For the second year in a row, I let my birthday slip past without my customary celebratory blog post. Last year’s blog post is sitting somewhere in WordPress purgatory, photographed, partially written, but never published. It was a lovely pesto pasta salad with green olives and mushrooms that we ate at the beach on a sunny April afternoon. It was good, but not that memorable.
This year, I just didn’t get around to making my birthday dessert in time. I still celebrated my birthday with the usual enthusiasm, but had to take a last-minute trip to Portugal that week. The dessert I had planned – Portuguese Chocolate Mousse with Chocolate Salami – remained a plan. But it’s such a good dessert that I decided this was a “better late than never” situation. Plus, Trevor’s birthday is coming up on Friday so we have an excuse for having a fridge full of chocolate mousse.
This mousse is inspired by the Mercado de Ribeira, one of my favorite Lisbon haunts. Also known as the Time Out Market, it’s by no means a hidden spot. The concept is like an upscale food court, but all of the “stalls” are outposts of the best Lisbon restaurants and vendors. You can find tender grilled octopus doused in olive oil, bacalhau in all its forms, $5 wines, and rich eggy desserts. After 8pm it’s bustling with tourists and locals alike, and reserving a table requires some aggressive seat-saving. But it never fails to disappoint – the food is amazing, the vibe is energizing, and there’s something for everyone.
The chocolate mousse at Nos e Mais Bolos inside the market is amazing. It is rich and pudding-like and has bite-sized pieces of Portuguese Chocolate Salami as a topping. Don’t worry – there’s no meat in chocolate salami. The best way to describe it is as a no-bake fridge cookie. It’s made from cocoa powder, butter, a bit of rum or liquor, and chopped up cookies, then rolled into a log to look like salami. It’s a traditional dessert in Italy and Portugal, so common that I once found it in a vending machine in a 1,000 year old castle on top of a mountain. Really good hiking snack, by the way. It also takes chocolate mousse to the next level.
While researching mousse recipes, I stumbled upon something called “two ingredient chocolate mousse.” It’s an incredibly simple recipe by Heston Blumenthal, which requires nothing other than chocolate, water, and a bowl of ice. Because all Portuguese desserts are made primarily with a ton of eggs and a ton of sugar, I was pretty sure that this magical mousse could not be the answer. But I had to try it anyway, just to see. Because what if two ingredient mousse was really a thing? That would mean that I could have chocolate mousse at any time with only 10 minutes of effort. Dangerous, but also amazing.
So I made two batches of chocolate mousse. The first was the aforementioned two ingredient version. The second was a more traditional mousse, with eggs and butter and a touch of cream. The verdict? They were both really good. Different, but good. The super-simple mousse has a very pure, chocolaty taste and surprisingly creamy texture, but no richness. You want to use your very best chocolate for this, because it’s the only flavor. The mousse loaded up with eggs and butter and cream is obviously much richer, but doesn’t have that same purity. Tasted side by side, the winner kind of depends on my mood at that moment. But to be totally honest? I think most of the time I’ll prefer the two ingredient version. Crazy!
Whether you go the easy route or the rich route, the pieces of Portuguese Chocolate Salami on top add this amazing extra dimension. The chocolate salami is easy to make and super-chocolaty. It’s very rich – kind of the perfect thing to keep in the fridge at all times, as just a bite will satisfy an intense chocolate craving. As my trips to Lisbon are slowing down, I’m happy to have cracked one of my favorite dessert recipes at home. Now I just have about 8,000 pastries left to learn.
Portuguese Chocolate Mousse with Chocolate Salami
Note: this recipe is the traditional, rich mousse with eggs and cream. If you want to try the two-ingredient mousse, the recipe for that is below!
For the Chocolate Salami
- 1 stick (4 oz.) salted butter
- 1/2 cup (4 oz.) granulated sugar
- 6 TBS (1 1/2 oz.) dark, high-quality cocoa powder, such as Valhrona
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 TBS port wine, rum, or fruity liqueur
- 7 oz. biscotti or vanilla wafer cookies
- powdered sugar for coating
For the Chocolate Mousse
- 2 TBS butter
- 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
- 2 TBS port wine or rum
- 1/4 c. heavy cream
- 4 large eggs, separated
- To make the chocolate salami: melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add approximately half of the the sugar and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the cocoa powder and whisk thoroughly. Continue to cook for 1 minute longer, whisking the whole time – mixture should be smooth. Remove from the heat.
- Place the egg yolks and the remaining sugar in a medium, heat-proof bowl, and whisk until thick and creamy, about 1 minute. Slowly pour in the hot cocoa mixture, whisking the egg yolks vigorously as you do so. Stir in the port wine or rum and whisk to combine. Mixture should be thick, smooth, and glossy.
- Cut the cookies into small pieces using a serrated knife. Add the cookies to the warm chocolate mixture and stir gently to thoroughly combine. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. Once cool, place a sheet of wax paper on the counter. Scrape the mixture onto the wax paper and shape it into a log roughly 8 inches long. If the mixture is too runny to do this, place it in the fridge for 30 minutes before shaping into a log. Wrap the log in waxed paper and then again and tinfoil. Place in the fridge and chill until firm, at least 2 hours.
- To make the chocolate mousse: add the butter, chocolate chips, port wine or rum, and heavy cream to a medium metal bowl or double boiler. Bring a small pot of water to a simmer – the bowl should fit snugly on top of the pot without the bottom of the bowl touching the top of the water. Place the metal bowl over the simmering water and melt the chocolate, stirring continuously with a rubber spatula. As soon as the chocolate mixture is fully melted, remove it from the heat. The chocolate should be thick and glossy.
- In a medium, heatproof bowl, vigorously whisk the egg yolks for 30 seconds, then pour the hot chocolate into the egg yolks, whisking as you do so. Beat thoroughly to combine. Mixture should be thick but run freely from the whisk when lifted. Set chocolate aside and let cool to room temperature.
- Use a stand mixer or handheld mixer to beat the egg whites until they form soft, shiny peaks. Add half of the beaten egg whites to the cooled chocolate mixture and use a spatula to gently fold the two together. Repeat with the remaining egg whites, doing your best not to deflate the whites. When the two mixtures are fully combined, pour the mousse into four wine glasses or coupe glasses. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.
- To serve, cut the chocolate salami into slices, then cut the slices into cubes. Place on top of each glass of chocolate mousse. Serve chilled.
Magic Two-Ingredient Chocolate Mousse
Recipe by Heston Blumenthal via Eat Live Run. Serves 2.
Note: this recipes is all about the chocolate you use, so use the good stuff. If you don’t love the flavor of the chocolate, you won’t love the flavor of the mousse. If the mousse becomes grainy as you whip it, return it to the heat and re-melt, then try again.
- 4.5 oz of bittersweet chocolate chips or roughly chopped chocolate, the best you can afford
- 1/2 cup water
- Fill a large metal bowl with ice and cold water and set aside.
- Place the chopped chocolate and the water in a metal bowl. Bring a small pot of water to a simmer – the bowl should fit snugly on top of the pot without the bottom of the bowl touching the top of the water. Place the metal bowl over the simmering water and melt the chocolate, stirring continuously with a rubber spatula. The water should get incorporated into the chocolate as you stir. As soon as the chocolate mixture is smooth and fully melted, remove it from the heat. Place the bowl with the chocolate in the bowl with the ice water, and whisk the chocolate constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, until the chocolate has thickened slightly and the color has become a bit more pale.
- Divide the mousse into 2 wine glasses or ramekins and chill for at least 30 minutes, then serve.