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Strawberry Mousse

Mary Anne here. While Mariel is busy trimming her caloric intake with naturally sweet, healthful condiments like this Cucumber and Watermelon Salad with Pickled Onions, I seem to be channeling my Southern ancestors, conjuring up sweet strawberry confections like this delicious mousse. Did I mention that not one, but TWO kinds of sugar candy-coat this concoction? I’m afraid if I continue indulging my inveterate lust for sugar and fat, I just might end up sporting elastic-waistband jeans, as Mariel so kindly suggested in her latest post! Everything in moderation, I suppose…

But seriously, Strawberry Mousse – or really mousse of any flavor – is a deceptively easy yet sumptuous dessert, worthy of your fussiest gourmand/guest. The prep is largely unattended, since you have to allow the cooked fruit to cool completely. I’d say the hardest part of all is waiting for this whipped confection to spend the mandatory two hours chilling in the fridge. The actual hands-on time is about 20 minutes total, including whipping the cream and folding it into the cooled fruit mixture. Perfect on a hot day when baking isn’t a reasonable option. Whatever excuse you use to whip up this blushing beauty, it’s a classic dessert that every self-respecting home cook should master.

Strawberry Mousse
Serves 16

Note: Plain gelatin can be found in the grocer’s aisle near flavored boxes of Jello.

It is critical that you are patient and allow the hot fruit mixture to cool completely before folding in the whipped cream. It takes the fruit approximately 2 hours to cool to room temperature. If you tend to be an impatient chef, you can speed up the process by transferring the mixture to a larger bowl/container. Place the container in an ice water bath. But beware! Don’t use your favorite ceramic bowl for the hot fruit – years ago I cracked a gorgeous hand-made bowl while trying to hasten the cooling of lemon curd. I now possess a very large, ovenproof Pyrex glass bowl that safely takes the heat/ice combo.

Tip: The cream whips up faster if you put the bowl and the beaters in the freezer about ½ hour before you’re ready to prepare the whipped cream.

My pretty glass serving bowls are in the family abode out east, so I dished this up in Michael’s crystal wine glasses. Quite chic, no?

Ingredients:
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin – $2.19
4 tablespoons cold water
2 lbs fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and cut into ¼-inch slice – $5.98
¾ cup granulated sugar – stock
juice of 2 lemons – $1.50
zest of 2 lemons – included above
4 Tablespoons Black Currant preserves or Crème de Cassis – $3.29
4 cups heavy/whipping cream – $5.58
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar – stock
fresh mint and berries for garnish – optional
Grand Total Assuming a Well-Stocked Pantry: $18.54
Total Per Serving: $1.16

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl, sprinkle the packets of gelatin over the cold water. Allow the mixture to rest/soften for 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile wash, hull, and slice the strawberries. Transfer to a large stockpot.

3. Add the granulated sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and preserves or Cassis. Stir in the softened gelatin.

4. Over medium flame, gently bring the fruit mixture to just barely a low boil, stirring frequently. This takes about 6 minutes, from start to finish. The strawberry slices will be very soft, but retain their shape.

5. Transfer the mixture and all its rendered juices to the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the steel blade. If necessary, do this in 2 batches. Puree quickly with several intermittent pulses, until smooth.

6. Allow to cool completely, as directed in the notes above.

7. Whip the cream until soft peaks are just beginning to form. Add the confectioner’s sugar and continue whipping until soft peaks form when stirred with a rubber scraper.

8. Fold the whipped cream into the cooled berry mixture, using an under-over motion. Incorporate fully, being sure to get all the berry mixture at the bottom. The final product is a soft, pale pink dotted with strawberry seeds.

9. Pile the mousse into individual dessert glasses or a large serving bowl. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.

10. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and raspberries, if desired.