Michael Holt’s rosehip obsession started with an apricot mousse. When he had it for the first time it quickly became one of his favorite desserts.
It can be made either with fresh apricots or with dried apricots. It’s like a traditional mousse which involves combining your flavor ingredient and custard and egg whites or meringue and in some cases whipped heavy cream.
Michael lives in South Truro. He’s been foraging on the beaches on the bayside there since he was a kid and one of his favorite wild fruits has always been rosehips. He likes to pull them raw, off the bush, and just snack on them, seeds and all.
”So I was really into apricot mousse and then when I was eating these rosehips I was like oh wow these I bet these in a way they actually taste quite similar to apricots fresh apricots cause they’re not that sweet and they have that little bit of tartness. And I thought wow this would make a perfect mousse,” Michael said.
So he just started experimenting.
One big thing Michael’s learned is that rosehip mousse is a lot more time consuming than apricot mousse, mostly because where apricots have pits, rosehips have a bunch of tiny seeds.
It ends up being quite a project. In fact, he recruited kids in his neighborhood to help.
“But you know to me the idea of a big food project that’s one of the Slow Food things right, like let’s take our time and enjoy a big food project, get people involved. So I you know I turned it into a little party with the kids in the neighborhood,” Michael said.
I noticed that I’ve made rosehip jelly and I’m picking rosehips, that there’s a lot of different stages of ripeness and a lot of different colors. I asked Michael if it matters.
“When I eat them by hand I kind of like them to be like the peak of ripeness which to me means it’s a little bit soft like it’ll dimple when you stick your fingernail into it but not mushy, because then I’ll get a little squeamish about it. But when I’m picking a whole lot of rosehips like for a project like this I feel like it’s okay if there’s a bit of variation of ripeness.”
Michael’s rosehip mousse has become an annual neighborhood tradition. He now goes one step further and makes the finished mousse into a cake by adding Chambord soaked cookies around the edges of the mousse, for dipping.
WILD BEACH ROSE HIP MOUSSE CAKE from Michael Holt
I’ve loved foraging on the Cape since I was a kid, and one of my favorite things to pick and eat has always been the mild, tart, and colorful fruit of the beach rose bush. A few years ago I started experimenting with desserts I could make from it, and after several tries, I’m now very happy with this one. The moist cake part is made by soaking Italian cookies in cream and liqueur, and is then topped with a rich and slightly fluffy rose hip mousse.
Rose hips peak in ripeness in mid August. Either make the cake right when you pick them, or try freezing them for later use. Cleaning the fruit can take a bit of time (turn it into an old-fashioned work party with a friend or two), so in either case, you may want to do that on one day, and make the cake on another.
Pick the fruits that are darker in color and/or very slightly soft, but not at all mushy. The bigger ones will give you a bit less seeding work. Also pick 10-15 petals for garnishing. They are edible, and will be the only part of the cake that actually tastes like rose.
I use organic eggs, butter, and cream, because I believe they come from animals more likely to have been well treated. I also, when picking wild foods, always give thanks to the plants.
For two 9” cakes, about 14 servings total
Prep time: 3 hours (long live Slow Food!)
10 cups rose hips before cleaning
Two nice serving bowls or dishes with flat bottoms and tall sides, about 9” wide
Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup water
14 tb. butter
5-6 eggs, depending on size
Pint heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
Two 8 oz. packages of Stella D’Oro original cookies, or similar product
2/3 cup Chambord (raspberry liqueur), or you may try almond, orange, hazelnut, anisette, or other liqueur
A few fresh rose petals for decorating
To clean the rose hips, sit down with a friend, a couple cutting boards, and a few bowls. Also have a small bowl of water handy in which to wash your fingers when they get sticky. Start by using your thumbnail to remove, all at once, the leaves bunched at the top of each rose hip. This will leave a small hole, in which some dark fibers may remain. These will come out soon when you remove the seeds.
Next, use a sharp little knife to slice all the hips in half horizontally (along the equator, not from pole to pole). Then use a dull butter knife to scoop the seeds and fibers out of each rose hip half, and cut out any black parts of the flesh, putting the seeded fruit into a big bowl with extra room. Try not to let any seeds wind up in this bowl.
Finally, cover the fruit liberally with water, and mix with your hands. Any seeds you’ve missed should float to the top, where you can pour or skim them off. Drain the fruit and consider it cleaned.
Make the “cake.” Combine the liqueur and all but 1/4 cup of the cream in a wide pan. Soak three or four cookies in this briefly, about six seconds per side. Do not over-soak or they will fall apart. They should be moist on the outside and still a bit hard inside. The cream will continue spreading within them and they will eventually be soft all the way through. Stand them up beside each other along the inside of one of your serving bowls. Repeat this with more cookies until you’ve lined the insides of both bowls with a circle of cookies. Then gently press the remaining cookies, also briefly soaked, into the bottoms of the bowls, so they are completely lined with cookies.
Now make the mousse, a mix of buttery fruit puree, custard, and merengue.
Puree the rose hips, lemon juice, and water in a food processor for several minutes, until it is as smooth as it will get. There will still be some bits of skin from the less ripe hips, but it should mostly be a fine, even-textured puree, about 3.5 cups.
Melt the butter and puree fully into the rose hips. Transfer the mixture to a big bowl with extra room.
Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large bowl for beating, and the yolks into a small, heavy-bottomed pot.
Make the custard: mix the remaining 1/4 cup cream, and 1/4 cup sugar, into the yolks. In a pan that’s wider than the pot, bring a shallow layer of water to a gentle simmer. Set the bottom of the pot down in that water. Stir the yolks with a wooden spoon constantly, moving it along every part of the bottom and sides, until they thicken slightly and are too hot for your finger. This will take several minutes, but be careful not to let it get so hot that lumps begin to form on the spoon. If you’re afraid it’s about to get too hot, lift the pot out of the water and continue stirring for a few moments, before putting it back in.
When done, mix the custard into the rose hips.
Make the meringue: boil 1/3 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar in a small pot. While that’s happening, beat the egg whites with an egg beater until just white and fluffy. When the syrup is reduced by about half, and a drop of it forms a soft ball in a glass of cold water (rather than spreading out at the bottom of the glass), immediately pour half of it into the egg whites and beat at high speed for 15 seconds. Add the remaining hot syrup and beat again for 20 seconds, then lower the speed and beat until the meringue reaches firm peaks but isn't separated.
Gently fold the merengue into the rose hips and custard with broad, horizontal strokes of a large rubber spatula. Do not over-mix. When combined, pour the mixture into the cookie-lined bowls, and cool in the fridge for at least an hour. Garnish with rose petals and serve. What you don’t eat will keep for several days in the fridge.
This piece first aired in August, 2019.