Audrey Hepburn once said, “Paris is always a good idea.” I couldn’t agree more. I recently spent some time in my favorite city, wandering the festooned café sidewalks. My days were spent in glorious freedom to revisit my favorite works of art and discover new masterpieces. Every one wrapped in warm coats and scarves, hopping on and off of metro underground trains. Tourists and locals blending together, as they whisk past one another on their personal daily adventures.
Paris is the embodiment of beauty and inspiration to me. A city that feels like a special “someone.” One that I love and miss when I am away. A love affair that includes long strolls at night, eating as many ornate and intricately designed pastries as possible, leisurely dinners in dimly lit restaurants, with chocolat chaud as a nightcap. I am the best version of myself when I am with Paris. In Paris, nothing else matters but living in the moment.
I have to admit, and to no one’s surprise, that my travels revolve around food. Tasting new pastries, chocolates, and confections from personal favorites and visiting new shops that have opened since my last visit are high priority. Crumbly, flaky, buttery viennoiserie from Du Pain et des Idées, particularly the escargot chocolat-pistache (a chocolate-pistachio flaky dough masterpiece). Melt-in-your-mouth caramels, from the confectionery master Jacques Genin. Pralines from MOF Chocolatier Patrick Roger and of course macarons from Pierre Herme. There is nothing better than fresh Pierre Herme macarons, eaten on a rainy cobblestone street. Except perhaps, choosing chocolates from Alain Ducasse’s stunning Le Manufacture de Chocolat. A mesmerizing chocolate shop, with gorgeous packaging and presentation. Paris does style like no where else.
I am smitten with Paris. It provides endless creative inspiration that can be carried for months. Over the next few weeks, my home will be frequented by the noise of crinkling caramel wrappers, the swoosh of chocolate box lids, and the ‘pop’ of cookie tins as I make my way through my edible spoils. Once they are gone, sadness will ensue. To comfort that sadness, I will make this chocolate mousse. This creamy, silky, and airy mousse. You can dress it up, as I have done above, and add other pastry components to recreate a petit gateau (a small layered mousse cake) such as the ones you see in the Paris patisseries. Or, you can keep it simple with a spoonful of soft sweetened whipped cream on top. Either way, you will be comforted in knowing that Paris is only a spoonful away.
Makes 16 ounces
10 ounces heavy cream
1 ounce granulated sugar
1 ounce water
½ ounce egg yolk
5 ounces 63-65% dark chocolate, high quality such as Valrhona or Guittard
Melt chocolate and transfer into a medium sized bowl. Set aside. Be sure to not allow the chocolate to become too cool and stiffen. Gently reheat it if necessary. You want it slightly warm to the touch when ready to use.
Whip cream to soft peaks. Cover and set in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Meanwhile, in a stand mixer bowl with the wire whisk attachment, place the egg yolks. Whip until fluffy, thicker, and pale yellow in color. *Note: Once you begin whipping the yolks, begin the next step. By the time your finished with the next step, your yolks should be ready.
In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water and cook over medium heat, without stirring, to 120C (248F).
With the mixer on low speed, pour the hot sugar syrup into the egg yolks in a slow and fine stream. Focus on pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl, away from the whip, to prevent the whip from splattering it around the mixer bowl. Once all the syrup is added, turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until the mixture is cool.
Gently blend approximately one-third of the reserved whipped cream into the melted chocolate. Gently whisk in the egg yolk mixture, thoroughly incorporating it. Fold in the remaining whipped cream.
Immediately pour (or prepare a piping bag for piping) into prepared containers. Cover and refrigerate until completely set.
Recipe adapted from Baking and Pastry, The Culinary Institute of America.