A mousse is a rich, airy preparation that can be cold or hot, sweet or savory. The word mousse is French and translates as “froth” or “foam.” There are three key constituents to a mousse. First is the base. This is the principal flavoring agent, such as the chocolate in a chocolate mousse or the salmon in a salmon mousse.
Next is the binder, inevitably gelatin. Gelatin is a protein derived from beef or veal bones. It’s what imparts a stock with body as you slowly simmer it out of the bones. Gelatin is sold in powdered and sheet form. The powdered is easiest to find. Both types must be soaked in a cool liquid first to soften and swell the gelatin. This is known as “blooming.” Sometimes the base ingredient of a mousse has enough body that a binder is not required. Chocolate mousse again serves as a good example. Cheese based mousses are another.
Finally, a mousse is lightened by an aerator such as beaten egg whites or whipped cream. This produces the airy texture. Mix it in gently to prevent it from deflating.
Cold dessert mousses are often poured into decorative glasses and garnished with fruit, sweet sauces, or whipped cream. Savory mousses can be made from fish, shellfish, meat, foie gras, etc. They may be hot or cold and are often squeezed through a piping bag onto some kind of platform, (vegetable slices, toast points, pastry shells, etc.), and used as a hors d’oeuvre.
PUMPKIN CARAMEL MOUSSE
This recipe comes from Lynne Kaplan, a chef who owns the Victoria House Bed & Breakfast in Spring Lake, NJ. For a gourmet B&B check them out at victoriahouse.net.
• 2 oz. Calvados or Apple Jack brandy
• 1 envelope (2 tablespoons) unflavored powdered gelatin
• 4 eggs, room temperature
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 14 oz. can pumpkin puree
• Quarter teaspoon nutmeg
• Quarter teaspoon ginger
• Half teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• Quarter cup sour cream
• 1 jar caramel topping
• 2 cups heavy cream, plus sugar and vanilla extract as needed, whipped
In a small stainless steel bowl mix the Apple Jack and water. Sprinkle the gelatin over the mixture and let stand for 10 minutes. Using an electric mixer fitted with the wire whisk, beat the eggs on medium low speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. While the eggs are mixing, combine the sugar and two oz. of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until temperature reaches 245 degrees, firm ball stage on a candy thermometer. Turn the mixer up to high speed and in a thin stream pour the sugar mixture into the eggs. Beat 5-7 minutes until the mixture turns pale in color and its volume increases. While this is beating set the bowl with the brandy and the gelatin on top of a saucepan of simmering water until it dissolves. This is what’s known as a bain-marie. The bowl should not be touching the water. Turn the mixer down to low and pour in the gelatin and mix well. Add the pumpkin, spices and vanilla and mix well. Mix in the sour cream until well blended. Coat some dessert glasses with the caramel using the back of a spoon to spread it. Pour the mousse into the dessert glasses. Cover with plastic and chill for at least four hours or overnight. Just before service whip the heavy cream with sugar and vanilla extract to taste. To serve, top with the whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel.
• 10 oz. heavy cream
• 3 large egg yolks
• Half cup sugar
• 2 tablespoons water
• 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil for one minute. Slowly pour the sugar mixture over the yolks, constantly whisking, and beat mixture again. Melt the chocolate and butter in a stainless steel bowl placed on top of a saucepan of simmering water. Remove the bowl from the heat and let cool until just warm. Fold in the egg mixture and then the whipped cream into the chocolate. Refrigerate the mousse until set, about two hours. Serve in a martini glass with a dollop of whipped cream and a mint leaf for garnish.
• 1 lb. Blue, Stilton, or Gorgonzola cheese
• 8 oz. cream cheese
• 3 oz. heavy cream, whipped
• Salt and pepper to taste
Mix the cheeses in a food processor until very smooth. Mix in the salt and pepper. Whip the cream and then fold it into the cheese mixture gently, by hand with a spatula until it is incorporated. Squeeze it through a piping bag or spoon dollops of it onto sliced vegetables, crackers, toast points, etc.