In my first book, I told the story of the chocolate rose. In case you missed it: my mom once gave me a chocolate rose to give the girl across the street for Valentine’s Day. I nervously carried it over, rang the doorbell, and ended up giving the rose to her sister to pass on and never heard anything about it ever again. The girl didn’t acknowledge my chocolate rose. If she had, would I be married to a woman today? Judging by my recent Spotify Broadway mix, I’m thinking “no.” But I also think I would’ve been more successful with the girl across the street if I’d brought this Cocoa Puffed Chocolate Mousse instead.
The idea comes from Michel Richard’s Sweet Magic and it solves chocolate mousse’s biggest problem, a problem I didn’t even realize chocolate mousse has: a one-note texture.
Traditionally, chocolate mousse is a thick paste made with egg yolks and melted chocolate that’s then lightened with whipped egg whites and whipped cream that are folded in. This particular mousse recipe, which comes from the most recent Bon Appetit, follows that exact formula. (I chose their recipe instead of Chef Richard’s after my chocolate cup fiasco. His has you melt the chocolate in a microwave, which I don’t have; Bon Appetit’s has you melt in a double boiler which I do. So there you go.)
Once lightened with the various lighteners, chocolate mousse achieves that miraculous state of being both rich and airy. A few spoonfuls can perfectly cap off the most romantic of romantic dinners but after that 3rd or 4th spoonful you get bored. Which is how we get to Chef Richard’s idea.
To add texture to chocolate mousse, you melt 2 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate and stir in 1 1/2 cups of Cocoa Puffs (yes, the cereal) which you then break up, wearing rubber gloves, while someone else sprinkles in cocoa powder. You get a crunchy chocolate topping that transforms your chocolate mousse from a Johnny One-Note into a Good Time Charlie.
It’s really as simple as that. And if you don’t tell your guests (or, hopefully: guest) that those are chocolate-covered Cocoa Puffs, they’ll never know. Tell them you’ve been playing around with your molecular gastronomy kit and puffed yourself a chocolate topping. They’ll be so impressed, before you know it, they’ll be singing your praises to all of their friends and family. If only the girl across the street knew what I’d be cooking up 25 years later, she might’ve thanked me for the chocolate rose.
Recipe: Cocoa Puffed Chocolate Mousse
Summary: A mash-up of a Michel Richard recipe and a recipe out of this month’s Bon Appetit.
- 1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup espresso or strong coffee, room temperature
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 Tablespoons sugar, divided
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chopped PLUS 2 ounces semisweet chocolate chopped for the topping
- 2 large egg whites
- 1 1/2 cups Cocoa Puffs cereal, frozen
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- Powdered sugar for sprinkling
- Beat 1/2 cup cream in a medium bowl until stiff peaks form; cover and chill.
- Combine egg yolks, espresso, salt, and 2 Tablespoons sugar in a large metal bowl. Set over a saucepan of gently simmering water (do not allow bowl to touch water). Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is lighter in color and almost doubled in volume and an instant read thermometer inserted into the mixture registers 160 about 1 minute. (Note: my mixture never came close to 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer. But it doubled in volume and lightened in color, so I stopped cooking then.)
- Remove bowl from pan. Add chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth. Let stand, whisking occasionally, until room temperature.
- Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites in another medium bowl on medium speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually beat in remaining 1 Tablespoon sugar, increase speed to high and beat until firm peaks form.
- Fold egg whites into chocolate in 2 additions; fold whipped cream into mixture just to blend. Divide mousse among six teacups or 4 ounce ramekins (I used glass coupes). Chill until firm, at least 2 hours.
- For the topping, place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high at 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until melted. (Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in a double boiler like I did.) If you have a pair of disposable rubber gloves, put them on now. This will keep your hands clean and keep any moisture–or fingerprints–off the chocolate. The next step needs to be done quickly and will be easier if you have someone to help.
- Remove the Cocoa Puffs from the freezer and pour them into the melted chocolate, tossing them quickly with your hands to coat them. Since the puffs are frozen, they will coat very quickly. If possible, have someone else hold the bowl steady and sprinkle the cocoa powder onto the puffs as you separate them from one another. Continue sprinkling the cocoa powder until all the Cocoa Puffs are separated.
- Pour the topping into each mousse cup until the puffs reach the top of the cup. Add a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top for a contrast of color.
If you can figure out how to make chocolate cups, by all means serve it the way Chef Richard intended: pipe the mousse in, top with the Cocoa Puffs. It’ll be all the more impressive.
Preparation time: 30 minute(s)
Cooking time: 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4