A No-Cook Dessert for Summer Sweetness

06/24/2011 12:59 pm ET | Updated Aug 24, 2011

It's no secret that I am not the baker in this little cooking duo of ours. This wasn't always the case. In high school, when our cooking and non-cooking friendship began, I baked all the time--mostly cookies, but also the occasional pound cake, banana bread, and cupcake.

Back in October, I began working as a personal chef, making a three-course meal once a week for my client, who just so happens to love her sweets. It was kind of a wake-up call for me. I'd always loved brainstorming with Cara about the dessert nibbles that could be added to our party and catering menus. But when I perused my food magazines, and traipsed around the blogosphere, rarely would I dog-ear, tab, or really pay any attention to the sweet stuff.

Until, of course, I had to. For the first two months of my job, I got away with putting this rich chocolate torte on every menu under a different name, cut into different shapes, and garnished with different accoutrements. But eventually, Henny began to catch on. I needed to jazz up my repertoire. I needed to become a baker again.

I found it easier to tackle my baking fears by category. First came different varieties of cakes, then spins on brownies and blondies, and finally I went the mousse route. This proved to be the easiest and most practical solution to my weekly dessert offerings.

It's hard to make a cake just for just a few people unless you are making individual molten chocolate cakes or budino (which is not even technically a cake). But mousse can be portioned however you like, into wine glasses, punch glasses, or ice cream bowls. And you can make it up to a day in advance. It was actually easier and lighter to transport the glasses of mousse uptown on the 4 train than it was to carry a whole cake in its pan. So if transportation is an issue for you too, don't rule out mousse.

This dessert is an incredibly light  and satisfying treat for a casual summer night. The berries are inspired by the delicious strawberry shortcakes with basil-macerated fruit that Cara made last spring for a party we catered (which we never photographed, and which, therefore, we have yet to post about) and they rae the perfect counter-point to the tart, lemony mousse.

Check out our other great tips for how to serve fruit for dessert.

--Phoebe Lapine of Big Girls, Small Kitchen


Lemon Mousse  with Basil-Macerated Strawberries
Makes 4 servings

5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Pinch of salt
1 1/3 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
½ pound strawberries, stems removed and sliced
3 tablespoons Basil Simple Syrup (recipe follows)

Whisk egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel, and salt in medium bowl until combined. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water (this is a makeshift double boiler). Whisk until mixture is very thick, about 6 minutes. Remove and let the lemon mixture cool to room temperature.

Beat remaining 1 1/3 cups cream in large bowl until firm peaks form. Carefully fold whipped cream into the lemon mixture, 1 cup at a time. (You should have 3 cups total).

Divide the mixture between 4 punch glasses or small bowls. Chill for at least 2 hours, and up to 1 day.

In a medium mixing bowl, spoon the simple syrup over the strawberries and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

When ready to serve, using a slotted spoon, spoon the strawberries over the mousse and garnish with a basil leaf (optional).

Basil Simple Syrup

½ cup sugar
½ cup water
½ cup fresh basil leaves

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until the sugar dissolves, less than a minute. Turn off heat and add the basil. Stir to combine, and let steep for 1 hour. Remove to an airtight container and refrigerate.