Lemon mousse is a refreshing springtime dessert, and this dairy-free version requires just three ingredients. Credit: Courtesy of Sandy Oliver

Smooth and tangy-sweet lemon mousse — what a charming way to end a meal.

One of my personal favorite desserts is a chocolate mousse made without whipped cream. Now I don’t have anything against whipped cream, but it is good to have a mousse or pudding-like dessert that doesn’t absolutely require it. I wondered if there was such a thing as a lemon mousse without whipped cream. Indeed there is.

(On the way to finding it, I saw a few mousse shortcuts, one of which struck me as an emergency-level instant dessert. It requires you to keep a jar of lemon curd on hand and have whipping cream available. Whip the cream and fold the curd into it, spoon into dessert dishes and refrigerate. That’s it.)

Making lemon curd usually involves a bunch of egg yolks separated from their whites. If you are a meringue aficionado, leftover egg whites sound like fun. I’d rather have another use for them and so a recipe that mixed the yolks with sugar, lemon juice and zest cooked into a curd-like mix which I could fold into beaten sweetened egg whites, appealed to me. No egg whites sitting around expectantly hoping for usefulness — one and done.

If using four whole eggs in one go seems extravagant, you can substitute a little plain gelatin as if you were making lemon meringue pie filling and using the whites folded into the lemon mixture as the recipe below suggests.

You can tinker with the amount of lemon you use. I used grated rind of two lemons and juice of all three. If you have a sweet tooth, use a little more sugar or a little less lemon juice.

If you are new to the instruction to cook something until it “coats the back of a spoon,” the test for that is to dip the spoon, metal or wood, into the mixture, remove it and run your finger through the mixture. If you see a clear streak, with no moisture creeping in on the edges, you will have achieved coating the spoon. If the edge of the streak softens and blurs, cook your mixture a little longer.

It’s fun to garnish a lovely dessert like lemon mousse with ripe raspberries, sliced strawberries, or blueberries. We can do that this summer when the fruit is ripe and local. Right now, my garden is full of johnny-jump-ups which look gorgeous against the lemony color of the mousse and are edible besides.

Lemon Mousse

Makes about six servings

3 lemons

4 eggs, separated

1 cup sugar

Grate the zest of two lemons and set aside.

Squeeze all three lemons and strain out seeds and pulp, aiming for about a 1/2 cup of juice.

Separate the eggs and set the whites aside.

Mix together the yolks, 1/4 cup of sugar, lemon juice and the zest.

In a metal or ceramic bowl set over a pan of boiling water, or in a double boiler, cook the yolk and juice mixture for five to 10 minutes or until it will coat the back of a spoon.

Remove it from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Beat the whites until they are fluffy and gradually add sugar a few tablespoonsful at a time, until all the sugar is beaten in and the whites are glossy and form soft peaks.

Spoon about a third of the whites into the lemon mixture, and mix well.

Fold the remaining egg whites into the mixture.

Spoon into serving dishes or glasses and chill.


Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...