Stephanie Prida makes chocolate mousse look simple. While that’s probably because she makes a lot of it as the Executive Pastry Chef of NYC’s The Grill, The Pool, and The Lobster Club, it’s also true that chocolate mousse is essentially a simple dessert.
“This is kind of our workhorse mousse,” Prida says, as she readies a station in the MUNCHIES Test Kitchen. “We make a lot of it at once.”
Some versions rely on egg whites, whipped enough to give the whole thing its signature lift. Prida's uses egg yolks instead.
Her basic mousse recipe can be broken down into three parts: a custard, a whipped cream, and melted chocolate. It sounds easy enough, but fail to give each enough attention and things can go awry. Keep a close watch, however, and the result is chocolate mousse that’s rich, creamy, light, and versatile.
The mousse itself doesn't require a lot of tools or ingredients (milk, cream, white sugar, dark chocolate discs, a pinch of salt, sheet gelatin, and a lot of egg yolks). Prida gets two big bowls, a sauce pot, a stand mixer, a strainer, a spatula, and a whisk. She’ll use an immersion blender—a whisk is fine at home—and a thermometer as well.
“I’ve been using this forever,” says Prida. “I used to work at a hotel and make all the wedding cakes for the hotel. We used to use this for the wedding cakes. It holds really nicely and it’s really smooth and fatty.”
The first step is to melt down the chocolate. Prida sets up a steam bath. Water goes into the sauce pot, which is then turned to medium heat. She puts a large bowl filled with chocolate on top of that. As the water heats, the steam melts the chocolate evenly.
Next, make the custard. Into the sauce pot, water removed, she puts milk, some cream, sugar, and a dash of salt. “I just heat it up slightly,” Prida says. She dumps in all the egg yolks—we’re making a big batch and it’s a lot of yolks. “The way I temper my eggs,” she says, letting the thirty-something bright orange yolks slide into the pot, “is I just pour them into the pot and then I mix it. This is when you heat it to 65 degrees Celsius.”
The milk turns golden and gets a little foamy as she whisks. “I look for the viscosity and once I see it start to get a little thick, I take it off,” she says. “You want to be constantly whisking it. Because it’s so fatty, it’ll cook really fast on the bottom.”
The mixture looks thicker, so Prida takes it off the heat and mixes in the gelatin, which has already been soaked in water. To filter out any thick egg bits, she pours the custard through a strainer and into the big bowl of melted chocolate. Using the immersion blender, she mixes the custard and chocolate until it's smooth and shiny.
When that’s all done, it’s time to make the whipped cream. Before Prida sets the cream up in the mixer, she places the bowl holding the chocolate mixture onto a larger bowl filled with ice, so that the chocolate can cool while the cream whips.
She pours cold cream into the bowl of the mixer and turns it to a medium speed. Pay close attention here because there’s no fixing over-whipped cream. “You have to do it over,” she says, shaking her head. “I do it all the time. I’ll turn on the mixer and then walk away.”
Prida whips the cream until it looks like wet paint, glossy and a little thick. “A pretty loose whipped cream. Your cream should be pourable,” she says. When she pulls up the whisk, it makes a peak that doesn’t really hold.
She adds the cream to the chilled chocolate mixture. To incorporate the two, she turns the bowl with one hand while using the other to lightly fold the cream into the chocolate with a spatula.
And that’s pretty much it—at this point, the mousse is ready to be scooped into a pie shell or cast into a mold or layered into a cake.
Another upside of this recipe, she says, is that it can easily be made ahead of time; freeze it, and the mousse can be melted down again. “I put it over a bain marie just like we did the chocolate. We put it in the microwave all the time. You can melt it down with the whipped cream in it,” she says. “Finish the mousse, and then you can constantly remake it. It's great as filling inside of cakes. We also use it for molds and things like that.”
To serve, Prida pipes two bowls full of mousse, then leaves them in the freezer to set for a few minutes. After about five minutes, she takes them out and tops each with a mix of toasted coconut shreds, chocolate curls, and dark chocolate pearls.
The mousse is rich, there's no doubt about that, but its whipped texture keeps it from feeling heavy. The dark chocolate and coconut add toasty, bitter notes to cut through the mousse's sweetness, and with so many different toppings, each bite is a little different. We keep going back in for more.
RECIPE: Easy Chocolate Mousse