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Is This Magical Chocolate Dessert a Mousse or a Cake?

I wasn't a very picky eater as a child, but I absolutely detested chocolate. Cruciferous vegetables and organ meats weren't a problem for me, but you couldn't pay 5-year-old Genevieve to eat chocolate of any kind. It was far too bitter and earthy for my sophisticated young palate.

This all changed when I was introduced to chocolate mousse at a holiday party. The small ramekin of mousse was topped with a rosette of whipped cream and the lightest dusting of cocoa powder, and with my parent's encouragement, I bravely dipped my spoon in to try it.

I was surprised to find that the mousse was just sweet and creamy enough to offset the bitterness of the chocolate. I don't often describe dishes as life-changing-because most of the time, they aren't-but that encounter with the chocolate mousse really did change the course of my life. That bite set me on the trajectory to eventually become a pastry chef, and 20 years later, I found myself cooking up all kinds of chocolate desserts in restaurants.

Today, I adore chocolate so much that I order it in three-kilogram bags from Valrhona. It's the one slightly unhinged purchase I make for my pantry. Having a bag of chocolate the size of my cat sounds ridiculous-something that only Willy Wonka would keep at home-but the enormous amount of chocolate is like a security blanket for me. Each bag lasts several months and ensures that my cravings are always kept in check. Not much is needed to satisfy my sweet tooth, and a few pieces of chocolate often do the trick. 

Lately, though, I've been making two easy desserts from Benedetta Jasmine Guetta's forthcoming cookbook, Cooking alla Guida: a two-ingredient chocolate mousse and a rich flourless chocolate cake that uses the mousse as its base.

The recipe for the mousse comes from Guetta's grandmother, and it's exceedingly simple to make. The dessert requires nothing but good chocolate and eggs, making it something that's possible to whip up even when you've run out of pantry staples like sugar and flour. To make the mousse, you gently melt chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. After taking the bowl off the heat and allowing it to cool, you'll whisk egg yolks into the chocolate and fold in egg whites that you've beaten to stiff peaks. Portion the mousse into ramekins and chill it for several hours-and that's all there is to it. The result is slightly richer than your typical mousse, and resembles a deep, dark, and spoonable chocolate ganache.

That quick and easy chocolate mousse has a few other tricks up its sleeve, though. Guetta walks you through one possible transformation: By adding just butter and sugar and popping it in the oven, you can turn it into a deeply flavored (and Passover-friendly) flourless chocolate cake. She has you reserve half the batter in the fridge to become a luscious chocolate mousse topping, but if you, like me, just can't wait for mousse to set, feel free to bake all the batter into one marvelously rich melt-in-your-mouth cake-one so delicious that even my 5-year-old self would eagerly devour it all.


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