Some days I wake up with an intense craving for pomelo, which I am blaming on dehydration and a distaste for our chlorinated 'city' water. Some days I wake up with a desire to make chocolate mousse, which I blame on pinterest. On the rare occasion, I wake up and 'Valentines Day' is a thing, and I know this to be true, because why else would Trader Joes block their entry way with a make-shift rose forest. I do enjoy a little celebration here and there. Celebrating that day a person enters the world, the courage his or her mother found, enduring those long hours of pain, avoiding alcohol for 9 months, while nourishing that little baby will folate and such. And how scary it must have felt coming into a world of unknowns, which honestly, still terrifies me. Christmas, a time to celebrate being together, because it's pretty much the only time of year, that we all - as in North America not France, because the French take the whole month of August to be together, which kind-of makes me wish I lived there - get the same three days off in a row, and are allowed to gain up to 5 pounds with no judgement, except from ourselves. New years, a day to wipe the slate clean, even if you got completely drunk the night before and tried to fight a fire truck. An anniversary, celebrating that beautiful day you joined together as husband and wife, and if you live in Washington, husband and husband, wife and wife, with the hopes to share a beautiful life together and that you will never change into someone no longer lovable Celebrating a new job, a birth, a long life. Halloween, a totally ridiculous, yet absolutely amazing time of year, where we get to dress up like zombies and with no judgments. Celebrating a day that we can all be kids again.
Valentines day, oh Valentines day. A day that I just can't get behind, despite my years of exposure. Deep down, it's probably because of that awkward year, grade 7, when my hair became excessively greasy, and I committed to wearing my blue and green wind breaker and black spandex tights, every day. I was completely obsessed with perming my hair, and at best, looked like I had attached a small poodle to the top of my head, and to make matters worse, I also permed my bangs. The popular girls - the ones whom had got a head start on puberty, with their fancy training bras, always seemed to get all the heart-o-grams on that dreaded day. I remember that one particular day, Feb 14, sometime in the early nineties, that awful awful day, when I stooped to my lowest, and bought my self a heart-o-gram. I couldn't bare the fact of not getting a single one. Gawd, that is a time in which I never wish to visit again - grade 7, and the 90's.
Tonight, I know Mr. H is going to bring me home some amazing caramels from Theo's Chocolate, and I am going to be super appreciative, because if you bring me chocolate, any time any day, I will love you forever. I also know that he doesn't care too much for this day, and feels slightly awkward and pressured to do as society does. If it wasn't for the internet and Hallmark, I could be happy just avoiding the day all together. But approximately a week ago, every shop selling either chocolate, food, and/or stationary, turned into a giant explosion of red and pink, towering heart shape boxes, rows and rows of roses, as thick as the Amazon.
To me, it's the little things that matter. Each morning when Mr. H makes the bed, I know that he does it for me. When he notices that I cut my bangs, even if it was only less than an inch, I feel special. A random box of chocolate, flowers from the Sunday market. These are the things that mean more to me than this day. So, on Tuesday, I randomly made Mr. H some chocolate mousse, and I added espresso, because I knew that he would love it that much more. I did this because I love him, and baking/cooking is how I show him that I care. Because even if it tastes like garbage, he will always smile enthusiastically, and fake it like a professional. That's how I know that he really loves me.
Speaking of celebrations and making plans, one of my new year's resolutions was to become a better baker. I'd taken a few food science courses in university, gaining a relative understanding of the specific role each ingredient plays in baking, although, understanding theory and then incorporating it into practice, can be a bit of a challenge. At the beginning of the year, I enrolled in a professional baking course, using Wayne Gisslen's 5th edition book. I have made it through the theory section, and am now diving into the practice component. I used the principles learned for custards, puddings, mousses, and souffles, and created something rich, dark, and chocolaty. With my many failed attempts in that past at whipping to a stiff peak, I think that I have finally successfully locked in the strategy. I've provided a few pointers below in the recipe notes. In my opinion, practice makes perfect, and without those years of failed attempts, we wouldn't be where we are today, in baking and in life. And on that Valentines day, back in the 7th grade, I learned the most valuable lesson in life - it's always important to love yourself - everyday.
notes: Soft peaks are rounded peaks that fold over when the beaters are lifted upside down. Stiff peaks hold their shape when the beaters are lifted, but are still moist and glossy. When whipping egg whites, the bowl and beaters should be completely clean, because fat will prevent peaks from forming. This means being extra careful when separating the yolk from white. I like to do it with my hands, ensuring that the shell does not break the yolk.
5 oz dark chocolate 60% cacao or higher
2 tbsp water
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites, room temperature
1 tbsp good quality strong espresso
3 tbsp white granulated sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, cold
2 tbsp cocoa powder
grated chocolate for garnish
In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate and water on low heat, stirring constantly until smooth.
Beat in the egg yolks, and whip over low heat for a few minutes until smooth.
Remove from the heat and stir in the espresso. Transfer the chocolate to a large bowl and set to the side.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until they've reached soft peaks on medium speed. Increase the speed to high, slowly add the sugar one tbsp at a time, and continue to whip until stiff peaks have formed. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate.
Rinse and dry the stand mixer bowl. Stir the cocoa powder into the cream and add it to the stand mixer bowl. With the whisk attachment, whip the cream to the soft peak stage on medium speed. Increase to high and continue to whip to stiff peaks, being careful not to over-whip. (If you do, the fat and liquid will start to separate, and large chunks will form. Simply throw away and start again.) Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate and egg whites.
Scoop the mousse into small serving bowls, and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for several hours before servings. Garnish with grated chocolate, whipped cream, or cocoa powder. The mousse can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days.