By Laura Virginia Anderson
Last week, my friend Priya hosted a dinner party and made an amazing mango mousse. She improvised it using heavy cream, canned mango pulp she had bought at an Indian grocery, sugar, fruit pectin, and lime juice. The result was incredible: the texture of a stovetop pudding married to the flavor of a mango lassi.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so when the weekend arrived, I decided to give it a try. I didn’t have any mango pulp or fruit pectin, but, in a blaze of overconfidence, I felt sure that I could achieve similar results using a couple of ripe mangos and a traditional mousse technique. I peeled the mangos and cut them into chunks, then I puréed them in a blender with four egg yolks, a little sugar, and some lime zest. Meanwhile, I beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt, lime juice, and a little more sugar—so far, so good.Unfortunately, after folding together the mango mixture and the meringue, I was not feeling particularly optimistic. The mixture was quite pallid—not nearly as gorgeously orange as Priya’s had been—and tasted terribly eggy. It dissolved feebly on my tongue, and I could hardly discern the flavor of the mango. I tried to stay positive as I beat heavy cream with more sugar and then folded the cream with half the mango meringue, but it was still far too fluffy and bland when I tasted it again.
I was not about to let two mangos and four eggs go down the drain, and desperate times call for desperate measures. So I beat more cream with a splash of rum and a sprinkle of ground ginger and folded this into the mousse: still lackluster. I grated a knob of fresh ginger into the mixture: a little better, but not nearly fruity enough. In a last-ditch effort, I grabbed some fresh pineapple that had been malingering in the fridge for a while, puréed it, and folded it into the mousse along with some ground cardamom (and, because it couldn’t possibly hurt, another glug of rum).
The resulting concoction was not a mango mousse. It was more like a tropical fool: creamy, rich, mildly spicy, ambiguously fruity. Not custardy, but not too liquid, either. It was fine at room temperature, but I froze some of it, which gave it the texture of sherbet married to the flavor of a piña colada. Not remotely what I had been going for—but not bad.