Jacques Torres, the pastry chef, made his name in France. When he was 23 years old a French critic called him the bedst pastry chef in France. Three years later he was named a Meilleur Ouvrier de France (best craftsman in France). He was the youngest chef to have ever been awarded that title, a government honor. He had been working at the Hotel Negresco in Nice, not far from his hometown of Bandol. Not long after he came to America and in 1989 landed at Le Cirque restaurant in New York. That’s when I first met him. I was assigned to write a profile of this new hotshot for the New York Times and part of my homework was to sit at a table in the restaurant while he presented more than 20 desserts for me to taste, including his adorable little chocolate stove. Somebody has to do it, right? But we have been friends ever since. He is not only talented but he is also perceptive. He was among the first to showcase chocolates with the percentage of cacao, a signature of quality that has now become fairly common. He also focused on the characteristics of single-origin chocolates. It is not without reason that he’s known as Mr. Chocolate. This recipe is nothing short of genius. First, because it’s dead-on simple, and second because, like a reversible jacket, it can be served cold, as mousse, or baked to become a soufflé, probably the easiest soufflé you’ll ever make.
Chocolate Mousse/Chocolate Souffle
Serves 4 to 6
1/3 cup whole milk
6 ounces dark chocolate (70 percent), in pieces
1 large egg yolk
Pinch of salt
4 large egg whites
1 ½ tablespoons sugar, plus more for molds if making soufflés
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, optional, for soufflés
Crème fraîche or whipped cream for serving
For chocolate mousse you will need 4 to 6 goblets or dessert cups. For soufflés you will need 6 4-ounce or 4 6-ounce soufflé dishes or ramekins.
Place the milk a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add the chocolate to the pan. Stir with a whisk until the chocolate melts and the mixture turns smooth and glossy. Whisk in the egg yolk and a pinch of salt.
Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat with a portable or standing electric mixer until very softly peaked. Add the sugar and lemon juice and beat until you get firm peaks, another 4 minutes or so. Use a rubber spatula to fold the chocolate mixture into the egg whites. If serving chocolate mousse, spoon the mixture into goblets or dishes and refrigerate at least 4 hours. Serve with crème fraîche or whipped cream on top.
For soufflés, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter the soufflé molds and dust with sugar. Spoon the chocolate mixture into the molds, place in the oven and bake about 12 minutes, until puffed and fairly firm on top. Serve at once with crème fraîche or whipped cream.
Check out recipes from local artists featured in our 1978 cookbook Palette to Palate.
Sponsored in part by Ciuffo Cabinetry, Lead Sponsor of Stirring the Pot since 2014.