Raise a spoon to Julia Child, who would have been 100, and celebrate with chocolate mousse
In one of her early TV appearances in the 1960s, Julia Child came on the set with a copper bowl, a whisk and eggs. She was promoting her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which would go on to become a bestseller, having never been out of print since 1961.
Her goal was to demonstrate how to whip egg whites by hand, taking them from liquid to foam to stiff, pillowy peaks in just minutes. This technique is required for light-as-a-feather souffles, though most of us are more likely to use an electric beater today. It's also how Child made her rich chocolate mousse.
The copper bowl keeps the egg whites from overheating, but you can use other types of bowls just as well. I like to put a metal bowl and the beaters in the freezer for 30 minutes before I whip eggs.
The trick with beating egg whites is to stop as soon as they reach the consistency your recipe calls for. If you overbeat them, they will revert to liquid. Make sure your bowl and whisk (or beaters) have been washed thoroughly in hot, soapy water. Any greasy residue will keep the eggs from whipping.
Also, use them immediately after whipping. They will not keep in the refrigerator.
Today would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday.
We toast her memory and all she brought to the American kitchen with a spoonful of delicate chocolate mousse, its flavor deepened with brewed coffee and dark rum.
And the consistency? As airy as a celebratory balloon.
Happy birthday to the French chef!
© 2013 Tampa Bay Times
Julia Child's classic mousse recipe includes uncooked eggs, which can be a health hazard for people with compromised immune systems. Pasteurized eggs are sometimes available. Some refrigerated egg white substitutes can be whipped. Look for information on the package.
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
¼ cup dark-brewed coffee
4 large eggs, separated
⅔ cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 tablespoon water
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream for garnish (optional)
Heat a saucepan one-third full with hot water, and in a bowl set on top, melt together the chocolate, butter and coffee, stirring over the barely simmering water until smooth. Remove from heat.
Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.
In a bowl large enough to nest securely on the saucepan of simmering water, whisk the yolks of the eggs with the ⅔ cup of sugar, rum and water for about 3 minutes until the mixture is thick, like runny mayonnaise. (You can also use a handheld electric mixer.)
Remove from heat and place the bowl of whipped egg yolks within the bowl of ice water and beat until cool and thick, as shown in the photo above. Then fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until frothy. Continue to beat until they start to hold their shape. Whip in the tablespoon of sugar and continue to beat until thick and shiny, but not completely stiff, then add the vanilla.
Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder of the whites just until incorporated, but don't overdo it or the mousse will lose volume.
Transfer the mousse to a serving bowl or divide into serving dishes, refrigerating for at least 4 hours, until firm.
Storage: The mousse can be refrigerated for up to four days.
Serves 6 to 8.
Source: Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child (Knopf)