Indescribably Great Frozen Maple Mousse Pie

Be prepared to swoon over this frozen maple mousse pie with candied cranberries.

After taking my first bite of this creamy-dreamy dessert, words simply failed me.

Search as I may, I don’t think there’s a word that can properly describe how amazing this “Frozen Maple-Mousse Pie with Candied Cranberries” is.

Luscious? Yes. But more than that. Gorgeous? You bet it is, but it’s even beyond that. Swoonful? Oh my, it sure is, but I’m not even sure that’s a real word.

I made this as the finale to my Christmas dinner. And what a showstopper it was.

The recipe is from Kathleen Callahan of Seattle’s Emmer & Rye and was published in the November 2010 issue of Food & Wine magazine.

It’s deceptively light tasting, given that the crust is almost all pulverized toasted pecans with a little bit of butter to hold it all together and the filling is a full cup of maple syrup, egg whites and 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream.

A slice of cheesecake may be decadently wonderful, but at the end of a big holiday meal, it just sits like a lead weight in your stomach at the end of the night. Not so this pie. Once frozen, the filling turns ethereal. It’s much more airy than any ice cream; more like a sound wedge of whipped cream. Best yet, you can make it days ahead of time and keep it in the freezer until you’re ready to serve it.

After patting the pulverized nut mixture on the bottom of a springform pan, make the filling, which is essentially an Italian meringue folded into whipped cream. Maple syrup gets heated and reduced until it’s bubbling madly. Then, it’s slowly and carefully poured into a mixing bowl that holds stiffly beaten egg whites. The mixture is then beaten vigorously until the it cools to room temperature and turns all glossy pretty.  Then, it’s folded into whipped cream flavored with vanilla. Spread the filling over the nut crust, then place in the freezer.

Serve with candied cranberries, which are a snap to make. Essentially, you just gently cook whole fresh cranberries in sugar syrup in a covered double-boiler over a very low flame for 45 minutes.  Then, cool to room temperature and store in the fridge until ready to use.

When you pull your pie from the freezer, the sides of it will likely be firmly adhered to your springform pan. To help unmold it more easily, here’s a tip: Take a blow-dryer — yes, the same one you use on your hair — and blow hot air quickly around the entire perimeter of the ring for a couple of seconds. You will see the edges of the pie almost immediately come unglued from the ring of the pan. Carefully lift the ring off  the pie and you’re good to go.

The pie is cold, sweet and so maple-y in flavor. The cranberries add holiday hue and a burst of subtle twang.

One bite and you’ll find yourself at a loss for words, too. Instead, you’ll just sigh with rapture. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

You won't be able to stop eating it.

Frozen Maple-Mousse Pie with Candied Cranberries

(Serves 12)

For crust:

2 cups pecans (8 ounces)

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Pinch of salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

For mousse:

1 cup pure grade B maple syrup

2 large egg whites, at room temperature

Pinch of cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups chilled heavy cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For candied cranberries:

8 ounces fresh cranberries (2 cups)

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup water

Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool completely.

In a food processor, pulse pecans, sugar, nutmeg and salt until nuts are finely chopped. Add butter and pulse to incorporate. Press crumbs into a 9-inch springform pan in an even layer. Refrigerate until firm.

Meanwhile, make the mousse: In a medium saucepan, bring maple syrup to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until slightly reduced and a candy thermometer inserted in the syrup registers 235 degrees, about 8 minutes; be careful it doesn’t boil over.

In a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt until firm peaks form. With the mixer at medium speed, drizzle the hot syrup onto the whites and beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat the meringue until cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat heavy cream with vanilla until soft peaks from. Fold meringue into whipped cream until blended. Scrape mousse into the crust and spread evenly. Freeze until firm, at least 8 hours but preferably overnight. (The mousse will not freeze solid like ice cream.)

Meanwhile, make the candied cranberries: Put cranberries in a large heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour syrup over cranberries and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Set bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook undisturbed over very low heat until syrup is rosy and cranberries are tender but not broken down, about 45 minutes. Remove bowl from saucepan and let cranberries cool completely. Refrigerate until chilled.

Remove ring from springform pan. Cut mousse pie into wedges and transfer to plates. Spoon candied cranberries over the pie and serve.

From Kathleen Callahan of Emmer & Rye, as published in the November 2010 issue of Food and Wine magazine

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