Happy Sunday, friends! We are kicking off the second chapter of Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person this week—Pies and Tarts—with bake number 19. This week’s recipe was the Cranberry Pomegranate Mousse Pie, and it was a delight!
Hello hello hello! We have officially made it to the second chapter of the book! I am super excited to be in the world of pies and tarts. My previous experiences with baking have almost exclusively been making pies and tarts after the musical Waitress came out and I bought the pie cookbook— so it feels great to be in familiar territory and I’m excited for so many of the recipes in this section! The first recipe is the beautifully coloured Cranberry and Pomegranate Mousse Pie.
What I haven’t had experience with is making mousse. My only experience with or knowledge of mousse is every episode where they have to make it on the Great British Bake-Off and they’re afraid it’s not going to set in time. I obviously have unlimited time to let my bakes set but the panic still palpated within me nonetheless. This bake was very easy to make but creates such a well-balanced and satisfying dessert, and the colour is so striking.
You start by making the Graham Cracker Crust—Claire suggests making it with Biscoff cookies, which I couldn’t find so I just made it with regular graham crackers. We had been here before when making the cheesecake. With my cheesecake experience (please refer to the previous post to hear the entire sob story), I didn’t really get the full graham cracker crust experience because it turned out so soggy, so I was excited for a chance at redemption SANS water bath method. Can now confirm—the graham cracker crust is delicious and crispy, NOT non-existent and soggy.
After the crust has been made, baked, and cooled, you make the mousse filling. This was a fun process and introduced me to some ingredients I had never heard of before (looking at you, pomegranate molasses). You start by reducing cranberries with sugar, cinnamon, orange zest, salt, water and your new friend pomegranate molasses. You let this cook in order to create a compote with the cranberries. This is another example of where I had to cook it down quite a bit longer than the book listed. Once it has cooked down into a jam-like consistency, you strain in through a sieve and mix in some heavy cream. I was worried when straining that I didn’t have enough of the mixture, but everything still turned out fine, so don’t obsess over straining like I did. I think I ended up with around 3/4-1 cup.
You then let this mixture cool in the fridge while you soften the powdered gelatin over the stove and whisk some heavy cream to firm peaks. I had never used gelatin before and wow, it is maybe the coolest thing I’ve ever seen—the way it can dissolve when warmed and then re-solve (is this a word) when cooled and firm things up? Science is wild. You mix the gelatin into your cranberry/pomegranate mixture and then fold in the whipped cream slowly to create your mousse. You then pour the mousse into your crust and let it set in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
I, the great planner that I am, did not read the recipe beforehand and realize how long it had to chill. So because I made it at 930pm, I left it to set overnight before trying it. Regardless of the time in the fridge, once it has set, you top it with more whipped cream, and some sugared cranberries. I had to use frozen cranberries, which Claire says you can’t use to make the sugared cranberries part, but it worked out fine for me! And voila that’s it!
This pie was light and airy, but also so rich, tart, and satisfying. I absolutely loved it. The tartness of the mousse was contrasted so well by the whipped cream, and then the lightness of the mousse worked so well with the graham cracker crust. Everything worked together in a beautiful harmonious way. Also, THIS is the pie you want to make at Thanksgiving and I think I might next year; it’s light, has those familiar Fall flavours, but also is a no-bake recipe, so it won’t take up precious real estate in your oven while cooking dinner. Genius. Claire, you’ve done it once again. I love this pie, I found a love and deep respect for the marvel that is gelatin, and I love mousse. 5 stars.
I was really looking forward to making this recipe because 1) I was super excited to officially get started with this new chapter of the book and start working on new kinds of bakes, and 2) it involved a whole bunch of ingredients I’d never used or tried before—pomegranate molasses, biscoff cookies (referred to as speculoos in some places), gelatin, and just generally the process of making a mousse.
It was a relatively quick and easy bake in terms of the actual work involved. The base of the pie is a variation of Claire’s Graham Cracker Crust, which uses Speculoos or Biscoff cookies in place of the graham crackers. This was my first time trying biscoff and I am now obsessed—they are sort of like if graham crackers and gingerbread had a baby. It looks like Claire uses this particular ingredient a few times and I cannot wait. They’re super delicious!
The crust comes together in the same way as the Graham Cracker Crust we made for the Goat Cheese Cake, and then bakes for about 15 minutes. While it was cooling, I made the mousse filling. The first step is to make the cranberry compote, which is obviously cranberries (I used frozen since fresh aren’t usually available in the grocery stores this time of year), sugar, water, orange juice/zest, a cinnamon stick, and the next never-before-used ingredient, pomegranate molasses. This was also SO GOOD and something I will absolutely use again, even for savoury recipes as a glaze or in salad dressings. This all cooks down until you get a jammy consistency and then you pour it through a mesh strainer. I was a little concerned I wasn’t going to have enough of the compote because there was quite a bit of discarded cranberry leftover, but it seemed to work out fine in the end. I didn’t feel great about all the cranberry that kind of went to waste, but not sure what else I could have used this for?
Once the compote also cools, you whisk in some gelatin powder that’s been softened with a bit of water and warmed up on the stove. While that sits, I whipped heavy cream to stiff peaks, and then that also gets folded in to the compote/gelatin mixture. This all gets poured into the cooled crust and sets in the fridge for at least four hours. It sounds like a lot of steps, and it was, but it wasn’t really anything too complicated or labour intensive. I did find myself going back to the book more often than usual though, just to make sure I was keeping track and wasn’t missing anything important. No one wants a runny mousse!
While my pie was setting, I moved on to one of the last steps which was making the sugared cranberries to go on top of the pie. Claire says in the book that you can’t make these if you’re using frozen cranberries but—sorry girl—I respectfully disagree. Fresh cranberries would definitely hold their shape a bit better I think, but the frozen ones worked out just fine. More of the sugar, pomegranate molasses, and water gets mixed down into a syrup, the cranberries go in for a few minutes to cook down and get coated, and then they sit on a wire rack until they’re cool and sort of sticky to the touch. Roll them around in some sugar, and you’re ready to go!
I decorated the top of my pie with more homemade whipped cream and the sugared cranberries like Claire suggests, and also added some orange rind spirals that I made by wrapping the rind around a wooden skewer. I know I say this basically every week, but this pie was SO delicious! The combination of flavours was really amazing, it was the perfect mix of sweet and tart, the colour was so beautiful and vibrant, and the silky-smooth mousse set perfectly. It was a great introduction to pies and I cannot wait for all the recipes to come this summer! This pie gets 5 stars from me!
Check back next week for our second pie: Plum Galette with Polenta and Pistachios!