Creamy caramel mousse is an upgrade to your standard mousse flavors–caramelized brown sugar and honey also get a boost from a hint of vanilla. And when that gorgeous syrup gets added to a mountain of whipped cream, you might just find yourself with a new favorite dessert.
I love the flavor of caramel, and when I made this mousse, I found myself cleaning the bowl and licking the spatula. It has just what I want in caramel mousse—a rich, deep caramel flavor and a velvety, creamy texture.–Carole Bloom
LC ANYTHING MORE? NOTE
Is there anything more you could want from a mousse than being rich, velvety, and creamy? Well, if you thrill to a contrast in textures, you could want the juxtaposition of all that loveliness with the crunch of something delicate yet bold. If that just made your heart skip a beat, take a look at the variation beneath the recipe.
Creamy Caramel Mousse
- Pastry brush; six 2-ounce mini martini glasses or bowls
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup (1 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (1 1/2 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 1 ounce (2 tablespoons, 1/4 stick) unsalted butter softened
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring 1/3 cup cream to a gentle boil.
- Meanwhile, heat the granulated sugar, brown sugar, water, honey, and vanilla paste in a 2-quart heavy-duty saucepan over high heat, without stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil. Brush the pan with a damp pastry brush at the point where the sugar syrup meets the sides of the pan to prevent the sugars from crystallizing twice as the mixture is heating. Cook the mixture, without stirring, until it turns amber colored, about 6 minutes.
- Reduce the heat under the caramel to medium. Slowly and carefully add the hot cream to the caramel, stirring constantly with a long-handled, heat-resistant spatula or spoon. Beware, as the cream will bubble and foam. Continue to stir until you’re certain there are no lumps. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the butter, and stir until it’s completely melted.
- Transfer the caramel sauce to a 2-quart bowl and let cool to room temperature. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the sauce is cool but still stirrable, 1 to 2 hours.
- In a stand mixer with the wire whip attachment or in a large bowl using a hand-held mixer on medium speed, whip the remaining 2/3 cup cream until it holds soft peaks. Set aside 1/3 cup whipped cream and fold the remaining whipped cream into the chilled caramel sauce in 3 additions. Use a large ice cream scoop or spoon to fill each mini martini glass or bowl with the mousse. Cover the glasses or bowls loosely with waxed paper, then tightly wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours before serving.
- Just before serving, fit a 12- or 14-inch pastry bag with a large open star tip and fill the bag with the remaining 1/3 cup whipped cream. Pipe a rosette or star of whipped cream on top of each mousse.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Thankfully I have a lot of experience making caramel, so I wasn’t tempted to stir while the mixture was boiling. The recipe instructs you to brush the inside of the pan with a damp pastry brush twice to prevent crystallization, and that’s key.
The recipe also said to cook it about 6 minutes, until it turned an amber color, but I boiled it for just 5 minutes. I could tell it was perfect and didn’t want to let it go any longer. After the caramel is a lovely amber color, you’re instructed to add the hot cream (slowly, of course) followed by the butter. Then you pour the mixture into a bowl and allow it to come to room temperature. The instructions say that it should be refrigerated for 1 to 2 hours, but I checked it after only half an hour (could not resist!) and it was already firm enough. Any longer and it would not have been stirrable.
As an aside, the recipe calls for vanilla bean paste, but it’s easy to make your own from vanilla beans. What flavor! Beautiful. All that’s left to do is fold in the whipped cream and voila! Mousse! I kept sneaking licks while it was firming up in the fridge. It’s light, silky, and airy, yet the flavor is rich and buttery. The only slight imperfection? It was ever so slightly grainy, due to the cream and butter, but other than that it was sublime. Seriously. Vanilla beans. Caramel. Convinced yet?
I had always thought “bowl-licking-good” to be an exaggeration, but then I found myself licking the bowl—and the spatula—as I cleaned up after making this mousse.
Make sure you check the size of the pot you use to cook the sugars, as anything smaller than a 2-quart pot runs the risk of the caramel bubbling over when you add the cream and anything larger than a 2-quart pot may evaporate the water too quickly, allowing the sugars to burn. I found six minutes to be the perfect timing for cooking the sugar. At four minutes I had a caramel that was too light, runny, and too sweet (in other words, not sufficiently caramelized). But at six minutes, I could tell the sugars were well caramelized. I think any longer might have burned them. Adding the hot cream will make the mixture sputter, so stand back and use that long-handled spatula to stir!
Cool the caramel to room temperature, then place it in the fridge and check it after 30 minutes. You want the caramel to be cool but still stirrable. Warm caramel will “melt” the whipped cream later, but if it’s too cold and hard, it won’t fold in properly. An hour in the fridge was enough for my caramel – it took a bit of extra folding to get the first 1/3 of the whipped cream incorporated, but the rest went smoothly.
This may serve six at a dinner party, but it really serves two when eating it out of the bowl while standing in the middle of your kitchen.
Originally published May 01, 2009