There's something magical about mousse. It's easy to prepare, makes a wonderful filling for a wide variety of cakes and is a dessert in its own right.
Once you have a simple repertoire of mousses and sponge cakes down, the variety of desserts you can make is almost limitless. Mousse and sponge cake are comparable to classic wardrobe basics that you can mix and match, or in this case layer with fruit, chocolate or pastry creams, thereby allowing you to create creative and unique desserts that can either be either simple or complex.
The trouble is finding good, reliable and consistent mousse recipes. You do not even want to know how many I've tested over the years. Most of them are utter failures. They look great in the cookbook and then turn out flat, grainy, gummy or runny. To me, if you know what you're doing and you follow a recipe, you should get adequate instruction to make the recipe turn out well at home. Not so with many cookbook recipes for mousse. This is why I was thrilled to find the mousse recipes at Cannelle et Vanille. Why? Her mousse recipes work and are delicious.
Because it's still fall in New England, I was eager to do something with the abundance of cranberries we bought when we visited Cape Cod. I also wanted an alternative to the tasty but heavy pies and squash recipes that we typically serve on Thanksgiving. Yearning for something lighter and more elegant I decided to make this incredible cranberry and white chocolate gateau. The result is spectacular and if you do nothing else, try the cranberry mousse recipe. It would be great served as a verrine with cranberry compote or on its own.
Elegant Cranberry and White Chocolate Gateau
Note: Both mousse recipes are adapted from Cannelle et Vanille.
6-8 oz. fresh cranberries, washed with stems removed
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Stir together ingredients and boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce to simmer. Cook until mixture thickens with a slight bit of juice remaining. Cool until you can handle the mixture but do not let it set. Puree in a food processor until smooth. Strain and refrigerate. Cranberry base can be made several days in advance.
Pate a Bombe
8 oz. sugar
2 oz.corn syrup
4 oz. water
3 oz. egg yolks
Cook the sugar, corn syrup and water to 240 degrees Farenheit. In the meantime, whip the yolks until they turn fluffy and pale. Slowly add the cooked sugar to the yolks and continue beating until the bowl has cooled. This may take about 10 minutes. This mixture can also be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator. To bring to mixture back to working temperature defrost in microwave for about 5 seconds. Leftover will keep for several weeks and can be used in additional mousse desserts.
2 oz. pate a bombe
1 1/2 sheets of gelatin
3 oz. of cranberry base
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Whip heavy cream, sugar and vanilla until soft peak and set aside. In a stand mixture fitted mix the cranberry base with the pate a bombe until well-blended. This will take a few minutes. Soften the gelatin in ice water and then melt in microwave for 5 seconds. With mixer running, slowly pour gelatin into the pate a bombe and whisk until well incoporated. Fold in whipped cream.
White Chocolate Mousse
150 grams heavy cream
1 sheet gelatin
75 grams good quality white chocolate, chopped
Place the white chocolate in a bowl and melt it over a double boiler. Remove the bowl from the heat when the chocolate is melted and let it cool slightly. Alternatively, you can place the chopped chocolate in a glass or ceramic bowl and microwave for about 1 minute. Check it frequently as white chocolate seizes easily.
In the meantime, whip the cream to soft peak. Melt gelatin in microwave for about 5 seconds and pour into bowl slowly while cream is whipping. Pour a third of the whipped cream into the chocolate and mix quickly and thoroughly. Fold remaining whipped cream into chocolate mixture.
8 oz. water
7 oz. sugar
Boil and then simmer until sugar dissolves and mixture thickens slightly.
Sponge Cake (Genoise) adapted from Michel Roux
125 g. all purpose flour
4 large eggs at room temperture
125 g. sugar
2 tbs. butter, cooled to tepid
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Butter and flour 10X15 jelly roll pan (or cookie sheet with sides). If you're making a full size cake, you can use round cake pans.
In a stand mixture fitted with whisk attachment, whip the eggs and sugar on medium high speed for about 12 minutes or to the ribbon stage. (i.e., when you lift the whisk the mixture will flow down in a thick and smooth ribbon-like fashion). Shower in the flour and delicately fold into the egg/sugar mixture. Fold in the melted butter. Do not overwork. Pour batter into sheet pan and spread with an offset spatula. Bake for about 10 minutes until mixture springs back when touched. Cool.
For this particular cake I used 3 inch cake rounds to cut out circles, brushed them with simple syrup and layered them alternately inside of a 3 inch cake round lined with food-grade acetate. What I learned from Chef Aran is that pressure needs to be evenly applied to each layer to get the mousse to look good. So, for example, I would put down a layer of cake, then some mousse, and then a layer of cake. I'd then apply even, gentle pressure with a bottle that fit inside of the ring. Just remember, you can make this cake in any size or shape you want, add any additions that seem tasty to you and decorate it however you please. The most important thing is to have fun with the recipe and make it your own.
Enjoy the recipe and the season...Bon Appetit!