Hello, hello! It’s been a few weeks since my last post, and a busy few weeks it has been! I’ve been laser-focused on studying for the last (and arguably most comprehensive) of my five PhD qualifying exams – which, thankfully, I passed! – and could hardly find time to cook anything at all, let alone think about new recipes. Then my brother and sister-in-law flew in for a visit a couple of days after my exam, we celebrated the boyfriend and the brother’s birthdays on consecutive days, and then we all drove to western New York to spend time with my dad’s side of the family, where Phoebe impressed everyone with unprecedented levels of athleticism and endurance in the nearby pond. If only she could ride a bicycle, that puppy could probably win a triathlon!
While in New York, we paid a visit to Bittner-Singer Orchards (on the edge of Lake Ontario) to pick cherries (both sweet and tart), now that our supply from last summer is finally dwindling. While I used cherries to top this cheesecake mousse, you can use just about any of your favorite summer fruits – peaches, blueberries, blackberries, etc. I know the instructions for this recipe are about a mile long, but it’s really not a fussy dessert at all – and you can always swap in your favorite store-bought granola if you’re short on time!
This cherry cheesecake mousse is such a lovely dessert for a warm summer evening. The mousse is ethereally light and creamy, the tangy cherries are bursting with juice and a pop of color, and the granola…well, what should I say about the granola? Little pieces of gingersnap cookies add a little spunk to the granola, and I threw in a bit of peanut butter as well, because…have you ever spread peanut butter on a gingersnap? It’s a seeeriously under-rated combo. I probably shouldn’t have even mentioned it, because it’s also high addictive (#sorrynotsorry)! These flavors all come together to make a dessert so dreamy that it’s taking some major willpower on my part not to mosey on back to the fridge this very minute to assemble a little evening pick-me-up.
How have the dog days of summer been treating you all?
- 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 teaspoon corn syrup
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats, divided
- 1 cup crumbled gingersnap cookies (I use Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Snaps)
- 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups pitted sour cherries, fresh or frozen
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Using an electric mixer, beat the heavy whipping cream at a high speed for several minutes, until soft peaks form. Add the corn syrup and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Transfer the whipped cream to a separate bowl and set aside.
- Using the mixer, beat the cream cheese at a medium-high speed until soft and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and stir until incorporated. By hand, gently fold half of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Once it is incorporated, fold in the other half. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or transfer to a bowl with a lid) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. In a food processor, pulse 1 cup of oats until they resemble a roughly-ground flour. In a large bowl, combine the ground oats, the remaining oats, and crumbled cookies.
- Stir together the water, brown sugar, and salt in a microwave-safe glass container and microwave until boiling (the time will vary by microwave, but mine takes about 1 1/2 minutes). Stir in the vanilla extract, and pour into the oat mixture.
- Microwave the peanut butter until it becomes liquid-y (again, the time will vary, but it took me about 25 seconds). Pour into the oat mixture and stir until the dry ingredients are thoroughly coated. Spread the mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet (you do not need to grease or line the baking sheet). Using a strip of wax or parchment paper between your hands and the granola, press down lightly (this will help it form clusters).
- Bake for 50 minutes or until lightly browned. Halfway through the baking time, flip the granola over with a spatula and rotate the pan. As soon as the granola is finished, loosen it from the baking sheet and let cool.
- While the granola is baking, prepare the cherry pie filling. In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, ground cinnamon, and cherries. If you are using frozen cherries, you do not need to thaw these ahead of time.
- Heat the mixture over medium-low heat until the sugar and cornstarch have turned translucent and small bubbles are forming in the liquid. Continue cooking for several minutes, or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Let the filling cool before adding it to the mousse.
- To serve, place granola at the bottom of each bowl or glass, then top with mousse and cherries.
- I use Greek yogurt cream cheese (from Kroger), but regular cream cheese is also fine.
- The peanut butter flavor is not super prominent in the granola, so feel free to substitute your favorite nut butter (or perhaps even Nutella, if you’re feeling decadent!).
- To save time, you can use store-bought granola and/or pie filling. If you can’t find sour cherries, I imagine that strawberries or sweet cherries would be a delicious alternative (you probably won’t need as much sugar, though, since both of these are naturally sweeter). For a healthier option, just top the mousse with fresh fruit.
- The cherry pie filling and granola can be made ahead, but I recommend making the cheesecake mousse the day you plan to serve it.
- If you’re making the granola to use separate from the mousse, it is best paired with yogurt rather than milk, because the gingersnap cookie pieces become soggy fairly quickly in milk.
- Cheesecake mousse recipe adapted from Cooking Classy
- Pie filling recipe adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook