Dreamy Strawberry Dessert: Fresh Strawberry Mousse

So, first, I used Cooks Illustrated’s recipe. It was fantastic. They even have a step by step video you can watch. I was happy with the first go, but I thought – this can be even better. I also like fresher brighter flavors in general. It depends on what you’re looking for. I also have to make a “confession” … I am just AWFUL about following recipes. I know, I’m bad. So, what you might want to do is follow the “real” recipe first, then tweak it as you like.

This is my finished product from my second go-round. (Wouldn’t you love to live close to me?) 😉

Fresh strawberry mousse from scratch with a dark chocolate covered strawberry

These are the ingredients as according to Cook’s Illustrated.

  • 2 pounds strawberries, hulled (6 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces and softened
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled

And… this is my list.

  • 2 pounds strawberries, hulled (6 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • zest of one lemon (or lime)
  • fresh squeezed juice of half a lemon (or lime)
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces and softened
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled

Pretty similar, yes? Also, I’m bad at this food blogging thing. First of all, I took all the pictures using my cell phone. >.> Let’s blame everything that looks not great on that. Next, I did everything in the evening, so the lighting was less than ideal – so just … imagine it brighter and prettier. 😛

First of all, you want to wash and dry your strawberries. Then hull them, trim or clean as necessary, and cut them up. Really the recipe says to dice 1c into a 1/4″ dice to reserve to put on top. I … didn’t reserve them. You’re supposed to pulse the rest, but I don’t have a large food processor and … I’m kinda neurotic so I diced all 2 lbs. Again. The second time I had a “sous chef” though.

First Step

Dice or chop however you like. That’s just how I did it – and if you did want to reserve some for the garnish – I’d say that’s the best way. Also fun was making sure my knives were super sharp. That’s a me thing that I adore doing though. >.> The following was the start. Just … imagine 2lbs of that in a bowl, kay? 😛 Once the strawberries are cut up, you stir in 1/4c sugar, and a pinch of salt. If the berries don’t seem sweet, add a tiny bit more sugar – but I’d err on the side of “less is more” here because you want strawberry flavor to be the star.

Nice dice!

The second time, I took out the cream cheese ASAP and actually tried whipping it (by hand with a fork) to soften it and make it more pliable, because I felt it ended as “chunks” in the mix the first time. I’d suggest taking out the cream cheese even before you wash the strawberries. Also, if you want to try to whip it, use a smaller bowl. It’s definitely not a necessary step, but I’ll do it again next time. You’ll also notice I’m crazy though.

Cream cheese

Once you mix in the sugar and the salt, juice will immediately come out. Let it sit for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. (*whispers* It’s totally okay to let it sit for longer, but you don’t need to.)

Your strawberries will look foamy and wet from the get go. Once it’s done sitting – the pictures of course go in chronological order from top left to right, etc. If you notice the bottom left the chunks are being spooned on to a sieve, and the bottom right is them drained. I spooned through it to hurry the process, but honestly I think you can just let it strain for 30 minutes while you go watch a favorite sitcom – such as Archer – and it’ll be fine. The juice will have a lot of foam on top, but that’ll cook off/deflate when mixed.


You’ll end up with a pot of juice – I strained directly into a sauce pan the second time. (The first time I used a liquid measuring cup because I was concerned about measurements, and was trying to be good.) Spoon 3T of the juice into a small bowl. Then sprinkle the gelatin over it. How much gelatin you need depends on how much cream cheese you use. If you use more cream cheese, then I’d go with the 1 3/4t. If you go with my amount of cream cheese, I’d say 2t or even 21/8t. Cook’s Illustrated said let the gelatin soften – which takes about 5 minutes. I say let it sit for as long as it takes to hydrate because nobody wants chunks in their dessert. You can also stir it up to help it. To get the juice for the gelatin, I just skimmed the foam away from the top and went straight to the juice at the bottom to spoon into the bowl.

While the gelatin is softening, you should be reducing the strawberry juice. Cook’s Illustrated says use medium-high heat. I say go as low as you like, but no higher than their recommendation. If you’re impatient though, I’d say put it at medium-high, but do not touch it because stirring will only push the liquid up the sides, which will scorch. And then you’ll be sad. The idea is to reduce the juice down until you only have 3T of liquid. Thus you keep all the flavor as it has concentrated, but you also control the amount of liquid going into the dessert. Science! If you like citrus, here is where you’d add the juice of half whatever citrus you decided to zest. Cook’s Illustrated actually says “for more complex berry flavor, replace the 3 tablespoons of raw strawberry juice in step 2 with strawberry or raspberry liqueur.” The main point though, is that you want to end up with only 3T of liquid total in the pot.

I wanted to be absolutely sure the gelatin was hydrated, and I had my heat on low (>.> still scorched a bit of the edge because I was fussing with it – so I had to keep mixing that in … so don’t do that) – but I still had time to puree the remaining fresh strawberries while the juice was reducing. I used a hand immersion blender – you can use whatever you have on hand or most prefer. Top left is of course the remaining fresh strawberry. Top right is me using the same strainer to sieve the puree. Make sure you work the puree – press it against the mesh – scrape the bottom with a spatula, whatever – you want everything you can get from it. Bottom left is basically what remains – I ate it, because, it’s still super strawberry flavored, and why not? Bottom right is where I deviate from Cook’s Illustrated. I wanted the brightness and freshness I knew the zest would bring.

Now you can look back to the strawberry juice that you’ve been keeping an eye on – because once it hits 3T you mix in the hydrated gelatin. If you’ve reduced down to 3T before you’ve finished sieving the puree, leave the fresh fruit – it’ll be fine. Focus on the things being cooked, and let the puree continue to drain on its own.

Once your puree is done, this is the scary part. You want to add the cream cheese to the juice + gelatin mixture. It will curdle. I repeat. It. Will. Curdle. You will worry, and think it looks awful and everything is ruined. It looks absolutely wrong, and unappetizing, but I included it because you need to see how it looks so you won’t panic. The acidity in the strawberry juice – and the heat – will just not react nicely with the dairy + structure of the cream cheese. Whisk like hell. Whisk like it offended you. Whisk like you think you just put hours of work into this goddamn dessert and now it’s all ruined and fuck you, dessert.

Initial mix, action shot whisking, final product

On the left is once the cream cheese is in and you’ve just started to whisk. The middle is an action shot. Pour that mix into the strained puree, and mix it together. That on the right is what you end up with once they’re combined. See? It looks so much better! (If you weren’t done getting the fresh strawberry puree by the time the cream cheese, gelatin, and juice had been whisked together, you can either mix what you have and incorporate the remaining strawberry, or leave them separate until you’re ready to combine. At this point there’s – IMO – no way to ruin it.)

Then, you want to make the whipped cream. This is where the remaining 1/4c sugar comes in. I experienced an extra layer of self loathing, so I decided to whisk it by hand. I was feeling silly, so I took a picture of the heavy whipping cream … then the “stiff peak test” wherein you turn the bowl upside down. [Hint – if any of the cream moves, you haven’t achieved stiff peaks. Also, if you haven’t achieved stiff peaks, you, or the floor, will likely be wearing whipped cream. Notify the pets if you have any.] Anyway – once your whipped cream has been made, and properly sweetened, dump it on your strawberry mix, and whisk it in.

Once everything is fully incorporated, spoon the mousse mixture into whatever container you want to serve it in. I think individual bowls is nice for mousse. [Also I’m not sure how well it’d stand to being spooned?] I happened to have these dessert cups.

I made ten of these. Eyeballing it I’d say each cup has … maybe 3/4c of mousse? Anyway, chill it for 4-48 hours. I covered mine, with cling wrap, and let it go in the fridge. You’ll end up with a final product like the dessert you see at the top. Well, if you take some extra berries, melt the Ghiradelli dark chocolate you had at home and make dark chocolate covered strawberries.


Psst. Last tip – the first time, I sieved everything to the extreme. The second time … well, my “sous chef” suggested I used the immersion hand blender to make the whipped cream. It didn’t work, and hadn’t been cleaned off, so there were some strawberry seeds in it. That means there are a minute amount of strawberry seeds in the second batch. I have to say, I actually kind of like that. It’s an extra “in your face” that these are fresh strawberries in a mousse that you made from scratch. So if you like a tiny bit of texture, I’d say you know, dip a spoon into the remaining strawberry puree/seeds and use that to mix the mousse at the end. You don’t want a LOT – you don’t want crunchy mousse, but not being neurotic with your kitchen tools and allowing for a few seeds … isn’t the worst thing ever. In fact, some people might prefer it. You’ll know your guests better than I do.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask! I hope I made some sense of this … and as you’ll see, I am truly terrible about recipes. And following directions. XD

5 thoughts on “Dreamy Strawberry Dessert: Fresh Strawberry Mousse

  1. mamaboo7907

    Looks awesome!!! Only suggestion would be to leave the cream cheese out overnight like they do for cheesecakes. Definitely a recipe I will be making with my family.

    1. Limecello Post author

      Thanks doll! I’ll have to remember that cream cheese tip in the future – I only have about 1 oz left so maybe I’ll have to use 3t of gelatin the next time to see how things go … or make a smaller batch I guess – and if/when you make it you’ll have to let me know what you think! 🙂


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