Coincidentally, one of the first recipes we both made by ourselves as children was mousse – chocolate mousse, of course. Half a country apart and twenty-ish years before we met, we both chose this as the dessert we’d “wow” our families with. It was the 1980’s, and everyone was trying to be a little bit more high-falutin’ than they actually were. Let’s blame Joan Collins and Robin Leach.
Being too fancy for your pants isn’t normally a behavior we condone. But when it comes to food, we think it’s good to reach for the etoiles sometimes. The best part about mousses, however, is that they’re far simpler than their french name suggests. “Mousse” is just the french word for foam. Pretty much anything whipped into a foamy froth can be called a mousse.
Mousse is one of those desserts that’s easy to make for last minute dinner parties. As long as you have eggs, cream, and some sort of flavoring, you’ve got the makings for mousse. We recently made this Tart Cherry Almond Mousse using fruit we had frozen from last summer. But no worries, if you don’t have tart cherries, most any sort of berry will work. (but lessen the sugar for sweeter berries.) Strawberry is probably the most traditional mousse after chocolate. But raspberries, sweet cherries or blueberries would work just as well.
Savory mousses are also great as first courses. But they’re almost too fancy for us. Maybe we’ll try them for a brunch one day. When Linda Evans drops by.
Follow along with these step-by-step photos. (Full recipe at bottom of post.)
First, think of mousse as three parts, folded together at the end: whipped egg white, whipped cream, and whatever will be the flavor. In this case, it’s tart cherries. For any fruit mousse, you want to cook down the fruit with sugar to release all its juices.
Next, we pureed the cherries. Perhaps the most important part of a mousse is its creamy light texture, so if you’re using any kind of fruit with small seeds, you’ll need to strain it at this point. Gotta be totally smooth. Like you.
When making a fruit mousse, as opposed to a chocolate mousse, you’ll need to add something to thicken and emulsify the fruit puree slightly. Otherwise the juice will settle out after standing. Egg yolks are a great choice, since you already need egg whites for a later step. After adding the egg yolks to the fruit puree, it needs to be brought back up to a simmer until thickened. Like a really thin custard.
After the fruit and yolks have thickened and cooled (very important that it’s chilled completely,) it’s time for the final steps. Beat the egg whites until stiff.
Next, whip the heavy cream. This is when we add any second flavoring…like the almond extract. Or vanilla. Or a liqueur.
Next, fold the beaten egg whites into the chilled fruit puree. And we mean fold. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. All the steps from here on out need to be done by hand. No mixer…anything mechanical will beat all of the air out of the mousse. Then you’ll just have soup.
See how it’s kept it’s volume?
Now fold in the whipped cream. Gently. Gently. Oh yeah…save a little bit of that whipped cream to use as a topping.
Once combined, spoon the mixture directly into your serving dishes and chill. (Be sure to cover with plastic wrap to keep the surface from becoming rubbery. Add the whipped cream at the very last second.
Prep time: 40 Min
Cook time: 5 Min
Total time: 45 Min
- 2 ½ cups pitted tart cherries (can substitute sweet cherries or other berries if sugar lessened by ¼)
- 1 cup sugar
- zest & juice of one lemon
- ½ tsp. salt
- 3 eggs, separated into yolks and whites
- 2 teaspoons almond extract
- 1 ¼ cup heavy cream
Add cherries, sugar, salt, lemon juice and zest to medium saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for three minutes. Allow to cool slightly. Pour mixture into blender and puree on high for three minutes until very smooth.
Pour mixture back into saucepan, add yolks, and whisk until smooth. Simmer over low heat until mixture is slightly thickened, whisking occasionally, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and chill mixture in refrigerator for at least one hour.
Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold them gently into chilled fruit puree mixture until just combined.
Add almond extract to cream and whip until stiff peaks form. Gently fold cream mixture into egg white and fruit mixture, reserving approximately ¼ cup for garnish.
Spoon mixture into serving cups, cover with plastic wrap and keep chilled until serving. May be made up to one day ahead.