Chocolate Mousse

Makes 6 servings
Time: 20 minutes, plus time to chill

Once thought of as the most elegant of desserts, this ultra-rich chocolate pudding is still a real winner. It's blazing quick to make - I've prepared it after dinner and still served it before my guests left - which I do early. Once the chocolate is melted, the cooking is over; the mousse just sits until it sets up. You can spike chocolate mousse with rum, coffee, or other flavorings, but I like it simple - it's the intensity of chocolate that makes it special.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 eggs, separated
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Use a double boiler or a small saucepan over low heat to melt the butter and chocolate together. Just before the chocolate finishes melting, remove it from the stove and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth.

2. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a bowl and beat in the egg yolks with a whisk. Refrigerate.

3. Beat the egg whites with half the sugar until they hold stiff peaks but are not dry. Set aside. Beat the cream with the remaining sugar and vanilla until it holds soft peaks.

4. Stir a couple of spoonfuls of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it a bit,then fold in the remaining whites thoroughly but gently. Fold in the cream and refrigerate until chilled. If you are in a hurry, divide the mousse among six cups; it will chill much faster. Serve within a day or two of making