Growing up I was a sucker for tart sweets – you could give me sour candy over chocolate any day and I especially loved any lemon dessert that packed serious pucker power. Apparently this makes me a lemonphile.
Lemon, eggs, sugar, and cream are four simple, yet transformative, ingredients that make up my three all-time favourite desserts: classic French lemon tart, a lemon chiffon cake with lemon butter cream, and the moussé that is featured on the blog today.
Along with a tart and subtly sweet flavour profile, these desserts are also particularly nostalgic for the occasions on which they were served through my childhood, adolescence and continuing into adulthood. Today’s lemon moussé is an adaptation of one my mom used to make, particularly during the holidays. It’s a lovely, refreshing finish to a big Christmas meal, and pairs well with the myriad of Christmas cookies that are always sure to be passed around our holiday table. The recipe was originally from the March 1982 edition of Gourmet Magazine in a feature called The Lure of Lemons. In the piece author Sally Tager professed to have written it for only the purist of lemon lovers. Signs of such a purist include those who prefer their desserts simple and unadulterated by other ingredients such as “chocolate curls” which, Tager states, “diminish the clarity of flavours”. I’d have to agree. To this, I would also add that no matter how purely “lemon” the preamble of a recipe professes to be, I find that in many cases lemon recipes call for too much sugar for my liking. My recommendation when making this, or any lemon dessert, is to start light on the sugar and adjust to your personal preference.
I realize I’ve now rambled on about what a lemon purist and skeptic I am, so you might be wondering why I’ve posted a recipe that could conceivably be considered a departure from this purity vis-à-vis the Myer Lemon and coconut. Indeed, these adaptations could very much be considered adulteration of the ingredients. Other lemon skeptics reading this might question my dedication – and I can respect that, but I promise it is for good reason.
First, let me address the coconut. I have two good friends who are similarly dedicated lovers of lemon like myself, but in the past year both have succumbed to the fact that they can no longer tolerate dairy. This is much to their respective disappointment (not to mention mine), but something they could no longer deny. For this reason, I’ve made this a dairy free version, with them in mind, using coconut cream. When chilled well coconut cream can be whipped, so the signature light and airy quality of the moussé is not lost.
As for the Myer lemons, not only are they in season right now, but the floral notes they impart complement the subtle coconut flavour very well. If you are unfamiliar with Myer lemons I encourage you to seek them out. They are a special treat at this time of year and most grocery stores will carry them when in season. They are slightly smaller, more round, and have a richer, golden colour than regular lemons. They are also not nearly as sour as regular lemons, so for this reason you’ll want to have an especially light hand on the sugar and adjust to taste.
Finally, because I love a balance of textures, I like to serve this dessert with a nice crunchy cookie. These Almond Croccante have also become a holiday favourite and are a great accompaniment (but most assuredly are not dairy free). Whether you’re trying a new recipe like this mousse this holiday season, or enjoying your own tried and true nostalgic traditions we wish you a happy holiday season and all the best for 2017.
- 3 large eggs, room temperature, separated
- 1 pinch cream of tartar
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ cup freshly squeezed Myer lemon juice
- 1 tbsp grated Myer lemon rind
- 1 cup coconut cream (or 35% whipping cream for a dairy version)*
- ½ - ¾ cup fine sugar**
- 1-2 tbsp icing sugar
*Look for coconut cream at specialty Asian grocery stores. Alternatively, you can create coconut cream using full-fat good quality coconut milk: invert the can and refrigerate until well chilled. When ready to open flip it back over and open – the saturated fats of the coconut milk will have separated and be at the top of the can. Skim off and reserve the remaining coconut water for another use.
** The original recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar and using regular lemons. I prefer about ½ cup using the Myer lemons, and about ¾ cup if using regular lemons.
Combine egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon rind, and half of the sugar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens, being careful not to let it boil. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a clean, large bowl combine egg whites with a pinch, each, of cream of tartar and salt. Using a whisk attachment of a hand or stand mixer beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Continue beating while adding remaining ½ of the sugar, about 1 tbsp at a time. Increase speed of the mixer to medium-high until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.
In a separate large bowl beat the coconut cream (or regular whipping cream, if using) along with 1-2 tbsp of icing sugar until stiff peaks form.
Gently fold the lemon mixture into the egg whites until combined, but not over mixing. Then fold in the whipped coconut cream and divide among 6-8 small glasses or bowls. Place in the freezer for at least 2 hours, or up to a few days in advance of serving. Remove from freezer about 20 minutes prior to serving and garnish with fresh lemon rind. Enjoy!
Original Recipe: Sally Tager, Gourmet March 1982