Saturday, August 9, 2014

Chocolate on the Brain

By Cal Orey
I should have a musette full of chocolate. These I should 
distribute with a kind word and a pat on the back.
Ernest Hemingway

I woke up this a.m., with chocolate on my mind. Actually, the last time I enjoyed a chocolate affair was a few weeks ago. It was a scoop (okay, more than one) of all-natural chocolate ice cream that sweetened my life. As I noted in my last post, pre-fall is in the air. For some reason, we feel the seasonal changes sooner in the sierras. The squirrels are everywhere as are droppings of pine cones. So, raking this weekend is on my agenda as well as chocolate. These are sweet signs of autumn...

I have fond memories of chocolate mousse. In my early thirties, I was in a long-term relationship with a video engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area who was trying to reignite the flame in our love life, and he sailed the full nine yards--planning unforgettable surprises to court me, again. Yes, it included coffee and chocolate.

He set out on his new 27-foot sailboat to Benicia. I joined him later in the artsy town at The Union Hotel, a romantic getaway with 12 rooms. Our refuge was coined Coast Lotus, an upstairs charming suite with a large window view of the bay. The hotel room with European touches included a spacious private bathroom with a Jacuzzi for two. Early in the evening, he surprised me with a room service treat: hot espresso and Dutch chocolate mousse. The entire event was an event to cherish for life--especially the tub, chocolate, and coffee trio.

A cuppa coffee and chocolate go together like a man and woman in love. Like wine, espresso, lattes, and chocolate are popular in Italy. Tuscany, known as a hot chocolate spot, is a place countless people enjoy coffee and chocolate, which can be healing for the body, mind, and spirit. (No, we didn't reunite, despite the chocolate romantic adventure.) But I got my own mousse recipe refined years later.

As I prepare for an overdue European-style trip in Quebec, I chose the egg-less no cook method. Instead of dark chocolate (my preference), by accident I purchased milk chocolate. But it was an omen. It made the mousse chocolaty enough for a limited palate and the sophisticated chocolatarians. I used heavy whipping cream—not the creamy ready-made fluff in the plastic container. The extra effort of whipping it is worth the time and trouble.

 Chocolat Mousse 

* * *
1 cup premium all natural milk chocolate chips, 31% cacoa
½ cup half-and-half
2 tablespoons European style butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup heavy whipping cream    
1 capful pure vanilla extract
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
Extra whipped cream (for topping)
Chocolate shavings (grated dark or milk chocolate chips)
Strawberries, sliced (optional)

In a bowl pour one cup of chocolate chips. Place in microwave and melt. (Keep a close watch on it. Do not overcook. Stir until smooth.) Set aside. In another bowl, combine butter and milk. Microwave until butter is melted. Cool. Mix into chocolate. (At first it will look lumpy but stir and it will turn creamy and smooth.) Sprinkle with cinnamon. Set aside. In a chilled mixing bowl pour whipping cream. Mix on high until it is a thick, creamy texture. (Warning: This can take a while.) Add vanilla and sugar (it does need the sweet flavor). Fold ½ cup into chocolate. Add the rest and stir until it’s a superb chocolate creamy mousse. Pour into ramekins or small glasses. Place in refrigerator for 3 hours to firm. Top with whipped cream. Garnish which chocolate shavings and berries.  Serves approximately 4.

More stories and recipes in the timeless book The Healing Powers of Chocolate.

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