As much as I love shiny new cookbooks (and oh, I do!) my shelf of mid-century cookbooks is my sentimental favorite. I especially love those purchased second-hand with notes and recipe clippings tucked in the pages. I’ll admit, reading through the oddball "Tuna Surprise" and congealed salad recipes is a weird form of entertainment for me, but there are other recipes in those pages that are still relevant today.
In 1956 General Mills published the second edition of the Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book. In this revised and enlarged version, special menus and recipes were included from celebrities of the time - Jimmy Durante, Ed Sullivan and Eleanor Roosevelt to name a few. Among those esteemed contributors was French fashion designer Christian Dior. His suggested menu for "Dinner in Paris" included apricot mousse for dessert. I have a copy of this book, and when I read the recipe's simple ingredients and preparation, it struck me that it would be at home in the pages of any newly published cookbook today. One might say it is as timeless as his design.
The original recipe calls for the mousse to be frozen, but I like it just fine chilled in the refrigerator. It's light and refreshing - not at all heavy - and "the Dior treatment" as it is referred to in the text, is the addition of Kirsch cherry liqueur. In that case, the Sprinkle Bakes treatment (heh) would be the addition of whipped cream and fresh berries. Apricots aren't quite in season here, so I reluctantly used frozen. The mousse turned out delicious and fruity nonetheless, but you can bet that I'll be making this again in summer when apricots are at their peak.
In 1957, just one year after this recipe was published, Mr. Dior passed away at the age of 52. Lucky for us, House of Dior lives on, as does this last course of "Dinner in Paris". I hope you'll give it a try because it's so simple to make and absolutely delicious. Best of all, you don't have to be a fashionista to appreciate it.
Christian Dior's Apricot Mousse
Yield: 6 servings
Source: Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book second edition circa 1957
Prep: 25 minutes, total time with chilling about 3 hours
I've re-written this recipe with greater detail in case you're not sure how to make the cooked apricots called for in the original text. "The Dior treatment" is mentioned as the addition of Kirsch liqueur to the mousse, but it gives no instruction as to when or where to add it. I've added this information along with my own addition of whipped cream and fresh berries.
1 cup/250g cooked apricot puree *
1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons Kirsch liqueur
2 cups/464g heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup/64g confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 drop of each: red and yellow food color (optional)
Whipped cream and garnish
1 cup/232g heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 fresh strawberries stemmed and cut into vertical slices
dragees, if desired
*Cooked apricot puree can be made by placing 6 peeled and sliced apricots (36 grams each) in a medium saucepan with 3 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Cook over medium-high heat until the fruit starts to come apart, about 20-30 minutes (less time for frozen apricots). Sieve the mixture and puree it in a food processor or blender. Measure 1 cup/250g apricot puree and let cool to room temperature for the mousse recipe.
Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over 1 tablespoon water in a small microwave-safe condiment cup. Let stand for 5 minutes. When the gelatin is firm heat it in the microwave for 10 seconds or until liquefied. Add the gelatin to the apricot puree. Stir in the kirsch liqueur.
In a separate large bowl, beat the 2 cups heavy whipping cream to soft peaks, then gradually add in the confectioners' sugar and salt. Whip to stiff peaks. Fold the apricot mixture into the whipped cream using a rubber spatula. Add the food color, if using. Use gentle strokes as to not deflate the mixture. When the apricot mixture is fully dispersed into the cream, pour the mousse into footed dessert glasses or ramekins. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until set. For a frozen treat, freeze the mousse for 3-4 hours before serving.
For the topping, whip the heavy cream in a large bowl and gradually add in the sugar. Whip to stiff peaks. Top each mousse cup with the whipped cream and add fresh berries to garnish. Add dragees, if using. If fresh apricots are in season, garnish each cup with a fresh apricot slice.