Butterscotch Mousse with Vanilla Salt

Granny was the ultimate Southern hostess. She always kept pretty little tins of candy in her sitting room. I loved the long candy sticks, but hated the butterscotch rounds. You remember? The ones in yellow wrappers? Mama, however, couldn’t get enough of those. She’d pop them in her mouth and I could smell the butterscotch from across the room. I had no idea what butterscotch was. I just knew I hated it.

Fast forward a few decades and I’m a professional chef who still hasn’t tasted butterscotch. I just had a mental block against it. One night, I went out to dinner with a group of other chefs and somebody ordered the butterscotch pudding. Everyone at the table started raving, “Oh. My. God. This is so delicious!” I took a tiny spoonful and realized they were right. It was so, so good. That was when I discovered that butterscotch is essentially caramel and butter— a combo I adore. I had to learn how to make it. I tinkered until I came up with a silky light mousse, which I paired with crunchy nuts. When I served the mousse in tuile cups at a catering event, everyone went crazy for them! This dessert is such a well-balanced blend of sweet and salty, crisp and creamy. And every component can be made ahead of time. All you have to do is put the pieces together when it’s time to serve.

Butterscotch Mousse with Vanilla Salt

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    Ingredients

    1/4 dried vanilla bean 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
    1/4 cup kosher salt 1 vanilla bean, pod split and seeds scraped
    2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar 2 teaspoons dark rum
    3 tablespoons cornstarch 1 cup heavy cream
    1/2 teaspoon table salt 12 Almond Tuiles, shaped into cups if you like or left flat
    1 1/2 cups half-and-half 1/2 cup Candied Almonds, coarsely chopped
    2 large egg yolks

    directions

    Total:
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    • 1

      To make the vanilla salt: Coarsely chop or break the dried vanilla bean into two pieces. Combine 1 piece and 2 tablespoons of the salt in a spice grinder. Pulse until the vanilla is very finely chopped and blended with the salt. Transfer to a small bowl. Repeat with the remaining vanilla and salt. This makes more than you’ll need just for this dessert. Store any remaining in an airtight container for up to 1 week and use any way you’d like. It’s good on any caramel or chocolate desserts and on savory dishes such as roast pork.

    • 2

      To make the mousse: In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and 1/2 cup of the half-and-half until smooth. Press through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium saucepan to break up any remaining lumps of sugar. Whisk in the egg yolks and remaining 1 cup half-andhalf.

    • 3

      Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously with a rubber spatula, until thick and bubbling, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, vanilla seeds, and rum until well combined. Transfer the pudding to a medium bowl and press a sheet of plastic wrap directly against the surface. Refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours and up to overnight.

    • 4

      Whisk the cream until soft peaks form. Whisk a quarter of the whipped cream into the pudding to loosen it. With a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining whipped cream until completely incorporated. Pipe or spoon the mousse into the tuile cups, if you made them, or glass cups if you didn’t. Top with the candied almonds and sprinkle with a little vanilla salt. Garnish with a tuile if not using tuile cups.

    notes

    To ensure that the mousse didn’t spill out through the cups, I’d brush a very thin layer of melted dark chocolate over the bottom and sides of the cups. When the chocolate hardens, it creates a seal. Be sure to brush very lightly. You don’t really want to taste the chocolate at all; it’s just there to reinforce the cup.

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