Meyer lemon, rosemary, black pepper mousse & chocolate-dipped ginger shortbread

Meyer lemon mousse & ginger shortbread cookie

When I was 12 or 13, my friend and I made dinner for our parents. The whole meal – cordials, a main course, dessert. Our parents gave us complete freedom in the kitchen, and bravely agreed to eat whatever we set in front of them. I think I had just stopped eating meat at the time, but apparently I wasn’t averse to cooking it for others, because we boiled a whole chicken with copious amounts of dried thyme. (The smell of dried thyme still makes me think of that day!) We boiled a whole chicken! I can’t claim to know how to cook chicken, to be honest, but that just doesn’t sound right! We made little cordials with (our parents’) brandy and crushed blackberries. I’d drink that in real life! And for dessert we combined whipped cream, lemon juice and sugar, and then we froze it. That’s right, we made lemon ice cream. I made a meyer lemon mousse, yesterday, and the whole process reminded me of that day.

I like anything that combines lemon and cream. It’s such an unlikely combination – surely the cream should curdle! But no, it’s like magic! It all stays together, and the tartness of the lemon is such a nice contrast to the, um, the creaminess of the cream. As you may recall, I was very excited the other day to have discovered a method of making non-chocolate mousse without gelatin. The secret was pastry cream, my new best friend – so satisfying to make, so fail-proof, so thick and creamy when it’s done. Is this really the same substance that I found kinda gross in cream donuts all these years? Could it be? I infused the pastry cream with a couple of rosemary branches…I think I may have been inspired by a recipe for rosemary apple ice cream that Liz kindly left in the comments! And I added black pepper, for a little kick. I’ve made bread with rosemary, lemon and black pepper, and I like the fact that all three ingredients comfortably straddle the sweet/savory divide. They’ve taken a little leap over to the sweet side, in this dish! The rosemary is quite subtle, because I didn’t leave any actual bits of rosemary in. Maybe next time! And now we’re wondering, here at the test kitchens of The Ordinary, when a mousse is actually a mousse. This was thick, it was creamy, it was light, and it was delicious. It wasn’t exactly frothy or airy, though. Need it be, to be a mousse? Is it a pudding? A custard? Questions to be set before the creamy dessert division of The Ordinary.

Lemon syrup

The cookies are thin, crispy ginger shortbread rounds, coated in bittersweet chocolate. I made a ginger shortbread crust for a tart the other day, and I’ve been determined to try it in cookie form ever since. Very nice dipped in coffee, very nice dipped in meyer lemon mousse!

Here’s Gene Krupa with Lemon Drop

THE MOUSSE
5 meyer lemons
3 T sugar

1 1/2 cups milk
2 sprigs of rosemary
1/2 t (or to taste) ground black pepper
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 T flour
pinch salt
t vanilla
2 T butter

8 oz heavy cream, whipped till quite stiff

Squeeze the lemons into a small saucepan – you should have just over a quarter cup. Add the sugar and the zest of two of the lemons. Stir till the sugar melts, and then bring to a gentle boil. Cook for about ten minutes, till it’s thick and syrupy and reduced by about half. Pour it into a bowl and set it aside. Mine got quite thick, but it will soften up again when it meets the warm pastry cream.

Put the milk in a saucepan with 1/3 cup of the sugar and the rosemary and pepper. Warm till just simmering, then turn off heat and let it sit for about an hour. Remove the sprigs of rosemary.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, flour, vanilla and remaining sugar. Return the milk to medium heat, and when it has small bubbles all over it, pour about half of it into the egg mixture in a thin stream, whisking continuously. When the milk is incorporated, return all of it to the saucepan. Whisk whisk whisk, till it boils (a few minutes) then keep whisking till it thickens (a few more minutes). When it’s done, it will pull away from the bottom of the pan in patches, when you tilt the pan.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and the lemony syrup. Transfer to a cool bowl. Cover with foil or plastic (touching the surface to avoid a skin) and leave in the fridge to chill.

When it’s nice and chilly, fold in the whipped cream.

THE COOKIES

1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
1 t ginger
6 T cold butter cut into small pieces
a couple tablespoons of water

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix the flour, sugar, salt and ginger together in a large bowl. Add the butter and vanilla, and work with your hands till you have a coarse crumby consistency. Add a couple of tablespoons of water – as little as you need to make it into a workable dough. The heat from your hands will help bring it all together.

Let it chill while you preheat the oven to 350. (Or until you’re good and ready to use it!)

Roll out the dough (on a lightly floured surface) to be about 1/8th inch thick. Using a small glass or cookie cutter, cut out rounds of dough and transfer them to a lightly buttered baking sheet.

Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, till they’re golden brown on bottom. After a minute or two, transfer them to a cooling rack.

WHen they’re cool, melt the chocolate in a double boiler. (Don’t let even the tiniest bit of water get in or it will all seize up!) Dip each cookie in the chocolate, and then set on a sheet of tin foil to set. While the chocolate is soft, you can use a knife to make a little swirly pattern, if you feel like it!

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