Chocolate and Tahini Date Mousse

Julia Child’s recipes continue to inspire me. Chocolate mousse was one of Julia’s favorite desserts. Her version is the real deal, with egg yolks going into the base and the whites whipped separately to add the airy texture. These days, for convenience or out of concern for lightly cooked eggs, most mousses are made with whipped cream folded in to add the richness missing from eggs. For a more contemporary take, I’ve adapted Julia’s recipe to create a layered dessert that combines rich chocolate mousse with a lighter complement of date-sweetened tahini mousse.
-Leslie Mackie

Printable PDF of this recipe here.

Makes 4 servings (6 oz cups) 

½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp espresso or strong coffee
12 Tbsp unsalted butter (1½ sticks), room temperature, divided
5 Medjool dates, pitted, divided
½ cup warm water, divided
¼ cup tahini
4 eggs, separated
¾ cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar, divided
Pinch salt
¼ cup orange liquor (Grand Marnier, triple sec or Cointreau; or substitute 2 Tbsp water + 2 Tbsp vanilla extract)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
½ cup heavy cream

Create a double boiler by filling a saucepan with 2 inches of water and bringing it to a simmer, then placing a medium heat-proof bowl over the saucepan (it shouldn’t touch the water). Place the chocolate chips and espresso in the bowl. As the chocolate melts, stir it occasionally to prevent scorching. Once the chocolate is smooth, remove the bowl and add 6 Tbsp of butter, bit by bit. Whisk after each addition until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

Coarsely chop 4 dates. Place them in a bowl and cover with ¼ cup of warm water. Allow them to soften for 5 minutes, then drain and place in a food processor. Add the tahini and remaining ¼ cup of water. Blend to make a smooth paste. Use a spatula to scrape the paste into a medium heat-proof bowl. Set it on top of your saucepan of simmering water. Warm the paste and add the remaining butter, a little at a time, whisking to blend thoroughly. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment and whip until frothy. Add 1 Tbsp of the sugar and a pinch of salt. Whip to medium-firm peaks. Transfer to another bowl and set aside.

Place the egg yolks, ¾ cup of sugar and the orange liquor into the stand mixer bowl (make sure it’s cleaned from the previous step). Combine the ingredients well. Set the stand mixer bowl over the double boiler (water should still be simmering), whisk the egg mixture constantly, warming the eggs to 120°F (use an instant read thermometer). The eggs will become frothy in about 1 to 2 minutes. Do not let the eggs cook completely or scramble.

Remove the warmed egg mixture and fit the bowl back into the stand mixer. With a whisk attachment, mix at medium speed for 2 to 4 minutes to cool and aerate the egg mixture. The mixture will become lighter in color and texture.

In two additions, divide the egg mixture equally between the chocolate and tahini bowls. After each addition, gently fold to incorporate.

Use the same procedure (two additions each) to fold the whipped egg whites into the chocolate and tahini bowls. Be patient and fold delicately—to create mousse, you want to entirely dissolve the whites into the mixture without deflating the texture.

Divide the chocolate mousse between your four cups, then top each with the tahini mousse. If you’re using 6 oz cups, they should be filled to the brim. Chill for 4 hours.

Sprinkle half the top with cocoa powder and the other half with sesame seeds. Whip the heavy cream and remaining 1 Tbsp sugar by hand until it has soft peaks. Right before serving, top each glass with a dollop of the whipped cream and a slice of the remaining date. Edible flowers add a beautiful touch.

The mousse will keep for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. Enjoy!