Back at the dawn of the internet age—let’s say 1999—the electronic chain letter was born. My sincerest gratitude to William Beldru, widely considered the creator of the modern, electronic chain letter. Mr. Beldru, a native of West New York, New Jersey (a city that never made sense to me) accidently set off the first chain letter by writing a short email to the youngest of his six siblings as a convenient way of arranging a family gathering.
The momentous words of that first chain email are engraved above the portal to the International Internet Museum in Washington, D.C. (a city that never made sense to a lot of people): “Friday Night: Chicken or Fish?”
It wasn’t long before internet-enabled Americans were all racking their brains for lists of twenty friends who would not be enraged by the claim that breaking the chain or deleting the email would bring them bad luck. So we endured charming, folksy tales of teachers who never let us down but who had hit hard times, and prayers for angels hovering over us but just out of reach until enough of us had forwarded “…the attached prayer (scroll all the way down)”.
The biggest whopper of them all is the apocryphal story (still darting around the AOL-sphere) about the famous department store that supposedly charged a customer in its restaurant $250 for a Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. I know for a fact that this is untrue as I was able to buy the recipe for a mere $5 initial investment in a Nigerian savings account.
My weariness at this electronic detritus will perhaps explain why a lot gets by me. Except for the naughty bits, I am guilty of ignoring my junk mail box. That’s why I tend to depend on (what I call) authoritative voices to draw a virtual yellow highlight through the life-changing stuff I need to see. Your questions are A.) What are authoritative voices? and B.) How can I sign up to be one? The answers are, A.) The New York Times internet edition, and “Your Daily Horoscope on Twitter” and, B.) Don’t call us, we’ll call you.
But it was Melissa Clark, the excellent food writer for the Times who brought something to light that I think will (honestly) change my life. Supposedly there has been a recipe going around the internet for Chocolate Mousse that has two ingredients: chocolate and water.
Sure enough: there’s Ms. Clark starring in a video on the Times’ site making it happen. Thank goodness this was not one of those tricks where they say, “Don’t try this at home” because that’s what I set out to do.
It took me a couple of viewings of the video to see what was going on, but it was one of those “slap on the head-wish I’d thought of that” moments. The best part: I think I have improved on Ms. I’m-A-Fancy-Writer-For-The-New-York-Times Clark’s technique, and now, for a minimal investment, this secret can be yours. Oh. Sorry, I still have junk email on my mind.
Here’s the story. Ganache is a basic chocolate sauce which, depending on the temperature, can be used to make truffles, or whipped and used as cake frosting. You pour warm cream over chopped chocolate, allow the chocolate to melt, whisk together and then proceed using varying techniques. The fat in the chocolate and the fat in the cream are compatible: really all chocolate is a ground powder suspended in fat. The common assumption that oil and water don’t mix is borne out if you melt chocolate then accidently get a few drops of water in it: It clumps.
But a chemist would look at your seized melted chocolate and tell you to add a lot more water or a lot more chocolate or a lot more fat. Am I a chemist? No. Am I a chocoholic? Yes. But if you’re a chemist you understand that this recipe provides enough water to properly suspend the fats and solids in the chocolate.
This recipe makes a ganache with water instead of cream. (That’s the “Reader’s Digest” version of the story.)
Ms. Clark insists that once you have melted the chocolate and water together, you must set the mixture in its bowl over an ice bath and whisk until the mixture cools enough to whip into a creamy mousse-like consistency. That could take quite a while.
I am far too lazy for that. I planned ahead and used my Kitchen-Aid mixer. As directed, I melted ten ounces of bittersweet chocolate in a saucepan with one cup of water. This happened very fast. I whisked it all together briefly, just to make sure the mixture was uniform. But instead of using an ice bath, I poured the mixture into a glass bowl, and stashed it tightly wrapped in my refrigerator and let it sit overnight.
The next day the mixture had set into what I would call a soft solid. That’s where the Kitchen Aid took over. I whisked the soft solid in the Kitchen Aid for about a minute and as you can see from the photo above, ended up with a very nice mousse. What it lacks in complexity and mouth feel it makes up for in fun.
You may feel the need to doctor the recipe a bit—I added a hefty spoonful of Medaglia d’Oro instant espresso powder as it whipped in the mixer, and Melissa Clark sprinkled hers with a touch of Fleur de sel—but this stuff will definitely come in handy.
If you are a vegan or about to celebrate Passover this opens up some possibilities. For Passover, I think I’ll make a Chocolate Tart with an almond-flour short crust. (The almond flour will add a bit of richness.) Maybe I’ll make a bit of whipped cream available for folks.
If you are a vegan you could potentially make really great truffles this way. Scoop the refrigerated mixture with a melon-baller and dredge in cocoa powder or crushed nuts. You can also pour the mix into tiny ramekins or espresso cups and make a very satisfying Pots de Crème enforcing a bit of portion control without advertising it too loudly.
By the way, if you’ve read this far, Angels are on their way and your beloved fifth-grade teacher has made a miraculous full recovery.
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