There’s no better way to signal your “serious intentions” than with this seriously delicious and showy sweet. A white chocolate pastry cream is infused with basil, lightened with whipped cream, and layered with a vibrant berry sauce. I’ve used strawberry, but blackberry or raspberry work equally well. MAKES ABOUT FIVE 3/4 CUP SERVINGS
• 8 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
• 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
• 4 to 5 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, or to taste
White chocolate-basil mousse
• 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, stems removed, coarsely chopped
• 3 cups heavy cream, divided
• 5 teaspoons cold water
• 1 teaspoon powdered unflavored gelatin
• 4 large egg yolks
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 4 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
• 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
• Strawberry quarters (at least five)
• Small fresh basil leaves (at least five)
1. To make sauce, combine berries, zest and 2 to 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar in food processor fitted with steel blade. Process until smooth. Add sugar to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
2. To make mousse, combine basil and 2 cups cream in saucepan. Bring to scalding over medium heat. Turn off heat and steep about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pour water into top of double boiler. Sprinkle gelatin uniformly over water. Let sit 5 to 10 minutes until gelatin has completely absorbed water. Melt over low heat on top of double boiler, then turn off heat.
3. Whisk yolks and sugar together. Whisk in flour. Strain cream mixture into yolk mixture, pressing excess fluid from leaves, and whisk to combine. Add white chocolate. Pour into clean saucepan and cook over medium heat. Stir slowly and constantly in a figure-eight pattern until chocolate has melted and mixture just comes to a boil. Note: A whisk can help break up lumps that naturally form in this 100-percent cream-based sauce. Do not whisk too aggressively or mixture may break. Strain chocolate mixture into large bowl. Immediately whisk in warm gelatin, grated orange zest and vanilla extract. Cover surface flush with plastic wrap and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
4. Combine 1 cup cream and confectioners’ sugar in electric mixer fitted with whip attachment. Whip cream to soft peaks. Once chocolate mixture has cooled but not set, gently fold in whipped cream.
5. To assemble, pour mousse into large container with spout. Pour strawberry sauce into a container with spout. Fill five 8- to 10-ounce wine glasses halfway with mousse. Refrigerate until partially set, about 30 minutes.
6. Pour 2 to 3 tablespoons sauce on top of each dessert. Allow sauce to flow completely to sides of glass. Top off with remaining mousse, cover with plastic wrap and chill until completely set, about 6 hours. Garnish with strawberry quarter and basil leaf.
Julia M. Usher is a food writer, recipe designer and food stylist in St. Louis. Visit her at www.herbcompanion.com/contributors .
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