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Delia’s chocolate mousse could save you from therapy

Chocolate for dessert: what’s not to like? Chocolate: good. Puddings: good. Combine the two and you have the dessert of your dreams, whether it be brownies, trifle or cake.

Except the sad truth of most chocolate-based recipes is that the first mouthful is pure pleasure, the second mouthful is a little too sweet, and the third mouthful leaves you contemplating your inevitable descent into diabetes.

Happily, this is a problem Delia understands. Her first chocolate bars were birthday gifts in “the days of sweet rationing in the early years after the war”, and they taught her a valuable lesson: that chocolate is best enjoyed in small quantities. I had a similar experience, growing up in a household in which “pudding” was usually fruit or, occasionally, extra cucumber. This taught me to appreciate chocolate – something for which I am forever grateful.

Now that rationing is over and I am an adult, chocolate is freely available pretty much everywhere for both me and Delia. But there is a downside: to get the biggest return on their money, chocolate companies have brought the amount of cocoa in their bars down and increased the amount of sugar and sugar substitutes they use.

Chocolate – particularly chocolate for cooking – needs as much cocoa in it as possible, as the cooking process will dilute the flavour, Delia says. What you need is dark chocolate, and dark chocolate containing 75% cocoa solids or more.

Delia largely avoids the use of white chocolate – “not actually chocolate at all” in her view – and tends to use milk chocolate only for coating and topping. The result is, I think, a series of chocolate dishes that are delicious from the first mouthful to the last, and there is no better example than Delia’s very chocolatey mousse.

The first stage is simplicity itself. Delia devotes a full paragraph to the art of melting chocolate but, to be frank, if you struggle with putting bits of chocolate in a Pyrex bowl over a pan of boiling water, I don’t quite know how you could have been expected to make it all the way to the final third of How to Cook, at least not without more than one trip to A&E. That done, you add egg yolks before the trickier part: whisking the egg whites.

Readers may have forgotten my struggle to separate eggs into yolks and whites when making Delia’s meringues, but I certainly haven’t. It occupies a special place in the worst room of my memory, along with sports day, and almost every date I went on as a teenager. I can’t speak for others, but I’m certain that the sense of closure I got from successfully separating whites from yolks to make this mousse did me more good than I could have got out of decades of therapy. The trick, I am convinced, is to use fresh eggs and not to take unnecessary risks: a little white in the yolk never hurt anybody, a little yolk in the white is about as much use as a chocolate kettle, appropriately enough. Very gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mousse, then leave the resulting mixture to cool for two hours. It’s soft as a cloud, delicious. There’s just one problem: Delia’s recipe makes six servings, and I cannot get it to scale down to just two without losing its texture, though it works when reduced down to four just fine. Oh well. Clearly, I will have to settle for getting diabetes after all.

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