In a Portuguese riff on classic French chocolate mousse, chef João Dias of Montreal’s Ferreira Café swaps out the traditional butter or heavy cream for olive oil and tops the dessert with a sprinkling of fleur de sel.
The mousse’s featherlight texture comes from egg whites whipped to stiff peaks, which are folded into a bittersweet chocolate custard.
With only five ingredients, the secret to the dish is to make each one count—particularly the oil. “It needs to be crazy good olive oil,” Dias counsels. “If your olive oil isn’t good, your chocolate mousse will not be good.” He uses Ferreira’s own brand of cold-pressed oil from olive groves in Portugal’s Douro region, bottled under the Carm label. If you can’t get a fine Portuguese olive oil, though, spring for the best cold-pressed, extra-virgin variety you can find.
In order to avoid winding up with dense, unctuous mousse, you need to be sure to whip sufficient air into your egg whites. This is most easily done with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, but a handheld whisk, your dominant arm and a shot of determination could get the job done the old-fashioned way. (Just be prepared for a workout.)
How to know when you can stop whipping? “My mother [taught] me, when you turn the bowl upside-down and the egg whites don’t fall, don’t move, this is a good point,” Dias advises. Of course, you will want to approach this test gingerly—and/or with a dose of good humor and a reserve of extra eggs, since egg whites that fail the flip test will wind up on the floor, compelling you to start all over again.
A hit of flaky sea salt is stirred into the batter and more is sprinkled on top, setting off the rich, dark mousse and adding a bit of crunch. But Dias notes that if you’re not a salty-sweet person, or if you’re not sure that your guests are, you can add less to the batter, use it only as a finish, or simply set out fleur de sel at the table for guests to use—or ignore—as they choose.
When the structure of your dessert rests on tiny air bubbles, time is of the essence. After a day or so in the fridge, the bubbles in the mousse will begin to deflate, making the consistency denser and chewier—which, if you’re a lover of chewy chocolate, may be perfectly fine with you. But if it’s classically ethereal chocolate mousse you’re after, eat it within two to three hours, at which point, Dias promises, “You will have a very nice silky texture, not too dense but not too soft.”
For more tips on how to approach pairing this dish with wine, recommended bottlings and notes on chef João Dias’ inspiration, read the companion article, "Chocolate Mousse With Tawny Port," in the March 31, 2019, issue, via our online archives or by ordering a digital edition (Zinio or Google Play) or a back issue of the print magazine. For even more wine pairing options, WineSpectator.com members can find other recently rated tawny Ports in our Wine Ratings Search.
1. In a double boiler or a small saucepan, bring about 1 inch of water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. (If using a saucepan, then set a heatproof bowl on top to create a double boiler, taking care not to let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.) Add the chopped chocolate to the top pot or bowl and let melt, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until well-blended.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar with the egg yolks and fleur de sel until light yellow and creamy. Whisk in the melted chocolate.
3. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Slowly incorporate into the chocolate mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk until well-incorporated.
4. Divide the batter among 6 small bowls and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours, until firm.
5. Just before serving, sprinkle each serving with fleur de sel and a few drops of olive oil. Serves 6.