Better than a brownie

Chocolate. What a fabulous discovery. It is hard to imagine any ingredient (or mood for that matter), that is not improved by it: milk, peanut butter, strawberries, mint, coffee, coconut, raspberries, oranges, champagne, chilies, potato chips! I could go on forever. Whether it’s the main event (chocolate souffle, anyone?), a welcome sidekick, (chocolate chip cookies) or even that je ne sais quoi (holy mole!), chocolate always steals the show and makes everything better, tastier, happier.

As I’ve said before, I’m a salty kind of girl. Make me choose between a plate a hot crispy french fries and a towering bowl of ice cream and nine times out of ten I’ll be licking the leftover salt from my fingers before giving that bowl a second glance (unless there is a third option where I’m allowed to dip the french fries into the ice cream for salty sweet perfection). But for those occasions when I do reach for that bowl of sweet cream, it better be chocolate.

And so it happened earlier this week when I stumbled upon this tantalizing recipe for Nutella blondies. I will save my ode to Nutella for another day, another post. While I have already filed this recipe away for a rainy day, my initial reaction was, I want to make it chocolate! I’ve had brownies on the brain for days now but just can’t bear to turn on that tiny chrome nob and endure the inferno that is sure to follow. Today, I thought of the perfect summer-friendly substitute: chocolate mousse. What I was really craving about that Nutella brownie–deep dark creamy chocolate–is exactly what a rich chocolate mousse could deliver. So when I found a mousse recipe enriched with espresso and topped with orange mascarpone whipped cream, I knew I had to make it–immediately.

The espresso in this chocolate recipe doesn’t stand out as a complementary ingredient to create, say, a mocha mousse; instead the conservative dash of espresso powder serves to intensify the flavor of the chocolate. The whipped cream is only lightly sweet and is flecked with bitter strands of orange zest that contrasts that richly sweet dark chocolate flavor. We’ve already established that chocolate complements so many other flavors and this particular combination is perfection. The result is cool and creamy, bittersweet and tart and deeply chocolatey. This summer heat wave brings good things after all.

For chocolate mousse, this recipe is a little unorthodox without the usual suspects: no butter, no heavy cream, no egg yolks but is so simple to make, I broke out the good chocolate and never looked back.

This recipe comes from Giada’s Kitchen Cookbook

Espresso Chocolate Mousse with Orange Mascarpone Whipped Cream

For the mousse

1/2 cup whole milk
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp instant espresso powder
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2 large egg whites

In a small saucepan over medium heat stir together the milk with the sugar and the espresso powder until the milk is hot, but not boiling, and the sugar is dissolved. Place the chocolate chips in a blender.

Pour the hot milk over the chips. Run the blender on high until combined, a few seconds. Add the egg whites and run the blender on high until light, about 1 minute. Transfer the mousse to 4 small serving cups. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until firm, about 3 hours.

For the whipped cream

1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp grated orange zest

In the bowl of an electric mixer, stir together the mascarpone cheese and the orange juice until smooth. Add the cream, powdered sugar, and orange zest. Whip until the cream has soft peaks, about 1 minute. Whip the cream just before serving the mousse or cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

*I don’t have an electric mixer and made the whipped cream by hand. It helps to chill the bowl, whisk and cream when whipping by hand. You should work for your dessert!

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