The chocolate world is quite a divided one. You have the snooty dark chocolate lovers that crave the bitter and complex flavor profiles, the average Joes who want the simple flavor of milk chocolate with the caramel undertones, and those in the white chocolate camp that just want something smooth, light, and barely sweet. I usually fall into the hoity toity dark chocolate world, whereas my husband and mom in law lean more towards white chocolate.
For the most part, I’ve never bothered to waste money on white chocolate so I’ve only ever been subjected to the overly sweet mass produced kind. You know the ones I’m talking about. The white chocolate that you find in cookies from Subway or your local grocery store bakery, or the stuff that they layer with peppermint for peppermint bark during the holidays. I don’t know what it is, but it just tastes like sugar to me, and that’s not what chocolate is about.
Then something happened. My husband and I have a few fancier-than-the-local-takeout-spot date night dinner spots we like to visit. I usually always go for a crème brulee (because nothing beats crème brulee that uses real vanilla beans mmmm) and my husband will favor a tiramisu. One night we ended up getting a slice of vanilla cheesecake, and it arrived as a cheesecake and white chocolate mousse combo. I was skeptical, squinting at it with distrust, hoping it didn’t overpower the cheesecake portion.
Oh my. First reaction? Smooth. Just so velvety smooth! And light! The texture reminded me of soft whipped cream, but with more substance. I waited for the knock-me-in-my-teeth sweetness that usually comes with white chocolate, but it never came. Bite after bite, as I licked the last vestiges off my spoon, it never came. There was enough sweetness to make it a satisfying dessert, without setting me up for a cavity. In that moment, I remembered. A chocolate dessert is only as good as the quality of chocolate used. Of course those previous desserts were awful – they had used cheap, horrible brands.
I went to work trying to develop a recipe that would recapture that initial reaction. I knew the first and most important step would be use a high quality chocolate. Valrhona is my absolute favorite go-to, followed by Guittard, and then Ghiradelli in a pinch. The chocolate you start with should be smooth on its own, and melt in your mouth beautifully. This is your base. Next I had to decide if I wanted to go with eggs or without. I wanted this dessert to be straight forward and uncomplicated. I knew that the eggs would give the mousse body, but it was also added complexity. So I went with freshly whipped cream instead. That’s it. Whipped cream and chocolate. It comes together in 5 minutes and sets up lovely. It’s not as velvety as the original dessert I had long ago, but it’s simple and satisfying. And I can do it all with a toddler tugging at my pajamas.