How to make this delicious chocolate mousse with only two ingredients
Many of the dessert-fiends among you will have heard of Singapore's pastry darling, Janice Wong and her 2am:dessertbar in Holland Village. The more voracious ones among you might even know of the bar's signature dish—Chocolate H2O.
The main component of the dish is a mound of airy, salaciously smooth chocolate mousse. It has all the hallmarks of a rich, decadent mousse, but in true Janice Wong fashion, the mousse is far from conventional. Instead of being made with the usual eggs, cream and sugar to enrich the chocolate, as its name suggests, this mousse is made with just two ingredients—chocolate, and water. And in doing so, it breaks what was long held as the cardinal sin of chocolaterie.
To pastry chefs everywhere, water was long thought to be the mortal enemy of chocolate. A single drop of water in a pot of velvety melted chocolate would make it clump up and split into cocoa solids and oily cocoa butter, rendering it nigh unusable. And the more you try to stir and smooth it out, the more it'll resemble a muddy padang after a torrential downpour.
So understandably, when I first heard of this chocolate-water mousse, my mind was blown. This shouldn't work. It can't possibly work, as it goes against those chocolaterie classes I had in culinary school, where I was vehemently taught to refrain from even breathing over my chocolate glazes and ganaches, lest the water vapour in my breath messes up the chocolate. Filled with doubt and disbelief, I had to try this novel technique out for myself. And lo and behold, not only did it work, it resulted in the purest, most singularly chocolate-y mousse I've ever tasted! I was so startled that I wrote a whole geeky post about this close-to-magical phenomenon on my blog last year.
Credit where credit's due though, Janice Wong wasn't the first to have dreamt up this technique. Rather it was first recorded in 2007 by Hervé This, the man often touted as the father of molecular gastronomy. In his book 'Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor', he explains how although a bit of water will inevitably cause chocolate to split, by adding more water, the particles of chocolate will be evenly suspended within the water and become smooth again. It's akin to how having too little dhal or curry with your rice will give you bits of rice wetted by curry, and clumps of un-curried plain rice. But if you add more curry, banjir-ing it so to speak, it'll all become equally curried and more or less homogenous!
Since Hervé This' invention of the technique, it has popped up all over the culinary sphere. It's been utilised by Heston Blumenthal, detailed in an article by Food52's Kristen Miglore (which was where I first encountered it), and closest to home, it's popped up as Janice Wong's signature dessert.
Far from being a technique reserved for the culinary elite though, this is actually a mousse that can be easily made by home cooks everywhere! All you need to do is boil some water, pour it over chocolate, and whisk it all over an ice bath. The key here is to use really good chocolate, because in the absence of eggs and cream, the flavour of the chocolate itself will be laid bare, allowing it to fully express itself.
Though not quite as elaborate as 2am:dessertbar's dish, this simple technique for chocolate mousse might flip your worldview on chocolate and cooking as it did mine. Who knows, you might even be inspired to start your very own dessert bar!
Recipe: Two-Ingredient Chocolate Mousse
makes 4 portion
200g chocolate, preferably good quality chocolate you'd eat
1. Roughly chop up the chocolate into small pieces, and place it all in a big bowl.
2. Bring the water to a boil, then pour over the chocolate and stir until all the chocolate has melted.
3. Place the bowl of melted chocolate over a bowl filled with ice, and whisk until it thickens. This will take a few minutes of whisking. You want it to be just thick enough to spoon up and hold its shape. Once it starts to thicken, it'll go from cake-batter-thick to play-doh-thick pretty rapidly, so do watch out for this and remove it from the ice bath slightly earlier than you think. Don't worry if it gets too hard though, just heat the bowl over a hot water bath to soften it, give it a quick stir, and re-whisk it until your desired thickness!
The mousse is best kept and served at room temperature; It turns hard when chilled. Enjoy it with a dollop of whipped cream, nuts or any other garnishes!
Follow Jun on his blog – junandtonic.com for more recipes and musings on food.