Oh the tart fruits of summer!
I was at the Farmers Market last weekend and I spotted a little pint of beautiful red currants. I had no idea what I would do with them, but I couldn’t resist their siren call. As soon as I got home, I started brainstorming, and this recipe is what I came up with. It was more delicious than I could have dreamed. I hope you like it!
serves 2 (double if serving 4)
For the lemon mousse:
juice and zest of 2 large lemons
1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk (white reserved)
note: Get organic, free-range, cage-free if you can. Even better, get them from the Farmers Market so the yolks are molten orange and gorgeous as the sunrise.
1/4 cup sugar in the raw (you can substitute refined white sugar if you wish)
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
a pinch of salt
Crack 1 whole egg into a saucepan. Separate the yolk and egg from the second egg by cracking the egg and using the shell halves to scoop the yolk away from the whites. Put the yolk in with the other whole egg and reserve the white in a separate bowl. Add the sugar to the whole egg and egg yolk and whisk vigorously.
Zest your lemons into the same saucepan (“zest” means use a fine mesh grater to scrape off tiny pits of lemon peel. You want just the outer yellow part of the peel, not the inner white part). Then squeeze out every last drop of the juices and add them as well. Whisk vigorously again until the eggs, lemon, and sugar are very well incorporated. Taste a dab of the mixture and adjust as you like (a bit more lemon if you want it really tart or a bit more sugar if you like it really sweet — I always go tart, myself!)
Now for the only hard part of the whole thing. Put the saucepan on the stove. Turn on the burner to a low-medium heat. Cook the mixture, whisking constantly (constantly!!). It will begin to thicken. Take it off the heat and whisk, whisk, whisk. Put it back on. Keep going until you have a loose custard consistency. The idea is to gradually cook the mixture so it thickens up uniformly.
Once done, scrape it into a bowl with spatula and let it cool, stirring occasionally to keep a skin from forming.
In the meantime, using a clean whisk, whisk the reserved egg white until soft peaks form. They will start out clear and will gradually thicken into a foamy consistency. When that foam begins to thicken up, turns bright white, and can hold gentle peaks without collapsing, they are ready. Add a pinch of salt and whisk a little more. Once the egg/lemon/sugar mixture (now transformed into lemon curd) is cooled, fold in the beaten egg whites with a spatula. I know some people are squicked out by eating raw egg white, but if you have good eggs it is perfectly safe. If you really can’t bear it, though, just leave it out and move to the next step. The consistency of the final mousse will be slightly less light and airy but the flavor will not be impacted.
Then whip your cream. I like to use a whisk, but you can use beaters if you prefer. Whip to soft peaks (meaning, as the cream thickens it will eventually be able to stand in gentle peaks on its own). Do NOT overwhip or you will end up with butter. Fold the whipped cream into the lemon curd mixture, gently stirring with a spatula.
Voila! You have your lemon mousse.
You could stop here, refrigerate, and serve this with a dollop of lightly sweetened cream. BUT, you have those gorgeous currants to content with…
For the Red Currant Puree:
1 pint fresh red currants
2-3 tbs sugar in the raw
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp water
Reserve a few small currants for garnish. From the rest, remove all the fruit from the stems and toss them in a sauce pan with the sugar, water, and lemon juice. Simmer over low heat, stirring as needed, until the mixture cooks down into a slightly thickened, dark red sauce (about 15-20 minutes). Taste and adjust the sweetening as needed. Currants are naturally tart and you want the puree to retain that tartness, but without the edge.
Now strain the puree through a fine-mesh sieve. The idea here is to remove skins and seeds but get as much delicious puree through as possible. Really work the mash with a spoon to get out all the goodness. Cool the strained puree. It should look like this:
To assemble the dessert:
When the mousse and puree are both cooled to room temp, assemble as follows:
I like to use whiskey glasses or something similar. First put a thin smear of puree in the bottom of each glass. Then add a few big spoonfuls of mousse, then another thin layer of puree, then more mousse. For the layers you want quite a good amount of mousse and quite a small amount of puree. Portion it out so you have enough for all 4 servings.
On top of the final layer of mousse, add a line of puree along the center of the glass. Using a swizzle stick or chopstick, swirl the puree through the mousse to create a pleasing design.
Cover with Saran wrap and refrigerate at least one hour and up to two days. Garnish with a few reserved currants.
Try not to inhale this, but if you do…no judgement!