor of mousse, because it's the ideal way to enjoy pure chocolate flavor in the lightest possible form, especially following a large meal. Cooks can also make fruit flavored mousses using smooth fruit purees and heavy cream in place of the chocolate.
The steps for making chocolate mousse seem fairly straightforward, but there are a lot of small details to keep in mind. For mousse perfection, the chocolate must be smooth and completely melted, the egg whites and sugar should be whipped to a medium peak consistency, and, most importantly, care must be taken when folding the meringue and the chocolate together to avoid deflating the mousse.
Click through the slideshow to learn tips and tricks that will help you make your own light, airy, delicious chocolate mousse, then head over here to try Pierre Herme's classic chocolate mousse, or go for my espresso version, which is like after-dinner dessert and coffee in one.