Happy New Year, darling readers! I hope you had a fabulous time celebrating with family and friends. I told you my big plans involved couching it in my stretchy yoga pants with a glass (or three) of Prosecco. Well, the couch and attire was a go, but unfortunately the bubbly was traded for a steaming cup of Theraflu and my poor husband rang in the New Year alone as I was knocked out cold by 9:30. Rock. Star.
But! One of the bonuses of forcing myself to sloooow dooown earlier in the day was that I got to leaf through cookbooks and long-bookmarked recipes and found one for a delightfully ambrosial and surprisingly virtuous strawberry mousse, just perfect for resetting after the holiday feast-fest and starting off the New Year right. Which is to say that I will be getting all up in your face with a buttery crumb cake before you can say "low fat". So don't worry, I'm not going to get all Susan Powter on you in 2010. But this mousse came out so dreamy and lovely that I just had to share it with you, virtue be damned.
This recipe is adapted from Nick Malgieri, he of phenomenal dessert cookbooks and recipes of all sorts. My love for his work comes very close to my near restraining-order-sized love for Lynne Rossetto Kasper and my coveting of all things Ina Garten. I celebrate his Entire. Catalogue. (name that movie!).
So I knew this recipe would at least be good, and that Malgieri wouldn't let a silly thing like lightening up a dessert get in the way of great flavor and texture, even a mousse, which is classically based on lots of egg yolks and whipped cream. And that definitely was true. This mousse is cloud-like, creamy and has huge strawberry flavor with just a few grams of fat and a wee bit of sugar. And, if you're counting, a good amount of protein and fiber as well. With some fresh strawberry slices added before serving, the whole thing feels like a simply delicious, edible spa treatment. Everyone together now: spoon, inhale, exhale, ahhhhh...
Virtuous Strawberry Mousse
Adapted from Perfect Light Desserts
Fresh or frozen berries can be used for this recipe. Experiment with other fruits with this formula and switch out the liqueurs accordingly raspberries (framboise), peaches (peach Schnapps) and cherries would be especially good. Be sure to use a small bowl for whipping the egg whites--it can be nearly impossible to get enough air into them if they're spread out in too large of a bowl. This recipe doubles easily.
2 cups (1 pint) whole strawberries, rinsed and hulled, fresh or thawed and drained frozen
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Kirsch (a clear cherry Brandy, optional)
2 1/2 tablespoons cold water
1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1/3 cup egg whites (from about 2 large eggs)
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries, for serving
In a blender, finely puree the 2 cups of whole strawberries. Pour the puree into a small saucepan and simmer over medium-high heat until the puree is reduced to about 3/4 cup. Stir in the lemon juice and Kirsch and cool to room temperature (pouring it into a chilled bowl will move the cooling along quickly).
Place the water in a small, microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let it soak for about 5 minutes.
When the strawberry puree has cooled, pour it back into the blender, along with the ricotta. Heat the bloomed gelatin in the microwave on high for about 15 seconds or until the gelatin is melted and clear when stirred. Add the melted gelatin to the blender and blend on the highest speed for 1 full minute, stopping to scrape down the pitcher if necessary. Pour the strawberry mixture into a large bowl.
Half-fill a small saucepan with water and set it to simmer over medium heat. In a small, heatproof metal bowl, whisk together the egg whites, salt and sugar. When the water is simmering, place the bowl over the pan and gently whisk until the egg whites are hot to the touch and the sugar has dissolved.
Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until the egg whites form a stiff, glossy meringue and the bowl had cooled completely--it should not be warm at all. Gently whisk the meringue into the strawberry mixture until no traces of white remain (a whisk can help with blending). Spoon the mousse into 4 dessert dishes, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve, at least one hour. Top the mousse with the strawberry slices just before serving. The mousse can be made up to one day ahead.