The weather this past week has left me wishing I chose to go to a school near the desert (not dessert). I’m not one to excessively complain about the weather. I like storms, and I have a very functional rain jacket, but never would I choose to spend my days in a place where it rains all the time.

Over winter break I travelled to Costa Rica with one of my buddies, and a large portion of our trip took place in the rainforest (the irony). When I was packing, I thought I should probably throw a rain jacket in my bag, but little did I know what it really meant.

Coming from the Midwest, hearing the word rainforest equates to some picturesque image of cool flowers, colorful frogs and ants crawling on the forest floor. The sun peeks its way through the canopy and a monkey swings from one branch to the next.

Wrong. Very wrong. Very very wrong.

It rains all the time. The animals are smart and hide when it’s raining. When you think you’re safe, another band of weather rolls through and all your hopes and dreams are instantly crushed. My buddy and I, without raincoats, found ourselves at the top of a mountain when one such band of weather rolled through.

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The nice afternoon quickly turned into torrential downpour as we had to slide down in the mud to reach the bottom of the trail. Not fun. I was so cold and miserable, even after showering, that at dinner I had to order a hot chocolate at a dive bar. The waitress was astonished I was not ordering a beer or tequila shot, and the bar didn’t have any hot chocolate. But all my troubles were alleviated when she brought me a steaming hot cup of warm milk prepared with raw cane sugar juice (agua dulce).

Hopefully, the following dessert recipe will give you sweet relief from the rain, as that cup of agua dulce gave me.

Forewarning: I am not a baker. I can make frozen cookies, but you will not find a recipe for bread, cake or most other baked goods in this column. Sorry, not sorry. You can visit our other weekly column, Get Baked, for those needs.

Dark chocolate mousse with whipped cream and strawberries

This is an easy dessert to make. It can be made in advance, tastes awesome and always impresses whoever you are dining with. Note: You need electric beaters to do this unless you are extremely skilled in the art of hand whipping liquids.

Ingredients for four:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

3 large egg whites (search how to separate the yolks if you don’t know how)

1 1/2 tablespoon white sugar

6 ounces solid baker’s chocolate, chopped (do not use chocolate chips)

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 strawberries, washed and halved

Directions:

Fill your medium pot with water, approximately 1/3 full. Heat on medium heat. Place your chopped chocolate in a small glass, ceramic or metal bowl and put the bowl on top of the pot. For more detailed setup instructions, search “double boiler” on Google. Essentially, it slowly steams the bowl with the chocolate in it, so it won’t burn or cause separation of the chocolate. You don’t have to constantly stir it, but just make sure the water is not vigorously boiling.

In another bowl, beat 2 cups of the cream until soft peaks form. Do not over beat — you will make butter. Set aside.

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In another bowl, beat the egg whites while gradually adding the sugar, until soft peaks form. Again, do not over beat the eggs. Set aside.

Once the chocolate is melted, fold in the egg whites with a spatula. Be gentle, though, as you do not want the airy structure to collapse. Once the egg whites are fully incorporated, fold in 3/4 of the whipped cream and the vanilla. The rest of the whipped cream will go on top.

Portion the mousse into four servings, cover with plastic wrap and let it set for 1 to 2 hours before serving, or store for up to one day in advance. Place a dollop of whipped cream on top, and nicely position two half strawberries for presentation.

Voila!

As always, let me know if you have any questions, comments or suggestions at [email protected].

That is all for now,
Chef Sogs