It’s not often that you run across a homemade dessert that can be made easily and on a whim (save maybe mug cakes, which, however delicious, can be lacking in elegance). Most recipes will have you waiting for the oven to preheat and tracking down that cake pan you haven’t used in ages. Chocolate mousse, on the other hand, asks that you bring little more than a few bowls and a readiness to whisk—no tiresome baking, sifting, kneading, or frosting.
This is one of those rare desserts that can be made easily on a weeknight: it calls for a mere three ingredients and takes hardly any time to prep; basically, you’re just making ganache and mixing it (gently) with whipped egg whites. Because it’s so barebones, you’ll want to make sure that you’re using high-quality ingredients, especially when it comes to the chocolate. When you dig into the finished product with a spoon you’ll understand why: this smooth, silky, delicious mousse is first and foremost a vehicle for all of cocoa’s complexities, set afloat by a quiff of air.
1. Fill the saucepan with 1-2 inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
2. Meanwhile, chop the chocolate into small, uniform pieces and place in the heat-proof bowl along with 1/4 cup of the cream. Refrigerate the remaining cream until needed.
3. Place the bowl over the saucepan, making sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water.
4. Stir occasionally with a rubber or silicone spatula until the chocolate is melted and the cream is evenly mixed in. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and set aside. Clean and thoroughly dry the spatula for use again in step 7.
5. Place the egg whites in one of the clean bowls. Note: If the bowls, whisk, or whites have any trace of fat or oils, from specks of yolk to stray bits of butter, the whites will not properly whip! Whisk vigorously until stiff peaks form. This means that the egg whites will thicken, turn from clear to opaque, and stand up on their own in pointed peaks. This will take about three minutes if whisking by hand, one or two if using an electric beater or mixer.
6. Clean and thoroughly dry your whisk (or beaters if using an electric mixer). Pour the rest of the whipping cream into the third clean bowl and whisk until it forms stiff peaks. You should now have three full bowls: one with melted chocolate and cream, one with stiff egg whites, and one with whipped cream.
7. Fold half of the whipped cream into the melted chocolate mixture, then gently stir or fold in the rest. You’re trying to incorporate, but not deflate, the whipped cream.
8. Gently fold all of the egg whites into the chocolate-and-whipped cream mixture, again incorporating without deflating. You can stop folding when there are no longer pockets of either whipped cream or egg white, but be careful not to overmix.
9. Spoon the mousse into your serving cups and refrigerate for about two hours to thoroughly chill. (This wait is probably the hardest part of the process!)
10. Serve with additional sweetened or flavored whipped cream if desired.
There are plenty of ways to riff on the original chocolate mousse. Here are seven sweet recipes that take it to the next level. Just don’t forget to serve your dessert in something equally charming—think small bowls, flutes, coupe glasses, ramekins, juice glasses, or even teacups.
This ethereal mousse is so rich, dreamy, and light that it makes chocolate pudding look downright staid and dowdy. You’ll want to make all five servings, even if you’re only feeding one or two. (If you’re feeding kids, or anyone who likes color and texture contrasts, layer it with chocolate cookie crumbs and whipped cream for a classic—yet surprisingly elegant—Dirt Cake!) Get our Basic Chocolate Mousse recipe.
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Add booze for a little kick. If you don’t have Bailey’s, use Kahlua, Amaretto, or whatever else you like; try a cocoa-flavored liqueur to double down on the chocolate and add a slightly boozy decadence. Get the Bailey’s Chocolate Mousse recipe.
This white chocolate mousse switches it up even further by calling for egg yolks only, plus cream, sugar, and cornstarch to help it set. The beautiful blackberry compote is the perfect tart, fruity counterpoint to the sweet, rich white chocolate. Get our White Chocolate Mousse recipe.
Fluffy, minty, and speckled with chocolate shards, this cheesecake-inspired mousse includes cream cheese, heavy cream, and gelatin, not to mention a base layer of crushed Oreos for good measure. Get the Mint Chip Cheesecake Mousse recipe.
Up for a triple dose of chocolate? This recipe calls for plopping our basic chocolate mousse into a chocolate cookie crust before burying it in a pillow of whipped cream and topping that with a flurry of chocolate shavings. Get our Chocolate Mousse Pie recipe.
Because mousse is a fairly basic and elemental dessert, it lends itself well to experimentation—you can feel free to really go out there with additional flavors or add-ins. Here, the surreal-sounding combination of olive oil and sea salt adds a savory finish to the chocolate. Get the Chocolate Mousse with Olive Oil and Flaky Salt recipe.
This recipe is full of flavor and creamy cocoa goodness, but it’s magically gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, and soy-free! The secret to its lushness? Avocados. Get this Raw Vegan Chocolate Cinnamon Mousse recipe.
This paleo-friendly chocolate mousse is also vegan, but no need to wait for perfectly ripe avocados to make this one, because it relies on coconut cream and agar agar instead. The spicy habanero salted caramel is made from coconut milk, maple syrup, and coconut oil, with a little vanilla and habanero salt (but use regular sea salt if you don’t like spice). Get the Paleo Chocolate Mousse with Habanero Salted Caramel recipe.