I fell in love with pistachios as a kid when my dad would bring bags of them home, in the shell, for snacking.
Sometimes he'd bring those red ones. I always thought they looked funny, and they definitely stained our hands pink, but they tasted great just the same. Then I discovered pistachio ice cream -- wow. Fast forward to adulthood and I re-discovered pistachios in gelato form. This was revelatory. The creaminess as a vehicle for that distinct, buttery flavor was overwhelming. I remember thinking This isn't right, I'm getting away with something. It was that good.
When I began baking professionally I realized two things: 1) there are lots of fake pistachio pastries out there with food coloring and almonds in the ingredient list, and 2) to do it right, pistachio desserts are pretty darn expensive. Over 70%of the world's pistachio crop comes from the U.S. and Iran combined. Sicily also produced a vibrant green varietal they've named Bronte pistachios. But the relatively low-yield cultivation, processing and shipping costs are oftentimes prohibitively expensive, at least when it comes to using pure pistachios with no other fillers (i.e. almonds). And I just don't care. They're that good.
A band of white chocolate around the base echoes the ivory colored shell
I've been wanting to translate that gelato experience I first had into a cake for a while now. And when I was testing this recipe, I had one of those sensory experiences that took me back to that very moment I first tried that elegant frozen masterpiece. It was like the scene in Ratatouille when the food critic tastes the dish and is instantly transported to his childhood and his fist time trying it. The translation from gelato to mousse, it turns out, was a natural fit.
I decided to pair the mousse with chocolate buttermilk cake, a thin layer of ganache, and dark, sweet Bing cherries. The suite of flavors transcends even the pistachio by itself. Somehow all of those together feel like a choir singing to me. The baritones and tenors start the magic, then the sopranos chime in for a surprising and delightful moment, finished beautifully by the bass.
In the end, it's an expensive dessert to make. And I simply don't care. I love it that much and I want to share it with everyone I know. I hope others find it as enchanting as I do. I hope this starts a local movement in celebration of this magical nut.