This excellent and ancient chocolate mousse from Valencia may well date back to the first introduction of chocolate by the Spanish to Europe. It was probably made with cocoa for centuries until the Swiss discovered how to make tablets of chocolate edible. The inclusion of butter clearly shows it to be the ancestor of the myriad forms of marquise that featured so prominently on 1980s menus.
Break the chocolate into a mixing bowl and place in a suitably sized pan of water over a medium heat to melt. The bowl and pan should fit together quite snugly, but most importantly the pan must be deep enough to contain sufficient water without it making contact with the bowl. If the base of the bowl sits in the hot water, the chocolate will burn. When soft, turn the heat off but leave the chocolate bowl over the water. Now stir in the soft butter and the cocoa.
Beat the egg whites to a soft snow and set aside. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar for a few moments, until they begin to lighten in colour, then stir this mixture into the chocolate. Working quickly, give the whites a brief reviving whisk and fold the two assemblies together. The best way to do this is to take a spoon of the whites and mix it quickly into the chocolate. Still working with dispatch, transfer this to the bowl with the whites and fold in. Take care not to deflate the whites too much during this process.
Spoon into wine glasses and chill.
© 1999 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.