A Day at the Beach in December: Frozen Orange Mousse Torte with Blackberry Sauce

A few years ago I realized that offering frozen desserts at our holiday party means not only more variety for our guests, but also a more manageable prep schedule for me since I can often make frozen items a few days in advance. This year our frozen menu included four selections: David Lebovitz's Frozen Caramel Mousse from Ready for Dessert, a Frozen Nougat Terrine with Raspberry-Fig Sauce, the Nanaimo Ice Cream Bars from Baked Occasions, and a Frozen Orange Mousse Torte with Blackberry Sauce. My favorite of the four, by far, was the orange mousse torte.

One of the things that attracted me to the torte is the pistachio crust. The crust is a mixture of pistachios, brown sugar, flour, orange zest, and melted butter that you blend together in a food processor and press into the bottom of a pan (I used a 9-inch cheesecake pan with a removable bottom instead of a springform pan). You bake the crust briefly until golden (I had to do this in the kitchen of our friends Gail and Zev while our oven was broken) and store it in the freezer while making the orange mousse filling.

To make the filling, you first whisk egg yolks with sugar and fresh orange juice in a double boiler until they reach 170 degrees. Then you transfer yolks to a mixer, beat until cooled and thick, and add Grand Marnier. In a separate bowl, you beat a pint of whipping cream with orange zest until it reaches stiff peaks. I normally whip cream and egg whites by hand with a large balloon whisk to keep more control over the process and avoid overbeating. I whisked the cream by hand for what seemed like forever without it taking any shape. I wasn't sure if adding the zest at the beginning was causing the problem, but I finally got the cream to stiff peaks -- and exactly two whisk strokes later, the cream was overwhipped. I went ahead to use it in the mousse anyway, folding the yolk mixture into the cream and trying to do the best I could to eliminate any lumps.
I had a huge amount of mousse, much more than I could fit into my two-inch high pan. I doled out the remaining filling into 5-oz. plastic cups to create individual servings of gluten-free frozen mousse. I shoved the assembled torte and individual mousse cups in the freezer until the party.

For the sauce, I couldn't find frozen boysenberries so I used blackberries instead. You cook a vanilla bean (both the scraped seeds and the pod), frozen berries, sugar, and water until the mixture boils; purée the sauce (including the vanilla pod) in a food processor; put the mixture through a sieve; add in fresh orange zest and juice; and refrigerate until chilled.

The torte was easy to cut and serve and I thought the slices were quite pretty. Several people who saw the sliced torte thought it was cheesecake. The torte is the bomb. One guest who had a piece asked where the beach was, and I think that sentiment captures it precisely -- each bite transports you right to a white sandy beach on a warm sunny day with a nice breeze. The creamy, cold, airy citrus torte is incredibly bright and refreshing; I was afraid that that Grand Marnier would make the mousse too boozy, but I couldn't taste the alcohol at all. This torte is better than the best orange creamsicle I could imagine. The orange flavor is so clear and pure -- I cannot think of another orange dessert that I've enjoyed more. The pairing with the pistachio crust is also inspired. The sauce was terrific as well, and a perfect complement -- but the torte tastes pretty fantastic without it.

I will say a few words about the other frozen desserts. I would also recommend the frozen caramel mousse, which I served with salted caramel sauce. The Nanaimo ice cream bars were also a hit. They are on the Baked Sunday Mornings schedule for July 2016, so I'll blog about them then. And I had such high hopes for the frozen nougat. I had frozen nougat a couple of times while we were in France (as part of a tasting menu at Le Bistro Méricourt in Paris and also at Le Garet in Lyon) and it was part of my "French Christmas"-themed menu.
While the frozen nougat (pictured above) was good -- and the raspberry-fig sauce was quite tasty as well (I skipped the chocolate sauce) -- it didn't blow me away. And the orange mousse torte was mind-blowingly good, so the nougat just paled in comparison. Sadly, I wouldn't make it again.

Recipes: "Frozen Orange Mousse Torte with Boysenberry Sauce," "Boysenberry Sauce [blackberry variation]," and "Frozen Nougat with Terrine with Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce and Raspberry-Fig Sauce" from epicurious.com.

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Sally said…
I can't believe you make all these desserts! SO impressive. I am still in love with the frozen maple mousse that you wrote about last year... What else did you make?
Happy New Year, Sally! I also still love that frozen maple mousse and actually considered making the candied cranberries from that recipe to go with the frozen nougat! I'll hopefully get around to posting the entire holiday party menu recap next week!