On the History of Chocolate Mousse

Reader Cora wants to know when chocolate mousse first showed up on the culinary stage. I’m not sure to be honest. However I do know that mousses have been with us since the eighteenth century (or the Century of Foams, as I like to think of it). That was the period when court chefs around Europe, especially in France, discovered the frothing power of eggs — and went wild with it. Those people made foams out of everything: vegetables, meats, fish, you name it.

When did chocolate mousse finally appear? That’s a difficult question to answer. The first American printed reference to chocolate mousse dates to 1892 as far as I know. How much further back it goes in the French record I have no idea. (Hint, hint).

6 thoughts on “On the History of Chocolate Mousse”

  1. I don’t know French, but Antoine Beauvilliers wrote “The Art of French Cookery” which contains a reference to chocolate mousse; the reference in the (wikipedia date: 1825) translation of the (wikipedia date: 1814) book is here.

    Interestingly, the 1887 book “Miss Parloa’s Kitchen Companion” (which also contains a recipe for chocolate mousse, basically a frozen chocolate whipped cream) states “Remember that a mousse is not good unless it be properly frozen”, which may imply some crossover between ice cream and mousse categories?

    Hope the hunt goes well!

    1. Excellent, MC! Thanks for coming to my rescue on this. But to your point, given how many variations there are in the world of creams (you can find half a dozen very differnt forumulations of basic pastry cream without much effort) it’very easy to imagine all the non-standard ice cream recipes there’ve been over the years. To this day chocolate mousse is served refrigerated. That it was once routinely frozen, and hard to differentiate from a churned ice cream, is easy to imagine.

      Thanks so much!

      – Joe

  2. Frozen mousse is one of my favourite things. Basically a mixture of beaten egg yolks and sugar with flavouring (like lemon juice and grated zest) added, beaten egg whites and sugar, and whipped cream, all folded together then frozen. My sister in law makes one with alcohol added to the yolks and lots of dried fruit incorporated at the folding stage.
    I’m guessing that in America the raw eggs involved would be off-putting to many.

    1. Hey there!

      Pate a bombe is raw egg yolks, so no, I don’t think so. As long as the mixture is quite sugary there’s really nothing wrong with raw eggs, and most folks over here realize that. We do love ’em…we just need to be careful of ’em!

      – Joe

  3. Did somebody say… eighteenth century? Sounds like a job for….Research Man! (Let me just wedge myself into this skin-tight costume.)

    OK. (Whew…)

    It helps to know that in the seventeenth century, when chocolate first became popular in Europe, a standard piece of equipment for your chocolate maker was a “moulinet” (little mill) :

    http://books.google.com/books?id=-iqbWeHH-_kC&pg=PA271&dq=mousse+chocolat&hl=en&sa=X&ei=16ixT9HpJubkiALR5rmxBA&ved=0CEoQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false

    which looked like a stick with an indented ovaloid on the end and was inserted in the top of the chocolate maker (which can thus be distinguished in old images from a tea pot or a coffee pot). This was used to whip the chocolate to make it foam. (Blegny’s 1687 article here points out the Aztecs’ use of corn flour made theirs foam more easily.)

    At some point, people began to add eggs to the chocolate to make it foam better. Lemery (who mainly wrote about pharmaceuticals) mentions this (along with the fact that chocolate in other countries was then made with pepper and ginger, which was not to French taste):
    http://books.google.com/books?id=iheNs4iv-nIC&pg=PA192&dq=mousse+chocolat&hl=en&sa=X&ei=16ixT9HpJubkiALR5rmxBA&ved=0CHwQ6AEwCw#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Very soon after, it appears that some people began to prefer the foam – “mousse” or “ecume” in French – to the chocolate itself, even if they still made the drink to get it:
    http://books.google.com/books?id=seRaAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA240&dq=mousse+chocolat&hl=en&sa=X&ei=16ixT9HpJubkiALR5rmxBA&ved=0CNgBEOgBMBo#v=onepage&q=mousse%20chocolat&f=false

    By 1755 Menon was giving several recipes for mousses, all of which were to be subsequently put in a special recipient with ice in the bottom. After coffee mouse, he describes:

    Chocolate mousse [foam]. It is made in the same way by melting six tablets of chocolate on hot coals with a little cream and mixing them well after with as many egg yolks, cream and sugar.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=dTI7AAAAcAAJ&pg=PA302&dq=mousse+chocolat&hl=en&sa=X&ei=nqyxT6DcMKaniQLsrZnkBQ&ved=0CM4BEOgBMBg#v=onepage&q&f=false

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