If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time wondering how you can possibly make mousse without gelatin. Chocolate mousse is easy – when the melted chocolate cools it provides enough substance to set the mousse. (At least I think that’s how it works.) How about other mousses, though? How about fruit mousses, for instance? How does that work? It might not seem like a very pressing question, because I don’t actually make mousse all that often. But when I discovered chikoo fruit, that unlikely-looking but ridiculously delicious fruit that tastes like caramelized pears, I was determined to make a mousse. Why? Because chickoo mousse, besides being very fun to say, also sounds a lot like Eek-a-Mouse. Right? Well, my first attempt became derailed, because I couldn’t make a thick enough custard to set the mousse, so I made it into ice cream
instead, which turned out very tasty indeed.
Last week, as I was making the cardamom pastry cream for my champagne mango tart, I had a revelation. An epiphany. Pastry cream is certainly thick enough to set a mousse! And my cardamom pastry cream tasted so good I was eating it by the spoonful. And cardamom and chikoo would be delicious together. I had some pastry cream left over. I had a can of chikoo in light syrup I’d bought on my last super bodega traveling mission, that I was saving for a special occasion such as this. All planets were aligned!
The mousse is a little softer than perhaps is traditional, but pleasantly so. It’s very lightly flavored with cardamom, the sweetness of the chikoo carries the day, and it made a nice small sweet thing to eat after a heavy and intensely flavored feast of Indian take out. I’ll be deploying pastry cream in mousse-related projects many times in the days to come! You could easily make this recipe with any other sweet soft fruit. Strawberries would be nice! Or mangoes – mangoes would be perfect!
Here’s Eek a Mouse with George Porgie
Coconut cake with blackberry mousse
I work in a restaurant that has a candy dispenser. If I have two quarters left over at the end of the day, I’ll sometimes bring home small cups of candy to my boys. Twenty-five cents worth a piece. I always bring M&Ms to my little one, and skittles to my older son. It seems funny that their love for fruity or chocolate-y candy has become a defining characteristic for them. One small way to be their own boy. And an easy way to divide the spoils come Halloween or Easter! I made a cake for my brother and father the other day (they both have February birthdays). I know they like chocolate (who doesn’t?) but I always think of them as falling towards the fruity end of the sweet spectrum. So…flush from my success with the chocolate drambuie mousse, I decided to make them a coconut cake with blackberry mousse in between the layers. This being February, when raspberries and blackberries seem to cost about $10 a piece, I used blackberry jam instead of fresh fruit. (Honestly, if you have fresh raspberries, don’t you just eat them? Exactly as they are?) The mousse is actually a white chocolate blackberry mousse, because I didn’t want to use gelatin, and I thought the chocolate would help to make the mousse more substantial, once it un-melted. It isn’t a difficult cake to make, but the assembly process does have a few messy-fun steps.
Here’s Doc Watson’s Blackberry Rag.
When I was little, a friend of my parents came to the house with a walking stick. It was a very special walking stick! The brass knob on top unscrewed, and when you pulled it out, a long glass tube emerged. Like a slim, secret bottle. I thought it was the neatest thing I’d ever seen! (Yes, we used the word “neat” back then, children.) I was too young to drink, or even want to drink, but oh how I coveted that cane. Imagine my delight when a gift arrived in the mail – my very own secret bottled-cane, from the gentleman who had introduced me to the concept in the first place. I was so happy! At the time, I was also very taken with drambuie. Not to drink – just the idea of it. Flavored with herbs, spices, and heather honey. From the Isle of Skye. What magical potion is this! So I filled my secret tube with drambuie. And then pretty much left it there until the cork dried up and the glass tube got stuck in the cane. Sigh. Now that I’m 42 (how did that happen?) I’m taken with more than just the idea of drambuie. I’m also a big fan of the unusual, distinctive flavor, and the way it burns a little bit on a sore throat.
I wanted to make a special dessert for valentine’s day. Not just cookies or cake, that we’d all eat for days afterwards, but something just for that moment. So I made mousse. It’s ridiculously delicious – it’s like a distillation of good flavors and textures. But it’s not something you’d want to eat every day. It’s so rich, and seems so sweet! (Although it really doesn’t have any sugar other than that in the chocolate.)
It was actually fun to make, too. You start with a zabaglione, which is one of my current favorite words. That’s egg yolks, whipped and cooked with some sweetish liqueur or wine. This kind of thing makes me very nervous – cooking egg yolks till they thicken, but watching to make sure they don’t cook too fast and curdle. It’s a special feeling of victory when it works. Which it did! Then you add melted chocolate and whipped cream. And that’s about it. Very simple, very delicious.
Here’s Cab Calloway’s So Sweet.