I truly believe that we can love through food and be loved through food. Making something special for a special someone means " I love you. I care about you". Waiting with hot dinner when your Darling is back home after long journey, bringing him a bowl of warm soup when he has a cold, making sweet treats he loves just because he asked - all these are moments when you express your love without words. And when he brings you coffee in bed in the morning, makes your favourite breakfast or mulled wine because you feel upset - you know you are important and loved.
Me and my husband - we don't celebrate Valentine's Day in any special way. No dinners in fancy restaurants, no expensive presents - we have other days for that. Surely, there will be sweet kiss, maybe a glass of wine in the evening. But no matter if we celebrate this day or not - every occasion is good to make something sweet and say: "I love you. You are the love of my life".
This mousse is wonderful to say these words - chocolate is so strongly associated with love and sexual desire even if it's aphrodisiac qualities are probably psychological. Isn't it sensual to feed each other, spoon by spoon, this very chocolaty mousse? I used two French recipes to make it- and who doesn't consider everything French as romantic and sexy?
For a health-concious: dark chocolate (min. 70 % cocoa) is packed with antioxidants which may reduce the risk of many kinds of illness, from heart disease to cancer. In fact, dark chocolate and cocoa have more antioxidants than do foods like blueberries, green tea and red wine. Natural compounds in cocoa and dark chocolate may aid the cardiovascular system by improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure. Scientists have also discovered that cocoa may help maintain healthy arteries.Dark chocolate has a low glycemic index - this means that eating dark chocolate, unlike other candies or sweet foods, will not cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash, making you feel hungry when you really aren't. Cocoa and dark chocolate are rich source of minerals: magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron and copper.
Chocolate also contains natural chemical compounds, which are believed to have some effects on the brain: mood-elevating and pleasure-inducing. Theobromine ( theo = god, broma = food) is a mild, natural stimulant. Phenylethylamine releases natural "feel-good" chemicals called endorphins in your brain. PEA is released by the brain when people are falling in love.
Classic Chocolate Mousse with Almond Pralin
You can make the mousse without pralin - it will be delicious, but it is worth to make one. It requires making caramel, but with Julia Child help anybody can do it;)
for pralin (caramelized almonds)
Quantities below will produce much more pralin that you need for this recipe, but it is very delicious and can be sprinkled over ice-creams and other desserts or used as a flavouring for cake icings and fillings. It can be stored for weeks in a screw-topped jar.
85 gram / 3 oz almond flakes
85 gram / 3 oz sugar
2 Tbsp. water
Toast the almonds in 175 C/ 350 F degrees for about 10 min. Stir them up frequently and keep an eye on them so that they do not burn. They should emerge an even, light, toasty brown.
Boil the sugar and water in a small pan until the sugar dissolves completely. Then let the sugar boil, swirling the pan occasionally, until the syrup turns light, nut brown - if it is allowed to darken too much, it will have a biter taste. This will take 3 to 4 min. Immediately stir in the toasted almonds. Bring to the boil then pour onto a baking sheet covered with baking parchment.When cold in about 10 min, break it into pieces. Pulverize in the food processor or pound to a coarse powder in a mortar.
for chocolate mousse
The taste of mousse is directly proportional to the quality of ingredients you use to make it - use the best you can get, possibly organic.
175 gram / 6.2 oz dark chocolate (70 % cocoa, I used organic dark chocolate)
2 Tbsp. butter cut into small pieces
4 medium egg whites (I used organic eggs)
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp. sugar (I used unrefined golden caster sugar)
250 - 300 ml./ 8.5 - 10 fl.oz double cream (I used organic fresh cream)
1 tsp. vanille extract
Put the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl which fits over top of a pan of gently simmering (not boiling!) water. Stir until smooth , remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Leave to cool slightly.
In a mixing bowl combine the egg whites and salt and whisk until soft peak form. Add the sugar and continue whisking until the egg whites form stiff, glossy peak. Place the whipped egg whites in a large bowl and gently fold in a small amount of warm chocolate. Once incorporated, add the remaining chocolate, being careful not to overmix and to preserve all the air you whisked in.
Place 110 ml./ 3.7 fl.oz of the chilled cream and vanilla in a clean mixing bowl and whip the cream until soft peak form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture in two batches. Divide the chocolate mousse among four dessert bowls or glasses and chill for at least 2 hours.
Before serving whipped the rest of the cream and spoon over the chilled mousse. Decorate with powdered pralin.
pralin and caramel recipe source: "Mastering the Art of french Cooking" by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck
classic chocolate mousse recipe source: "The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook" by Mireille Guiliano