Gluten-Free Holiday Dessert
Dark Chocolate Mousse with
Spiced Cranberry Topping
I created this festive dessert for a holiday gathering with my gal pals (Steve’s name for the group of friends with whom I celebrate birthdays several times a year). Rather than making a disappointing imitation of a baked treat that relies on wheat flour, I prefer naturally gluten-free desserts, and this intense chocolate mousse topped with whipped cream and a sparkling cranberry and crystallized ginger compote was so pretty and indulgent, everyone wanted seconds.
The mousse relies on lots of bittersweet chocolate for its rich flavor. The better tasting the chocolate, the better the mousse. I used Trader Joe’s Fair Trade Organic Dark Chocolate
. I melted it in water with only a little cream, not wanting cream to obscure the distinctiveness of the chocolate. The fluffy texture of the mousse comes from whipped egg whites rather than cream, again to preserve the nature of the chocolate. However, whipped organic cream sitting atop the mousse offers a luxurious contrast to the bitter chocolate, helping show off its unique taste with each spoonful.
It is easy to fit cooking this dessert into a busy holiday schedule. The cranberry embellishment will keep for days in the refrigerator, so you can make it whenever you can find 15 minutes. I stirred up the mousse the night before our party and mounded on the cream and cranberries in the morning. Three days after the lunch, the small amount leftover was every bit as good as on the first day, so I will most likely make it a few days ahead next time.
Presenting the mousse in one large bowl makes a grand presentation and is the simplest preparation for the cook. However, for a more elegant look the components of the dessert can be layered in individual glasses, as in the photo here.
I am still undecided about the entrée for our family Christmas Eve dinner, but the dessert is settled- this Dark Chocolate Mousse with Spiced Cranberry Topping.
Dark Chocolate Mousse with Spiced Cranberry Topping
When melting the chocolate, be careful to use a heavy pan and very low heat. Whisk constantly and remove the pan from the heat as soon as the chocolate is melted and smooth.
Makes 12 to 14 servings
Spiced Cranberry Topping
12-ounce bag cranberries
1½ cups sugar
½ cup orange juice or water
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1½ teaspoons finely grated orange zest
½ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
Dark Chocolate Mousse
16 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, finelyl chopped
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons whipping cream
8 large egg whites
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
¾ cup chilled whipping cream (preferably organic)
1½ tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the topping: Combine the cranberries, sugar, orange juice, ground ginger, and orange zest in a heavy small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Simmer until the cranberries begin to pop, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and mix in the crystallized ginger. Cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate until cold. (Can be prepared 4 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
For the mousse: Combine the chocolate, water, and 3 tablespoons cream in a heavy medium saucepan over very low heat. Stir constantly until most of the chocolate is melted - be very careful to not overheat the chocolate or the cocoa butter will separate out. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth. Cool to barely lukewarm.
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Pour the lukewarm chocolate over the egg whites and gently fold together. Spoon the mousse into an 8-cup serving bowl or divide among 12 to 14 glasses. Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours or up to 3 days.
Beat ¾ cup chilled cream in a medium bowl until very soft peaks form. Add 1½ tablespoons sugar and the vanilla and beat until soft peaks form. Spoon the whipped cream on top of the mousse, allowing a rim of chocolate to show. Top with the cranberries. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)