Debesmanna – Cranberry mousse

May 27, 2011 § 5 Comments

The past few weeks have been extremely busy, thanks to the big move of last week. And if I thought packing to move was bad, what with all the cooking and crafting accoutrements and printed materials needing to be boxed up, unpacking has been even worse: an irritating combination of “I have too much stuff” and “ugggh that book I wanted to look up something in is at the bottom of a box that is underneath three other boxes.” In short: blegh!

Fortunately, though, I did manage to excavate some cooking magazines from their cardboard boxes, because despite still needing to unpack I am not going to stop cooking. One of the first magazines I found is this month’s copy of Saveur magazine, which features, among others, the cuisine of Latvia.

The recipe that caught my attention when I bought the magazine, and again when I read it this week, is debesmanna, a cranberry mousse made from cranberry juice, farina (cream of wheat), and sugar. From so few ingredients comes a delightfully airy dessert that is so easy to (literally) whip up and is satisfyingly tangy.

I chose this recipe to be my introduction to Latvian cuisine because not only do I love cranberries, but I also was intrigued to learn how so few ingredients would make a mousse. When I served it for dessert I didn’t tell my parents what was in the mousse, aside from cranberry juice, and they were unable to guess the “secret” ingredient. Once I told them what was in it, my mother was immediately reminded of a pudding we had in Turkey that also uses cream of wheat, though if I recall correctly that one had milk and eggs in it. Of course, now that I have a box of cream of wheat I will be researching that other dessert too, but until then I highly recommend trying debesmanna.

Unlike many mousses and the Turkish farina dessert, though, debesmanna is dairy- and egg-free and gets its lightness from air being whipped into it; my best guess is that the gluten in the cream of wheat traps the air in the cranberry and farina mixture. It is fascinating to watch what people think of as a breakfast ingredient transform into a delicious, smooth dessert.

My mother and father prefer debesmanna plain, but I quite like it Latvian style, with a splash of cold milk to temper the sourness of the cranberry. Traditionally the milk is added for richness, so I would suggest not using anything lower-fat than 2% milk, and if you prefer, cream would work well too.

Debesmanna — Cranberry mousse

Adapted from Saveur

Serves six to eight


  • Three cups unsweetened cranberry juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup farina or cream of wheat (I used two and a half minute cream of wheat)
  • Milk, for serving (optional – I’d recommend at least 2% milk)

1. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, bring cranberry juice and sugar to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sugar from catching.

2. Stir in cream of wheat, reduce heat to medium-low, and stir constantly until cooked (for regular cream of wheat, about five minutes; for two and a half minute cream of wheat, about two and a half minutes).

3. Transfer cream of wheat-cranberry mixture to a large bowl. Using a mixer, beat mixture on medium-fast speed until doubled in size and it resembles mousse (the original recipe indicates twelve minutes for a stand mixer; as I used a hand mixer, it took slightly longer — about sixteen minutes).

4. Chill at least twenty minutes in the refrigerator to help the mousse set. Remove debesmanna from the refrigerator about twenty minutes before serving. If desired, top Debesmanna with a bit of milk, and enjoy!

Note: I discovered that debesmanna can be made in advance and actually holds its moussiness (we’re going to pretend this is a word) better after a quick rest in the refrigerator, though I think it could also be made up to a day or so in advance and chilled.


Gershenson, Gabriella. “Debesmanna (Cranberry Mousse)” from “Riga Revisited.” Saveur. May 2011: 76. Print.


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