It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and you’re looking for that special dessert that will be fitting to the occasion and will impress your significant other. You’ve looked online and browsed the local bakeries but, while those desserts look so good, you also remembered that your sweetie is eating better in the new year and you’re supposed to be supporting that effort. So what to do? This vegan No-fail Chocolate Tofu Mousse is the simple yet decadent-tasting solution.
Tofu often gets a bad rap. It comes as a spongy, tasteless mass of white that almost quivers like Santa’s belly. Despite this unappetizing appearance, tofu is actually incredibly good for you, consisting of soybeans (protein), water, and a coagulant to form it into a block. In fact, this block of tofu is the first step to tofu cheese, but that’s for another time. Nearly every recipe begins by telling the cook to press the water out of the block, so why add it in the first place? That water is actually essential to the preservation of the tofu. If it were to dry out (and dried tofu is apparently a thing in China), the texture would change and it would go bad very quickly. If you’re going to store unused tofu, make sure you cover it with water. See the notes for my makeshift tofu press if you haven’t been able to get your hands on this nifty gadget (EZ Tofu Press) yet.
Let’s talk chocolate
Chocolate goes all the way back to the ancient Mayans, and even the Olmecs in southern Mexico before them, but rest assured you will not find ancient Hershey wrappers among the ruins. (Hopefully no new ones either–carry-in carry-out should be your motto as historic sites!) In fact, ancient chocolate was bitter, and was not the sweetened processed kind you see while in the grocery check-out line. The Mayans, in my opinion, did get a few things right: chocolate was accessible to everyone, not just the rich and famous; chocolate was part of nearly every meal in some form; and chocolate drinks were used both in celebrations and to finalize important transactions. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Let’s drink to that!”
In contrast, the Aztecs were only partially right. They believed that chocolate was a gift from their gods (of course), they used the cacao beans as money, and even considered it to be more valuable than gold (chocolate vs. sparkly things–hard to decide). For them, chocolate was available mostly to the wealthy, but to most everyone on special occasions like weddings. Supposedly Montezuma II consumed gallons of chocolate drinks every day as both an energy drink and an aphrodisiac (but how attractive could he have been with that many calories consumed each day?), and he gifted cacao beans to his troops as well, probably hoping to keep their strength up to be battle-ready.
Chocolate arrived in Europe via Spain in the 1500s, although the exact explorer who brought it back from South America is in question. Is the deed as incorrectly attributed to Christopher Columbus as the discovery of the Americas, the monks to gave it to Philip II along with some genuine Mayans, or Hernan Cortes, who learned about it from the Aztecs? No matter who deserves the credit, we certainly be thankful that the Spaniards took those beans, added cane sugar, cinnamon, and other spices, and shared this new food with the rest of Western Europe, albeit only for the wealthy.
It wasn’t until the 1600s that chocolate arrived in North America, served in the first chocolate house in Boston in 1682. Good thing those colonists didn’t throw it in the harbor as practice for the Boston Tea Party that was in their not-so-distant future. The 1800s saw the invention of the Dutch process, or powdered, cocoa, which was much easier to mix with water. Towards the end of the 17th century, a British chocolatier formed the first chocolate bar; not to be outcome, a Swiss chocolatier added dried milk powder, creating the milk chocolate bar. He, along with his friend Henri Nestle, created a new baby formula consisting of cow’s milk, sugar, and wheat flour–do not try this at home!
Today, chocolate choices abound…Nestle, Hershey, Mars, Cadbury, and any number of local and/or fair trade chocolates. Connecticut is home to Munson’s Chocolates, as well as the smaller Bridgewater Chocolate; Bridgewater has a storefront in West Hartford, easily accessed by both Chester and myself. The question of fair trade chocolates hit the media a number of years ago now; if you want to learn more about child slaves and chocolate, watch the documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate, directed by U. Roberto Romano.
Is this a pudding or a mousse?
Puddings are usually denser, often cooked on the stovetop, and frequently thickened with cornstarch. In my chia seed pudding recipe, the chia seeds stand in for cornstarch. Pudding can be served warm, at room temperature, or chilled. Mousse, on the other hand, is to be served chilled or even frozen. Mousse is typically lighter and fluffier, a texture created by folding in egg whites or whipped cream. However, in this recipe the lightness is achieved by incorporating air into the base by way of liberal use of your food processor. Pudding can have ingredients such as chips or nuts stirred in, but that would ruin the airy texture of your mousse. You won’t need them anyway–this mousse is rich enough all on its own.
So will your sweetie appreciate this sweet treat? Let’s see–high in protein, tastier than a mass-produced and pharmacy-purchased bar, aphrodisiac, and made with your own loving hands…how could this not be a winner? So whip this up in your food processor, spoon it into some pretty glass dishes, and top with a few raspberries and a sprig of mint to enhance the magic of romance.
Enjoy it whenever you like, be sure to let us know how you did in the comments below!
Chocolate Tofu Mousse
- 14 ounces firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened regular cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- Optional topping suggestions: fresh berries or toasted sliced almonds or mint
- Using your tofu press (see head notes) drain the tofu for 10 minutes. Don’t have a tofu press, see the notes below for an alternative method.
- In a food processor combine tofu, cocoa powder, sugar, and almond extract. Process for 4 minutes or until light and airy.
- Spoon into individual serving dishes and chill for 4 hours or up to overnight.
- Serve chilled plain or with optional toppings.
- To press the tofu without a tofu press, place block between two dinner plates and put a weight (I use a 6 pound dumbbell, but anything heavy will work) on top. Let sit for 10 minutes, or until no more liquid comes out.
- If you or your sweetie are allergic to nuts, skip the almond extract and substitute with 1 teaspoon of chocolate or vanilla extract, or 1/4 teaspoon peppermint flavor.
- For the berries,you can use raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, or strawberry. If you choose the strawberries, slice them from the bottom, leaving the leafy stem intact, and fan the slices out artfully.