Caramel mousse is a dessert variation on traditional chocolate mousse, which is usually a light, creamy, pudding-like mixture. Mousse is derived from a French word meaning froth, and is an apt description for the dessert, which tends to be a foamy cross between heavier cream desserts and meringue toppings used for pies. The caramel used in making caramel mousse is usually in thick liquid form as caramel syrup, as semi-soft actual caramels would weigh down the final product too much. Some caramel mousse, however, doesn't use caramel as an ingredient at all, and instead substitutes brown sugar and vanilla flavoring.
Preparing caramel mousse can be a relatively simple and quick process depending on the number of ingredients in the particular recipe used. Some recipes have no more than four ingredients, including a caramel flavoring of some sort, milk, double cream, and egg whites. The cream is usually whipped by hand until it thickens slightly, then the egg whites are folded in for more light whisking. The other ingredients are then mixed in and stirred until the mixture has a uniform consistency, and it is poured into serving dishes and refrigerated overnight.
Getting the flavor and color right for caramel mousse or any other caramel desserts depends on individual tastes. Some recipes call for caramel syrup, others for one or two semi-soft caramels that are melted and added to the mixture, or others even suggest chopping up a few popular chocolate candy bars with a caramel flavor. In fact, some caramel mousse recipes use chocolate, honey, or vanilla beans as the flavoring, and don't include caramel at all.
Baking mousse is also part of some recipes, where the sweetened ingredients such as sugars, honey, and vanilla are heated in a saucepan to turn the color to an amber mixture and increase its flavor. Some mousse is also baked in a conventional oven for about twenty minutes to give it more of a cake-like consistency. In this case, a portion of the recipe is kept out and refrigerated as creamy topping to cover it with later.
It is believed that chocolate mousse first originated in France in 1894 as a form of fish and vegetable dish. In the early 1900s, the French artist Toulouse Lautrec instead used chocolate, giving it the name of mayonnaise de chocolat. Due to its long history, it's no surprise that there are so many ways of preparing mousse, and so many new variations on the standard chocolate theme.