Continuing with my Easter and spring recipes this week, I'm sharing with you a beautiful and elegant dessert: fresh strawberry mousse. This mousse is a great dessert option for Easter dinner because it's made hours (or even days) in advance, and seriously - how pretty is it?? It's also seasonal and fresh, which I love for entertaining. One of my strategies for throwing dinner parties is to just look to the seasonal produce for inspiration - this is especially helpful if you're just trying to fill in the gaps for a side dish or dessert.
This mousse is impossibly creamy and luscious, yet still light and airy. Pure strawberry perfection. I'm a sucker for any and all strawberry recipes, not to mention the color pink, so needless to say, I'm totally smitten with this dessert.
Since this recipe is from Cook's Illustrated, it of course employs a few interesting and perhaps unorthodox techniques and instructions. Chocolate mousse is typically made with egg yolks, but the strawberry mousse uses gelatin as a stabilizer. It also uses a combination of cream cheese + whipped cream to keep a light and fluffy texture. Finally, in order to coax as much strawberry flavor out of even the most mediocre supermarket berries, a strawberry puree is reduced to a thick syrup, leaving you with the brightest and freshest flavor imaginable. Like I said, this is pure strawberry perfection.
So as I mentioned earlier, these are a great make-ahead dessert, and they can be made up to 48 hours in advance. Just let them sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving - so take them out of the fridge when you sit down to eat, and they'll be ready in time for dessert. This was a hit with the kids as much as it was with Joey and me, and I have no doubt that it will be a hit at your Easter celebration as well.
Hoorray for strawberry season! Want more strawberries? Check out my Strawberry Love Pinterest board!
Fresh Strawberry Mousse
barely adapted from Cook's Illustrated, May/June 2014
- 2 lbs fresh strawberries, hulled
- 1/2 cup + 1 tsp sugar
- 1 3/4 tsp unflavored gelatin
- 4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature, cut into 8 pieces
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- pinch of salt
Cut enough of the strawberries into 1/4-inch dice to measure 1 cup, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve the mousse.
Puse the remaining strawberries in a food processor until most pieces are 1/4-1/2 inch thick (some larger pieces are fine), 5-8 pulses. Be careful not to over process them - it's better for them to be a little too big vs pureed. Transfer the berries to a medium bowl and toss with 1/2 cup of the sugar and a pinch of salt. Cover the bowl and let stand 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Strain the juice from the processed berries through a fine mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup - you should have at least 2/3 cup of juice.
Measure out 3 tablespoons of the juice and transfer to a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the juice and let sit 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour the remaining juice into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until the juice has reduced to about 3 tablespoons, which should take about 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from heat, add the softened gelatin mixture, and stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Add the cream cheese, whisking until it's fully incorporated and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
As the juice is reducing, return the berries to the now-empty food processor and puree until smooth, about 20 seconds.
Strain the puree into the juice-gelatin mixture, pressing on any solids to remove the seeds and pulp. Discard the seeds and pulp and whisk the berry puree and lemon juice into the mixture until smooth.
Using a hand mixer or whisk, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add the remaining teaspoon of sugar and whip until stiff peaks form, another 1 to 2 minutes using an electric mixer. Gently whisk the whipped cream into the strawberry mixture until no white streaks remain.
Portion the mousse into dessert dishes and chill at least 4 hours, or up to 48 hours before serving. Let sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with the reserved berries and serve.