4 ounces fine-quality milk chocolate, very finely chopped
1/2 ounce fine-quality unsweetened chocolate, very finely chopped
Few grains of salt
3 tbsp. hot water
1 tbsp. plus 1-1/2 tsp. sifted or strained confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Optional: 1 tsp. coffee OR orange liqueur OR light rum
1/2 cup heavy cream
Optional: lightly sweetened whipped cream
milk chocolate shavings or curls
Have ready 4 ramekins or other serving dishes of about one-half cup capacity (a little smaller is OK). Into refrigerator, place small mixing bowl and beater(s) from a handheld electric mixer. As an option, have ready a small pitcher or liquid measuring cup of about 2-cup capacity for ease in pouring out the mousse.
In small heatproof bowl, combine finely chopped chocolates and salt. Place over warm water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl); stir frequently until almost melted. Remove from heat and hot water; stir until melted and smooth. (Alternatively, chocolates and salt can be placed in small microwaveable bowl. Microwave at medium (50%) power for short intervals, stirring thoroughly after each, just until melted and smooth.)
To melted chocolate mixture, add hot water, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and optional alcohol. Stir or whisk well to blend. If mixture is not perfectly smooth, place in workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade; process in two “bursts” of about 10 seconds each, stopping between bursts to scrape down workbowl with rubber spatula. Turn chocolate mixture back into small bowl for ease in pouring.
Cool chocolate mixture to room temperature, stirring occasionally (this won’t take long, but it must be done; if the chocolate mixture is at all warm, it will deflate the whipped cream. Test the temperature on the inside of your wrist).
In small chilled bowl with chilled beater(s), beat heavy cream at high speed just until traces of beater marks show in the cream. Work quickly from now on. All at once, add cooled chocolate mixture to cream. Beat at a low speed for a few seconds to incorporate, then increase speed to high and beat just to soft peak stage. If the chocolate mixture is not fully incorporated into the cream, it’s OK. Stop beating, and fold the chocolate mixture gently into the cream with a rubber spatula until the mousse is an even color (be sure to fold up from the bottom, as the chocolate mixture likes to hide there). Check how the mousse is peaking; if it isn’t at soft peak stage anymore (this happens sometimes), beat at high speed just until it is. Do not overbeat, or mousse will have a curdled appearance. Still working quickly (the mousse will probably begin to set up as you’re working with it—OK), transfer the mousse to the optional pitcher, if desired. Portion it out among the ramekins. If it becomes too set to pour, use a spoon to scoop it into each ramekin. Level the top of the mousse in each ramekin, then chill.
Chill for at least two hours, covering tightly when cold. Serve topped with milk chocolate shavings or curls; if desired, for color contrast, top each ramekin with a spoonful of lightly sweetened whipped cream before adding the milk chocolate garnish.