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Chocolate Mousse for Anytime

If you feel like playing with flavors, you can add 2 tablespoons of any liqueur or extract (Grand Marnier, framboise, hazelnut extract) when you're whisking the cream and chocolate together. This recipe is very loosely adapted from Sherry Yard's Secrets of Baking (Houghton Mifflin 2003).

Makes 6 servings normally; makes 1 serving on a bad day

Equipment: 1 large bowl, 2 medium bowls, 1 small bowl, egg beater, whisk and large rubber spatula (if you have a stand mixer, you can use it instead of the egg beater and whisk)

8 to 10 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

1 pint heavy whipping cream

3 large eggs

2 tablespoons sugar

Place the chocolate chips in a large metal bowl. Measure out 1 cup (half a pint) of the heavy cream into a small saucepan (place the other half in the refrigerator while you work). Bring the cream just to a boil. Pour the hot heavy cream over the chocolate chips and let stand while you deal with the eggs.

Separate the eggs: Crack them firmly across the middle on the edge of a bowl. Pass the yolk back and forth between the eggshell halves, holding it back while you let the whites fall into a medium bowl. Try hard not to let any bits of yolk fall in your whites. They will keep it from foaming up properly. Place the yolks in a small bowl. Using your egg beater, beat the egg whites until frothy. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the sugar over the whites and continue beating until the whites form very soft peaks. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar over the whites and beat a bit more until the peaks hold their shape.

By now, the cream should have melted the chocolate chips. Whisk them together and add the yolks to form a smooth, heavy mixture.

Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture with your rubber spatula. Be sure you scrape the bottom of the bowl each time you fold. You don't have to get it perfectly uniform — some stripey-ness is OK.

Take the remaining 1 cup of cream out of the refrigerator and pour it in a medium bowl. Rinse your egg beater in cold water and beat the cream until it holds medium peaks. Take a generous dollop of the chocolate mixture with your spatula and mix it thoroughly with the whipped cream. Then fold the chocolate-ized whipped cream into the rest of the chocolate mixture, scraping the bottom of the bowl with each stroke.

Pour the mousse into a serving dish. Chill for an hour or more before serving.

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