With Genius Recipes correspondent Kristen off for a few months trying to raise a genius newborn, we're revisiting the column's Greatest Hits with brand-new videos—and hearing from a few special surprise guests. Wish her luck! (And keep sending those tips.)
The book instead is about simple, scientific surprises and improvements in home cooking. He explains everything from getting crisp skin on a roast chicken (don't baste with the juices) to whether gnocchi are truly done when they bob to the surface (not necessarily).
... And how to make a flawless, creamy chocolate mousse out of just chocolate and water. Oh yes he did.
It's just like whipping cream: Heavy cream (itself an emulsion of milk fats and water) froths up readily when whisked in a chilled bowl, right? So all you have to do is aim for a ratio of water to fat (cocoa butter here) that mimics that of whipping cream. (And what of emulsifiers, you ask? The lethicin in chocolate does the trick.)
Melt the chocolate and water together, cool it over an ice bath, and whisk till you have mousse. Still baffled? Watch Heston Blumenthal pull it off in the video below, which was sent to me by two different, equally excited Food52ers, Cade and drbabs.
Like other emulsions (vinaigrette, aioli), it works as if by magic. As you whisk, microscopic bits of water get suspended in the fat, thickening it and making it seem creamier. Then still more air is whipped into it and the cooling chocolate crystallizes around the air bubbles to make a remarkably stable foam, aka mousse.
The best thing about it—aside from its dumb-founding magicalness—is that it tastes like pure, unobstructed chocolate. There's no cream or egg to confuse the issue, like in normal mousses. (It also happens to be vegan, if you use dark chocolate without any added milk.)
You can get all kinds of different textures, by stopping at different points as you whisk:
1) For a mod, flat-topped look, like sexy pot de creme: Pour it into ramekins while it's thickened, but still a bit warm.
2) When it gets to the texture of thick pudding, you can spoon it into a glass parfait-style, like little chocolate snowdrifts (as in our photos). At this stage, you could even use it to frost a cake.
3) Whip it just a bit further for something fluffy you can ball up in an ice cream scoop, if that's what you're going for. Beyond this, and it gets crumbly and dry (though still tasty).
This all happens fast as the mixture cools, so chances are you'll go too far on your first try. But if this happens, Mr. This is unfazed—just return it to the pan, melt it, and start over. (It's even easier than saving overwhipped cream, which he's also figured out.)
Once you have the rhythm down, you can flavor it as you wish with liqueurs or coffee or spices, sweeten it to your liking, or just keep it dark and intense. In all of these scenarios, a little whipped cream up top is never a bad idea.
The Genius Desserts cookbook is here! With more than 100 of the most beloved and talked-about desserts of our time (and the hidden gems soon to join their ranks) this book will make you a local legend, and a smarter baker to boot.
I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."