September 29, 2013

Indian Summer Part 2: Lemon-Yogurt Mousse

I'm pushing the limits of an Indian summer theme here, seeing as how it's nearly October! Blame it on a hectic move this weekend. Then again, Indian summers seem to be obsolete in Texas. We'll enjoy 80° days well into November here whereas back home they've already gotten their first frost. So, maybe it doesn't matter that I'm posting a summery dessert at the end of September! Whatever the case, Indian summers mark my favorite time of year, a final heat wave before autumn reaches its peak and quickly declines into winter. And a refreshingly light dessert seems an ideal way to salute the end of the season. 

So, let's say you're squeezing in one last cookout--burgers, steaks, buns, potato and pasta salads. Heavy food. Yummy but still quite dense. It hurts my tummy just thinking of eating layer cake on top of all that cookout fare! Trust me, you and I both will enjoy more than our share of holiday baking in the next three months. Why not see the warm, sunny weather out with something less dense?

There's no denying that I love calorie-laden treats as much as the next girl. (Posts of the past and the future are sure to incriminate me in that regard!) But this dessert is quite lovely, and it weighs in at only 115 calories per serving! Not to mention the 9 grams of hunger-fighting protein thanks to oh-so-fulfilling Greek yogurt. May as well get your healthy on before the onslaught of holiday baking, right?


Oh, and did I mention that it doesn't take that much effort? The original recipe rates the difficulty as easy. I wouldn't go so far as to call it easy. If you haven't worked with egg whites or yolks before, your efforts could easily go awry at several crucial points. I'll try to make the recipe directions a little more explicit to aid those of you in the newby boat. However, if you've tackled custards, sponge cakes, or meringues in the past, then this recipe will be a piece of cake, ahem, a cup of mousse for you! 

Now, non-foodies would probably be equally happy with prepackaged fruity Greek yogurt available in the dairy section. And don't get me wrong, those are certainly staples in my fridge! But my foodie friends out there will doubtless relish the opportunity to separate yolks from whites, practice their double-boiler skills, and beat those whites into fluffy submission. 
Not to mention that any excuse to grate and juice fresh lemons is always welcome in my book! Nothing like that amazing citrus aroma to lift your spirits. And just look at that bright color! Helps you forget the cold fronts and bitter winds right around the bend.

My only regret is in my presentation. I was pressed for time, so I couldn't play with it as much as I wanted to. I like the contrast between the soft, smooth mousse texture and the shortbread crumbs and zest. I like the variety in height between the fill line and the tip of the petticoat tails. What's most lacking for me is color. Bright white, cheery yellow, neutral beige... but something's missing. I think a few mint leaves would give this just the visual pop it needs, adding more contrast in color and shape for an overall more interesting presentation.

Ok, I take that back. That's not my only regret. Another regret is not using high quality Greek yogurt. I should've splurged on Fage but instead pulled a cheapy and bought the Lucerne Farms (Safeway) knock off. I've made this mistake twice now, and I suspect that inferior Greek yogurt could be the culprit for my pre-serving panic. You see, each time I've made this, I've had issues with it separating after its two hour plus chilling time. Right before I go to spoon the mousse into individual dishes, I'm confronted with a thick layer of soft, foamy mousse on the top of the mixing bowl and a good deal of liquid rocking underneath. Thankfully, I've only had to reincorporate the mousse, gently folding or whisking the fluff into the liquid, to bring it back to something edible looking. I can't help but wonder if a higher quality and thus thicker Greek yogurt would help advert this dilemma, though.

But you can't win 'em all, and I'm certainly happy with the outcome overall. Your little ones may not appreciate the mousse as much as the "cookie", but anyone loving citrus and Greek yogurt will surely be pleased. Not to mention how pleased you'll be in the making! Enjoy the heat wave, everybody!  

Food Network Magazine's

Lemon-Yogurt Mousse

For the fluffiest results, make sure no traces of egg yolk make it into the dish. The best way to do this is to crack and separate your eggs into different bowls other than the one you will eventually use for heating and beating. That way if any yolk does leak into your whites, you don't have to start separating from scratch. 

2 egg whites
   1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1-1/2 cups low-fat Greek yogurt
      1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
      1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Petticoat tails or shortbread cookies
Lemon zest, optional
Fresh mint, optional

Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt by whisking lightly in a small bowl. Fill a small saucepan with 1/4"-1/2" of water, cover with a small heatproof bowl, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Quickly add egg mixture to heatproof bowl, and whisk continuously until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Use a potholder to remove bowl from saucepan. Transfer egg mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat at medium or medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 10-15 minutes.

Whisk Greek yogurt, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a separate bowl. Gently fold in egg whites, scraping the outside of the bowl as you scoop up, folding into the center until well incorporated. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Divide evenly among four small dessert dishes. Serve cool and garnish with petticoat tails, shortbread cookie crumbs, lemon zest, and fresh mint, if desired. Yield: 4 servings.

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