Last week I was planning dinner for visiting friends, and I was seized by a craving for cool, creamy chocolate mousse. I had a bag of Scharffen-Berger chocolate burning a hole in my baking cupboard and no desire to turn on the oven. But there was just one problem: my friend is pregnant, and my favorite recipe for chocolate mousse has not one but two pregnancy no-no's in it. What to do?
Make pregnancy-safe chocolate mousse, of course!
My favorite recipe for chocolate mousse is from this very site: Sara Kate's Boozy Chocolate Mousse. It's so easy; all you need is some chocolate, eggs, and a blender. No whipping egg whites, and no complicated steps. But of course it's boozy (pregnancy no-no # 1) and it includes raw eggs (pregnancy no-no # 2).
Many people choose to look past these restrictions while pregnant; will a tablespoon of rum, distributed among four dishes of mousse, cause a problem? And what's the matter with a fresh and healthy farm-raised egg?
But of course I was not the one pregnant, and this was not my decision to make. The only way we were going to have chocolate mousse was to make it pregnancy-safe. And, it turns out, this wasn't too difficult.
I tackled problem #2 first. It turns out that you can pasteurize eggs, carefully, to a safe temperature that will kill any salmonella or other little beasties. I did this, cooking the eggs gently with the milk to 160°F.
Usually when you do this for pudding or custard you have to be careful not to curdle the eggs into a scrambled mess. But the nice thing about this particular recipe is that you can afford to be a little loose; the eggs are going to be whizzed smooth in a blender anyway, so no big deal if they curdle somewhat. In fact, I did curdle mine (they went a bit over 160°F) and yet after being whipped smooth you would never know, and I think this mousse actually set up better for having the eggs cooked.
The second problem was actually a little less straightforward. I adore the boozy flavor in the original recipe; it complements the rich chocolate and helps make it less overwhelming. I didn't think that vanilla alone would do the same. What to add instead? After some thought I hit upon an experimental idea: Olive oil!
I've been enamored of all sorts of chocolate and olive oil pairings, so it seemed like a good time to experiment. I adjusted the recipe with a quarter cup of smooth, fragrant top-shelf olive oil from California, and it turned out really nice.
The olive oil lightened the mousse, making it a little less overpowering, and a little more fruity. The chocolate would hit the tastebuds up front, with the tang of sea salt, and then there would be a long, lingering finish of fresh olive oil.
It's a recipe I will definitely return to again — regardless of who I'm feeding!
(Pregnancy-Safe) Chocolate Mousse with Olive Oil and Sea Salt
Makes about 10 small portions (2 ounces) or 4 larger portions (6 ounces)
2 eggs, thoroughly beaten
3/4 cup whole milk
6 ounces good-quality semi-sweet dark chocolate
3 tablespoons freshly brewed strong decaffeinated coffee (optional)
1/4 cup finishing-quality olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
Tiny pinch fine salt
Sea salt or grey lavender salt, to serve
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, to serve
Whisk the milk and eggs together, beating for at least a minute. Put in a small, heavy saucepan over low heat. Put a thermometer into the milk mixture and carefully heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches 160°F. Take off the heat.
In another small, heavy saucepan, put the chocolate over low heat. (Break up the chocolate into shards, if not using small baking pieces.) Heat slowly, stirring frequently, until the chocolate is completely melted. Take off the heat and stir in the coffee, if using, and the olive oil.
Add the milk and egg mixture to a blender or food processor, along with the maple syrup, vanilla, and a pinch of fine salt. Blend to combine blend the combine eggs, milk, olive oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt.
With the food processor or blender running, slowly pour in the chocolate and coffee mixture and blend until well combined. The final mix will be frothy and smooth.
Fill four 6-ounce dishes or eight to ten smaller ramekins and put in the refrigerator to chill. Depending on the size and depth of the dish this mousse will take from a half hour to three hours to set.
Serve with whipped cream and just a pinch of rough salt.
Adapted from Sara Kate's Spicy Boozy Mousse
(Images: Faith Durand)