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April 20, 2007

A Spoonful of Sunshine: Maple Star Anise Mousse


Mousse is a dessert full of fascinating contradictions for me: both rich yet airy, creamy yet fluffy, dense yet light. It is wonderfully easy for even the most novice of bakers to make, yet never fails to elicit oohs of appreciation at the dinner table. And, while its chocolate-imbued incarnation is comfort food at its most beloved, mousse can also provide a reassuringly familiar springboard into flavors new and unexpected.

Case in point: Kate Zuckerman's elegant Maple-Star Anise Mousse, from her book The Sweet Life, featuring a combination of flavors I had never imagined. The two components are whirled into a delicate, sunshine-colored dessert that proves irresistible. (Does everyone else also quiver in mixed excitement and indecision, poised at the first spoonful, knowing you're about to break the perfect pristine surface, that you can't smooth it over like pudding or jam, but also anticipating the soft gliding scoop, the gentle frisson that feels not quite like spooning through soup or custard or mashed potatoes but exactly like swooping through clouds?)

It makes sense, after seeing other mousse recipes where you start by whipping hot sugar syrup with eggs, that Zuckerman would be inspired to use maple syrup the same way- combined with eggs and folded with whipped cream, the maple flavor is stripped from its treacly confines and rendered intoxicatingly light - almost like Ferran Adria's foams. The addition of star anise tempers the sweetness of the maple and gives it a more complex edge: if you're wondering how the dessert would taste like maple and licorice at the same time, it's more like a flavor that is reminiscent of both but is, as Zuckerman puts it, "more than the sum of its parts." My rendition leaned more towards the maple than the licorice side; it's possible to add in a few more star anise when infusing the maple syrup if you want the taste to tip the other way.

There are other equally creative combinations in Zuckerman's book, such as Clove Caramel Mousse and Sesame Milk Chocolate Mousse. After tasting maple and star anise together, I'm convinced that they would all be just as delicious. But then, that's the wonderful thing about mousses: as buttery smooth and meltingly luscious as they are, how could you not indulge down the last licked-clean spoonful?

Of course, this is also my contribution to this month's Hay Hay It's Donna Day, hosted by Helene of the spectactular Tartlette!


Maple-Star Anise Mousse

from Kate Zuckerman's The Sweet Life

makes about 6 servings

6 egg yolks

a pinch of salt

1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup

4 whole star anise

2 cups heavy cream

Whisk together the egg yolks and salt in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment on medium speed.

Fill a small cup with 1/4 cup of cold water, and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Put the cup aside.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the maple syrup and star anise. Bring the syrup to a boil over medium-high heat and let cook until it reaches 240 degrees F. The syrup should get very active and bubbly.

Take the syrup off the stove and remove the star anise carefully.

With the egg yolks still whipping, slowly pour the hot syrup down the side of the mixer bowl and let it combine with the yolks.

The gelatin should be a solid mass in the cup. Scrape it out with a rubber spatula and into the saucepan you used to cook the syrup. The heat of the pan should melt the gelatin into liquid.

Pour the gelatin into the mixer bowl as well and let whisk together until the mixture has cooled down to tempeature and looks like it has tripled in volume - it should have a thicker, more puddinglike consistency and no longer seem as liquid.

Pour out the mousse base into a large bowl. Either clean the mixer bowl thoroughly, or if you have another mixer bowl, whip the heavy cream until it has soft peaks (do not overwhip).

Scrape the whipped cream out onto the mousse base. Using a spatula or bowl scraper, carefully fold the whipped cream into the mousse base, trying not to deflate the whipped cream too much.

At this point, you can cover and place the mousse in the refrigerator for about 2 hours to let set, and then scoop out portions onto dishes to serve. Or, you could divide the mousse into individual dishes and smooth off the tops before you chill them so they have a nicer presentation. A third alternative is to place the mousse in a piping base and pipe out into dishes before chilling them. In any case, you should let the mousse chill for about 2 hours before serving.

The mousse will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 days, covered.

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What a PERFECT presentation! very fine indeed!

You know star anise is so versatile, you just never know it until you play with it. I made it into a star anise ganache and paired it with a chocolate cupcake and candied grapefruit. It was fantastic.

I've never made mousse before, but now I want to try. Gorgeous photos too by the way!

I wouldn't eat this. I would frame it and put it in a art gallery. What a work of art this is, its so beautiful.

But I guess you have to break down and eat it eventually and I bet you that is a work of art then too.

This is gorgeous! I would have never thought of that flavor combination either. I love that cute little bowl. :)

Wow! The pictures are great! With my photo I can't win ;-)

Fantabulous, Anita!! Now I want to put maple and anise together.. who would have thunk it, eh? hehe

Beautiful presentation as well, you've definitely got the knack for that!


That's just beautiful! And anything with maple is wonderful as far as I'm concerned.

what a great combination of flavors would definitely never have imagined that. Your mousse looks rich and creamy :) heavenly!

That's one heckuva mousse! Sounds like I've got yet another cookbook to add to my shopping list :D

I love the recipe as much as I love your writing leading up to it. You always have the most perfectly appropriate and magical description. True inspiration!

The combination of star anise and maple is inspired. Your photo is just beautiful, too.

Awesome, wow, beautiful, perfect...your photo brings these all to mind. And your writing has the same reframe. Maple and Anise ... seem unlikely at first thought and then seem just the perfect foil for each other. Excellent.

glorious photos...anita, you never cease to amaze me. thanks for making your way through kate zuckerman's book for the rest of us who love the book, but still have yet to make anything from it!

My gosh--gorgeous mousse and gorgeous photos, but gorgeous prose as well! I almost swooned at the end of that second paragraph:-)

I am interested in how that would taste...I love maple but the anise seems odd...but I am willing to try it. The other combos sound interesting too.
Beautiful photos as always.

Very lovely! Would never have thought of using star anise in this way... such pretty photos...

This looks and sounds so decadent with that beautiful photograph your eloquent description. Your blog's one of my absolute favorites because of your way with words. Reading an entry is almost like reading prose!

What BEAUTIFUL pictures Anita!!
love the compositions...

Your photos are always breathtaking, Anita!

Hi Anita! These photos are unbelievable! The mousse looks and sounds delightful. I also used maple syrup in mine. Love the inclusion of star anise - I bet it tasted just as amazing as it looks.

i would've never thought of trying out these two flavours together....sounds like a match made in heaven.the picture too is so how u've put that star on your mousse...n not to mention that fantastic introduction to the mousse !

What an exciting pair of flavors! I honestly couldn't imagine it at first but as I read your post I felt so compelled to taste it! Homey and exotic at the same time...that's how it strikes me :) Beautiful photos!

So pretty! I love the idea and technique!

These pictures are beautiful! I love mousse and this is nice, because you put a twist on it with a different flavor. With your last few posts, I'm seeing my baking inexperience. I've never made a mousse or puff pastry! So many things to make!

Gorgeous presentation! And such an interesting flavor combination!

beautifully presented! nice

I love Kate Zuckerman's book! I had been eyeing her mousse recipes for a while now to use for napoleons. I'm glad to see you make her maple-star anise mousse. It is a lovely rendition!

Beautiful presentation. I like to use star anise inunexpected dplaces. I haave yet to try it in a dessert though. Thanks for joining HHDD.

Oh, thank you! That's so sweet of you!

Thank you! The payoff from being adventurous can be quite rewarding, no? I love your Port Royals - especially the name!

Thank you! Yes, sometimes it seems hard to break down my desserts - but if it tastes good, I don't mind!

Thank you! I was uncertain at first but it's really delicious! And I got the bowl at Crate and Barrel:)

I don't know...there are some really beautiful mousses at the round-up - including yours! The lemon yogurt mousse sounds very refreshing!

Thank you! The star anise turned out to be a great prop as well as recipe ingredient!

Thank you! I can definitely taste maple, despite what the original recipe said - very tasty!

Thank you! Unexpected combination but it turned out very nicely!

Thank you! Yes, surprisingly easy to make and I think the results are delicious!

Thank you! I'm blushing. I do tend to rhapsodize about good food - good thing I've found others who enjoy food just as much!

Thank you! I'm glad the mousse turned out so well and that you enjoyed the post!

Oh, thank you for such a nice compliment! I really was inspired by how this unorthodox pairing turned out:)

Thank you! I'm glad you have the book too, it's wonderful and I find the recipes very clear and reassuring!

Thank you! That's a high compliment coming from you! Glad you enjoyed the post!

Thank you! It does sound a little odd but it turned out beautifully - hope if you try it you like it!

Thank you! I never used star anise in baking before - but this one turned out well!

Thank you so much for the wonderful compliments! I try to write to do justice to the desserts, I'm glad you enjoy it!

Thank you! Wonderful compliment coming from a master of composition in her watercolors:)

Thank you! This mousse was fun to photograph!

I didn't comment on your mousse entry yet - bad me - but it looks absolutely heavenly! Maple syrup is a wonderful thing!

Thank you! Yes, the star anise were so perfect for garnishing the mousse! The flavor turned out very nicely too!

Thank you! The combination is hard to imagine at first but I can tell you the result is pretty yummy!

Thank you! I'm glad you like it!

Thank you! There's many things I have yet to attempt in baking - I think I'll never get tired of it!

Thank you! I was really surprised and pleased with how the flavor came out!

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

Thank you! The mousse is a wonderful consistency that would be great for filling napoleons - it makes me want to make her other mousses - or perhaps see your renditions!

I hadn't used star anise in baking before but the results are quite nice! Thank you!

Your pictures, your words, the flavors you've chosen -- stunning!

The cover photo is positively breathtaking!

Thank you for such a nice comment! I'm glad you like it!

Thank you! A lucky chance when all the elements came together!

Hi Anita, your post intrigued and inspired me. I just had to try such an unusual combination of flavours. My effort was nowhere near as pretty as yours. But never mind, because the taste was fantastic. I ended up with a strong licorice flavour which I loved. I'll be making it again.

Absolutely scrumptious, Anita! I cannot wait to try this one! Thank you so much for sharing the recipe with us. We are proud to have it included in this week's FoodieView Recipe Roundup. Take care- Michele

What an exciting pair of flavors! I honestly couldn't imagine it at first but as I read your post I felt so compelled to taste it! Homey and exotic at the same time...that's how it strikes me :) Beautiful photos!

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