Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.
~Albert Einstein

So, tomorrow is Pi Day which will not happen again until 2115 — and the date also just so coincides with the birthday of Albert himself. Pi (the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet) represents a mathematical constant, namely the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter or approximately 3.14159265 (3.14 for short). The diameter of a circle is the distance from edge to edge, measuring straight through the center point, and the circumference is the distance around the circle. By measuring circular objects over time, it has always turned out that the distance around a circle is a tad more than 3x the width.

Ergo: pi equals the circumference divided by the diameter (π = c/d). Conversely, the circumference is equal to pi times the diameter (c = πd).

Being a constant number, pi applies to circles and spheres of any size. To Pi aficionados, this number has even been calculated to over a trillion digits beyond the decimal point, and this irrational number happens to continue infinitely without settling into a repeating pattern.

So, join this zany worldwide celebration of all mathematical enigmas by creating and relishing something round.

BLUEBERRY PIE (PI)

Dough (Pâte Fine Sucrée)
2 egg yolks
6 T ice water

2 1/2 C all purpose flour
1/4 t salt
3 T granulated white sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1″ bits

Filling
4 C fresh, plump blueberries
1/2 C granulated white sugar
1 T ground cinnamon
2 gratings fresh nutmeg
Small dash, vanilla extract
2 T cornstarch
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T lemon zest

Unsalted butter bits, chilled and cut into 1″ pieces

Egg Wash
1 fresh local egg, beaten with 1 T water

Gently whisk the yolk with the water until it is well blended.

Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10-15 seconds. Pour water and yolk mixture through the feed tube until the dough just holds together when pinched. If necessary, add more water. Do not process more than 30 seconds. Knead the dough for less than one minute and your work surface and then gather into a ball.

(Alternatively — place the flour, salt, and sugar in a round bowl and combine. Add the butter and work with your hands, mashing it through your fingers to have everything blend together. It will form into small lumps or a cornmeal like consistency after 1 or 2 minutes. Pour the yolk mixture into the round bowl and mix vigorously with your fingers until all the ingredients are assembled together into a round ball.)

Divide the dough in half, flattening each half into a thick round disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour before using. This will chill the butter and relax the gluten in the flour.

After chilling, unwrap and place one dough on a floured surface and sprinkle the top of the dough with flour too. Roll the pastry with light pressure, from the center out. To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, add some flour and keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll from the center of the pastry outwards. Turn the dough over once or twice during the rolling process until it is about 11″ in diameter and less than 1/4″ thick. Fold the dough in half and gently transfer to a 9″ pie pan by draping it over the rolling pin, then moving it onto the plate and unrolling it. Once in the plate, press the dough firmly into the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim the excess dough to about 1/2″ all around the dish, then tuck it under itself around the edge of the plate. Brush off any excess flour and trim the edges of the pastry to fit the pie pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.

Then, remove the second dough from the refrigerator and roll it into a 12″ circle (also think about a lattice top). Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

In a small round bowl mix together the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, cornstarch, lemon juice and zest. Place the blueberries in a large round bowl. Add the mixture to the blueberries and gently toss to combine.

Remove the crusts from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for a few minutes so they can become pliable. Carefully pour the blueberry filling into the chilled bottom pie crust. Strew the butter pieces over the blueberry filling. Moisten the edges of the pie shell with a little water and then place the top crust over the blueberries. Tuck any excess pastry under the bottom crust and then crimp or flute the edges using your fingers. Brush the top (or lattice) with the egg wash and cut slits from the center of the pie out towards the edge of the pie to allow steam to escape. You may wish to cover edge with 2″ strip of foil to prevent excessive browning. Cover the circular pie with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill while the oven is preheated.

Preheat the oven to 425 F

Place an oven rack at the lowest level and place a baking stone or sheet pan on the rack while it preheats.

Set the round pie on the baking stone or sheet pan lined with parchment paper or foil about 2/3 of the way down. Bake the pie for about 20 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Continue to bake the pie for about 35-45 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden brown color and the juices are bubbly and thick. If the edges of the pie are browning too much during baking, cover with foil.

Remove the round blueberry pie from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 2 or so hours before slicing. Resist cutting the pie immediately and then serve warm or at room temperature with round globes of vanilla ice cream.

Without further ado…

PROFITEROLES AU CHOCOLAT

2 ozs hazelnuts, roasted, raw and shelled

1 C cold water
1/4 lb unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/4 t sea salt
1 C all-purpose flour

4 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

1 C heavy whipping cream, chilled
1 t honey
Small pinch of ground cinnamon

1 qt vanilla bean ice cream

1 C bittersweet chocolate sauce, warm (see below)
Confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast until almost dark, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly, then use a clean towel to rub off skins, discarding them. Crush nut meats coarsely with a mortar and pestle, rolling pin or meat mallet and set aside.

To make the puffs, put water, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until mixture comes together and forms a sticky ball. Lower heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring, for a minute or more.

Transfer dough to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix at medium speed to cool dough slightly, then increase speed and begin to add 4 eggs, one at a time. Make sure each egg is fully incorporated into dough before adding the next. When all eggs have been added, scrape down sides of bowl and beat again until dough is smooth and glossy.

Line a pair of baking sheets with parchment paper, and put dough in a pastry bag or cut gallon ziploc bag to form mounds that are spaced evenly, 2 1/2″ in diameter (around 12 mounds per sheet). Brush each mound with the beaten egg, smoothing the tops with fingers. Bake for 10 minutes at 425 F, then reduce heat to 375 F and continue baking until puffs are nicely browned and crisp, about 25 minutes more. When done, the puffs should be light and airy inside. Cool to room temperature, preferably on a rack.

Meanwhile put cream and sugar in a chilled metal mixing bowl and whip to a soft, light consistency.

To assemble profiteroles, cut puffs in half transversely. Divide softly whipped cream on the bottom half of each puff, then a scoop of ice cream and replace the tops. Transfer filled pastries to chilled dessert plates or bowls.

Drizzle with warm chocolate sauce and sprinkle with reserved crushed hazelnuts. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve promptly.

Chocolate Sauce

1/3 C brown sugar
3/4 C heavy whipping cream
4 ozs bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao or so), chopped
2 T unsalted butter

2 T Grand Marnier or Cointreau

Place double boiler over medium heat and bring water to a simmer. Put sugar, cream, chocolate and butter in top part of double boiler. Let simmer, without stirring, for about 15 minutes, until cream is hot, sugar is dissolved and chocolate has completely melted.

Add Grand Marnier and whisk until glossy and smooth, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and keep warm.

America is my country and Paris is my hometown.
~Gertrude Stein

It may seem obvious from past ramblings that I am an unabashed francophile. So, given that yesterday was Bastille Day, allow me to regale some. Every year this month we should remember and embrace the many bonds between both the republics of America and France. (America should now be more accurately deemed an oligarchy.) Founded upon principles of liberty and equality and violent revolutions launched by a deep resentment and distrust of monarchies, these countries do have kindred origins. Unfortunately, in our age of microwave memory, bumper sticker rhetoric and historical ignorance, the shared admiration which should infuse our relationship is so often discarded. Rational discourse sometimes devolves into jingoist rant. Even given the many errors of both countries’ ways and the diplomatic tensions that have arisen, some mutual respect and affection should bathe both sides of the pond.

To some, France and America may seem improbable partners. But, before you go there consider:

French fur traders and explorers blazed territories on the continent never before seen by whites.

The Revolutionary War which granted sovereignty and independence to the colonies would have likely been lost if not for French financial support, military backing, and naval superiority at Yorktown.

Marquis de La Fayette, who served as major general in the Continental Army and negotiated an increase in French patronage, was considered the adoptive son of George Washington.

The first comprehensive sociological study of the American people was written by a French historian, Alexis de Tocqueville.

The French language, which was the tongue of the English court and the civilized world, has lent so many words and phrases to American English.

The states more than doubled in size with the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France.

The Statue of Liberty, other statues and urban design plans were courtesy of French artists and designers.

Millions of Americans are of French descent and many still embrace the culture and language.

Flocks of exuberant American writers, musicians, artists have studied and performed freely in France.

During both world wars, innumerable American and French soldiers and civilians perished side by side on French soil.

Each nation has brazenly borrowed, shared and mimicked the other’s cultures, cuisines, wines, music, art, architecture, styles, and clothing.

Far from a comprehensive list.

This is not to say that meaningful criticism is out of order. Face it—neither country has been beyond reproach. Over history, both France and America have engaged in rampant colonialism, have committed heinous judicial sins, have pursued political imperialism, and have displayed condescending and arrogant behavior. Both have invaded, dominated and subordinated, even enslaved, other peoples. Both have cruelly and shamefully imprisoned, tortured, maimed and killed in the vainglorious name of the state. Both have engaged in improvident, tragic wars. Neither have clean hands. France and America have shared in some disgraceful histories, and ordinary citizens have a duty to remind partisan politicians and biased press alike.

These are imperfect societies governed by imperfect, sometimes maladjusted, peoples. They are ongoing political and anthropological experiments. Our cultural similarities should be cherished and the dissimilarities should not just be accomodated, but nutured. Mutual respect and a sane, humble historical perspective should ever underly our differences…with ever vigilant eyes toward not repeating dark history.

Chauvinism under the guise of patrotism has no place at this table. Pots de crème, chilled champagne and good company do.

POTS DE CREME

3 ozs superior bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa), cut into small pieces

2 C heavy cream
1/2 C whole milk

5 egg yolks
1/4 C granulated sugar
Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 325 F

Melt the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl set over a heavy sauce pan with gently simmering water. When the chocolate is close to being melted, turn off the heat and let stand until completely melted.

Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, scald the cream and milk.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and salt until the sugar is completely dissolved. Very slowly whisk the hot cream mixture into the yolks so that the eggs do not cook.

Pour the hot cream mixture through a fine mesh strainer into the melted chocolate. Whisk until fully incorporated and smooth.

Divide chocolate custard among 6 small ramekins. Line the bottom of a baking pan with a folded kitchen towel and arrange filled ramekins on towel. Pour in hot water to the halfway level on the ramekins. Cover with foil and bake in the hot water bath (bain marie), until custards are set around edges but still slightly wobbly in the center, 30 to 35 minutes.

Carefully remove the ramekins from the bain marie, and allow to cool to room temperature. Then, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours. Serve with a dollop of hazelnut whipped cream and a glass of bubbly.

Crème de Noisettes (Hazelnut Whipped Cream)

3 T hazelnuts
2 C heavy whipping cream
1 vanilla bean split, seeds scraped out
2 T sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F

Toast hazelnuts until brown, about 20 minutes. When the nuts are cool, rub them in your hands to release the papery skins. Chop them in a cook’s knife or pulse in the food processor fitted with the steel knife until finely ground.

In a small saucepan, bring cream just to the boil. Turn off the heat and add the nuts. Cover, and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and chill overnight.

The next day, pour the cream through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk. Using the back of a wooden spoon, press on the nuts to push out the cream. Whip with vanilla and sugar until soft peaks form.

An icon born of error.

Filial fare. Word has it that two sisters, Caroline (b. 1847) and Stéphanie Tatin (b. 1838), created this simple, to die for, Belle Époque tarte. They lived in Lamotte-Beuvron, a small rural town in the Loire Valley where they managed l’Hôtel Tatin. Lamotte-Beuvron is located in the forested hunting region known as the Sologne, about 100 miles from Paris.

The elder sister, Stéphanie a/k/a Fanny, manned the hotel kitchen…an exquisite cook but not the brightest bulb in the room. Locals, such as Claude Monet, made a point to spend Sunday afternoons savoring long, leisurely lunches there.

Stéphanie’s specialty was a luscious apple tarte, served ever so crusty and caramelized. One midday, while mired in the weeds during the hectic hunting season, Stéphanie started to make her usual apple tarte but in haste left the apples cooking in butter and sugar, forgetting to line the pan with crust. Time not being her ally, she decided not to begin the tarte anew. So, she tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry on top of the apples, and finished the tarte in the oven with the pastry and apples reversed. She then inverted the pan and served up the new fangled tarte renversée to guests who, to her surprise, purred nothing but formidables. Soon, it became a signature house dish and was later dubbed la tarte des demoiselles Tatin.

The tarte did not rise to gastronomic prominence until the epicure Curnonsky included it in a volume of La France Gastronomique dedicated to l’Orléannais, the region around Orléans that encompasses Lamotte-Beuvron. In the late 1930s, the rustic tarte’s celebrity rose to new heights when it appeared on the menu of Maxim’s, the famed Parisian restaurant.

Now, a global culinary darling: The tarte of two unmarried women named Tatin, or Tarte Tatin.

LA TARTE TATIN

Pastry Dough (Pâte Brisée Fine)
1 C all purpose flour
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small bits
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 t granulated sugar
1/3 C+ ice water

Briefly mix the flour, butter, salt and sugar in a bowl with your fingers. The pieces of butter should still be visible. Add the water, roll the mixture into a ball and knead for a minute or so. Do not overknead—the dough should have body and be pliable, but not too elastic and dry. Wrap well in plastic and let dough rest in refrigerator for one hour before rolling.

Tarte
5 to 6 Golden Delicious apples, quartered, cored and peeled
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Juice on 1 lemon
1 1/2 C sugar
1 vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped
6 T unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces

Pastry dough

Preheat oven to 425 F

Cut the apple quarters in half lengthwise. Toss in a bowl with the lemon and 1/2 cup of sugar. Allow to steep until they exude their juices, about 20 minutes. Drain.

Melt the butter in a 10″ heavy-high-rimmed-non-stick-oven-proof pan over moderately high heat. Blend in the vanilla bean and remaining 1 cup sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon for several minutes, until the syrup turns a caramel hue. It will smooth out later, when the apples juices dissolve the sugar.

Remove from heat and arrange a layer of apple slices nicely in the bottom of the pan. Flare the apples slices in closely packed circles around the circumference of the pan, filling in the middle. Add enough apples to heap up 1″ higher than the rim of the pan. They sink down as they cook.

Set the pan again over moderately high heat, pressing the apples down with a wooden spatula as they soften. Draw the accumulated juices over the apples with a bulb baster. When the apples begin to soften, cover the pan and continue cooking 10-15 minutes, checking and basting frequently until the juices are thick and syrupy. Remove from heat.

Roll the chilled dough to 1/8″ thick and a circle with a diameter 1″ larger than the top of the pan. Fold the dough in half, then in quarters and center over the apples. Then, unfold the dough over the apples. Press the edges of the dough down between the apples and the inside of the pan. Cut a few steam escape holes from around the center of the dough.

Bake until the pastry has browned and crisped, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and tilt the pan. If the juices are runny rather than a thick syrup, boil down rapidly on top on the stove, but not to the point that the apples stick to the pan.

Place a serving platter upside down on top of the pastry and carefully flip the platter and the pan over, allowing the tart to fall gently out of the pan.

Serve warm, with whipped cream, ice cream or sweetened mascarpone.

Pourboire: Tarte Tatin can be made with other fruits, such as pears or quince. As you may imagine, savory versions exist too. A medley of wild mushrooms and herbs?

I feel the end approaching. Quick, bring me my dessert, coffee and liqueur.
~Jean-Antheleme Brillat-Savarin’s
great aunt Pierette

No, this is not a delusion…just another ladleful of ignorance added to the broth.

As the nation’s second largest textbook market, Texas has enormous leverage over publishers, who often craft their standard textbooks based on buyers’ specs. So, when it comes to the very books which teach the basics to our children, what happens in Texas rarely stays in Texas…to the chagrin of genuine academia and our children’s children. Driven by a paranoid, chauvinistic mindset that has been advanced as gospel truth, in three short days of turbulent yet less than intellectually honest meetings, the Texas Board of Education simply removed Thomas Jefferson from the curriculum. Off the bench, they replaced him in the lineup with a couple of religious icons: a Siclian, St. Thomas Aquinas and a Frenchman, John Calvin. How quickly theological tenets can become widely peddled as ipse dixit school books.

Summarily guillotining the scrivener of the Declaration of Independence from the horizons of our history? According to these pious Texans, Jefferson’s heinous sin was that (along with other Founding Fathers) he was committed to a purely secular government. Even his onetime adversary, and later pen pal, John Adams is twisting in his grave at such wretched illiteracy. Hopefully, the board members comprehend this severe blow to students across the land—inevitably leading to a lack of a common notion of reality among youth. Shame to those zealots who added to the stoning of President Jefferson.

Something sweet is needed to assuage such bitterness.

Translated as “pick me up” or “pull me up,” tiramisù has recent culinary origins, i.e., during my children’s generation. This only makes sense as my daughter is openly smittten by this creamy-coffee-liqueur-chocolate-finger caked ambrosia. Heaven in a spoon — or in a darker calvinist vein, a sinful indulgence demanding redemption, salvation, absolution and all that brimstony blah-blah-blah.

Buon appetito, mia figlia

TIRAMISU

1/2 C strong espresso
1/4 C coffee liqueur
3.5 ozs bittersweet chocolate, grated
3 T cocoa powder
1/2 C light brown sugar

3 large egg whites

3 large egg yolks
1/4 C sugar
1 t high quality vanilla extract
3 C mascarpone

30 small savoiardi (Italian ladyfingers)

Bittersweet chocolate, shaved (for topping)

Mix the coffee, coffee liqueur, bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder and light brown sugar together and set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff and glossy peaks with a hand whisk or an electric mixer fitted with a whisk and set aside.

With a whisk or in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat egg yolks, sugar and vanilla until mixture is pale and thick and forms ribbons. Slowly fold the mascarpone into the egg yolk mixture. Then, with a spatula fold in the egg whites into the marscarpone mixture, and set aside.

In a long, shallow bowl, quickly dip the savoiardi in the espresso, coffee liqueur, bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder and brown sugar mixture. Do not drench the ladyfingers, or they will self destruct as you arrange them. Arrange them on the bottom in one layer in a 9″ x 9″ x 3″ rectangular or oval dish and sprinkle with grated chocolate. Stand the savoiardi standing on end around the dish. As necessary, shorten the ladyfingers to fill the spaces. Pour half the mascarpone mixture over and spread evenly. Repeat the layers of dipped ladyfingers, mascarpone mixture and grated chocolate.

Lightly smooth the top with mascarpone mixture and strew with shaved bittersweet chocolate.

Serve immediately at room temperature or refrigerate and serve chilled.

When we lose twenty pounds… we may be losing the twenty best pounds we have. We may be losing the pounds that contain our genius, our humanity, our love and honesty.
~Woody Allen

For those who may have embarked on a fad diet recently, here are two sweet and sound incentives why not to. But, if you do remain tried and true, if you do carry through…once you are ready to regain your senses, avoid buying processed, jarred butterscotch or chocolate sauces. The real deals only take a few minutes and are well worth the brief wait. Over ice cream, fruit, bread pudding, pound cake, together or apart. It’s all good.

BUTTERSCOTCH SAUCE

4 T unsalted butter
1 C packed dark brown sugar

3/4 C heavy whipping cream

1 T vanilla extract
1 t sea salt

Have ingredients mis en place and already measured.

In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, melt butter over low to medium heat. Just before butter is melted, add all dark brown sugar at once and stir well with wooden spoon until sugar is uniformly wet.

Stir infrequently until mixture transforms from sandy to smooth, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the cream, lower heat and whisk vigorously with a wire whisk. When mixture is uniform, turn heat back to medium and whisk every few minutes for about 10 minutes. Turn heat off and let rest for a minute or so and then before transferring into an ovenproof glass bowl. Cool to room temperature.

Whisk in half the salt and vanilla. Taste and, if necessary, add more salt and vanilla to taste.

CHOCOLATE SAUCE

3.5 oz fine quality bittersweet chocolate (70%-85% cocoa), chopped
1 T light brown sugar

3/4 C heavy cream

In a bain marie over simmering water, combine the chopped chocolate and the brown sugar, allow the mixture to melt and dissolve, whisking occasionally. Slowly add the cream, whisking more until a velvety texture is created.

…the taste of chocolate is a sensual pleasure in itself, existing in the same world as sex….For myself, I can enjoy the wicked pleasure of chocolate…entirely by myself. Furtiveness makes it better.
~Dr. Ruth Westheimer

Some misled foodies have asserted that mouse au chocolat has become hackneyed, banal, and instead opt for the more eccentric desserts on a menu. Check error on their box scores. This lustrous, chocolate-intense dessert has never become trite to me. No way, no how. We are talking chocolate.

Chocolate is made from the seeds of the tropical cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, named by the famed 17th century Swedish naturalist, Linnaeus who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature. Translated from the Greek theobroma, “food of the gods,” they are small, understory trees that demand rich, adequately drained soil and bear small white beans. These environmentally particular trees only grow within about 15 degrees of either side of the equator.

Most things sensual reside in the recesses of our gray matter. Because of chocolate’s reputation as a subtle aphrodisiac, the renowned Italian libertine, Giacomo Casanova, ate chocolate before bedding his many mistresses. Centuries later, a study of Harvard graduates showed that chocolate consumers lived longer than abstainers. Their longevity may be explained by the high polyphenol levels in chocolate which reduce the oxidation of low density lipoproteins and thus reduce the risk of heart disease and even cancer. So, the antioxidants produced by chocolate purportedly increase HDL (“good”) cholesteral levels, and release polyphenols which are a form of antioxidant. Chocolate is also rich in flavonoids, a compound shown to promote several beneficial effects in the cardiovascular system, including decreasing oxidation of LDL cholesterol (a harmful process that allows cholesterol to accumulate in blood vessels); inhibiting aggregation of blood platelets (which contributes to the risk of blood clots that produce stroke and heart attack); and decreasing the body’s inflammatory immune responses (which contribute to atherosclerosis).

Chocolate has also been described as a “psychoactive” food. It affects the brain by causing the release of particular neurotransmitters which are molecules that send signals between neurons.

Some trials have even suggested chocolate consumption may subtly enhance cognitive performance, increasing scores for verbal and visual memory. Eating chocolate also increases endorphin levels, lessening pain and decreasing stress. To go a step further, a chemical found in chocolate, trytophan, causes the release of serotonin which serves as an antidepressant. The ultimate comfort food?

Chocolate has a distinct tendency to absorb surrounding odors, so take care to store it well covered or sealed. Otherwise you will taste a mousse which is flavored with its disaffected food neighbors.

MOUSSE AU CHOCOLAT

8 oz high quality bittersweet chocolate (85% cocoa), coarsely chopped
1/4 C strong coffee

6 T unsalted butter, softened
4 large egg yolks

4 large egg whites
6 T confectioners’ sugar

2 C heavy cream, chilled
1 t vanilla extract

Melt chocolate and coffee in a double boiler over a pan of simmering water, stirring frequently. Beat the softened butter into the the melted chocolate, and then, one at a time, whisk in the egg yolks until thoroughly blended.

Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. While beating, stir in the sugar by tablespoonfuls. Beat them until shining and stiff peaks are formed. Fold the chocolate mixture and egg whites together.

Beat the cream and vanilla in a chilled bowl until stiff peaks form, and then gently fold into the chocolate, butter and egg mixture with a rubber spatula. Do not overmix, but make sure that the mixture is well blended and that white streaks have disappeared.

Spoon mousse into stemmed glasses, ramekins or a serving bowl and chill, covered, at least 8 hours. Serve atop crème anglaise or topped with freshly whipped cream.