For our Christmas Eve celebration at my mom's house last week, I made bread pudding to share with the family, using the Paula Deen recipe that's my go-to for bread pudding. I've written about it before for Tribune Cooks. I happened to glance at the opposite page as I was letting the bread absorb the sugar and egg mixture and saw a recipe titled, Waterford Chocolate Mousse.
There are certain foods that evoke specific memories, and for me, chocolate mousse is basically a time machine back to my high school French classes.
I took four years of French, at Western Reserve Junior High for ninth grade and at Warren G. Harding up through my senior year. Only two years of a foreign language were required for graduation, so after my sophomore year, my French classes, which were never especially big to begin with (most people took Spanish), shrank considerably.
Photo by Mary Beth Wyko
A decadent choolate mousse like this one shouldn't be served using your everyday dishes. Break out the good china for this rich treat.
My teacher for all four years was Gayle Thomas, whom we called Mademoiselle Thomas. Since I had her for class for four years, Mlle. Thomas probably knew me better than a lot of the teachers I had at Harding. During the spoken portion of my International Baccalaureate exam, Mlle. Thomas asked me questions about my writing ambitions and my dream to be an international correspondent for Newsweek magazine.
Once or twice a year, Mlle. Thomas would allow us French students to have a small party in class. One year, we had a Secret Santa gift exchange, and I received a copy of a French phrase book, the title of which I can't print in English in the newspaper. Mlle. Thomas skimmed the book that my classmates and I giggled over and announced that she'd seen worse, and said that she trusted I wouldn't use some of this more colorful language in class.
To make our parties educational, we'd serve French foods - there were lots of baguettes - and we'd get a refresher on the proper French terms for eating and drinking. Because I preferred making desserts even then, my contribution to these feasts was always chocolate mousse. My maiden name wasn't Sweet for nothing.
It's been many years since I've been in a high school French class, and Mlle. Thomas retired a few years back. While I can still pull out a bon mot every now and again, I'm quite certain that I can no longer discuss my dreams and ambitions entirely in French.
But that doesn't mean I can't enjoy a good chocolate mousse.
I didn't have to change this recipe to make it gluten-free - I love when recipes start out without gluten - but I did halve the recipe. The mousse is very rich, and a little goes a long way. I definitely didn't need 12 servings of it tempting me from the fridge.
Since I?don't have a double boiler, I winged it - I boiled a large pot of water and dropped the steamer basket on top. My ceramic bowl of chocolate to melt went in the steamer basket, and it worked like a charm.
The recipe doesn't indicate it, but the mousse should be chilled for a few hours before serving. It will firm up and achieve that fluffy, dense texture that separates a mousse from chocolate pudding.
Though many of us will put away the sweets after the start of the new year, there's still time for one last decadent treat. So why not a silky, smooth, creamy chocolate mousse?
As we would say in Mlle. Thomas' class, bon appetit!