Introduction: Harvest Pi

About: I'm known as Glindabunny elsewhere on the web. (silly name, I know... it was based on a former pet) Everyone is born with unique challenges and talents. Find yours and share with others. We can't have a ba…

I'm not a big fan of pie.  I don't like pastry crust in general.  People were asked to volunteer to bring pie to a party I recently attended, and I still wanted to bring something.  I figured I could just change the spelling of pie, add a symbol, and then bring whatever dessert I wanted to make.

I wanted a dessert that screamed fall to me; I love the spiciness of ginger, the tartness of cranberry, the sweet comfort of pumpkin, and dark complexity maple syrup, lightly burned sugar, and cocoa.  I decided to combine all of these.

Maybe it's my ADD that won't let me do something simple; I'm not sure.  At any rate, this is what I came up with.

Step 1: Make the Tuile

3 T flour - I used white whole wheat for this
2 T molasses
2  T brown sugar
2 T melted butter
1 pinch salt
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp honey
1 T water
1 tsp ground ginger
a sprinkle of cinnamon
a few microplane shavings of nutmeg

I was originally going to pulverize gingersnaps and mix with melted butter to make the crust for this.  I had extra tuile batter, though, and decided that the flavor was strong enough to use as a crust as well.  It was thin and I knew the mousse would soften it enough to make it really easy to cut.  Because I was adding crispy leaves to the top, I figured I didn't need a bottom crust to be crunchy as well; the mousse just needed some thin barrier to keep it from sticking too much to the serving plate.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a pan with parchment or nonstick aluminum foil.

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with a fork.  I had to add the water because the batter wasn't runny enough.

You can cut a shape from paper and use it as a stencil, but I found it easier to just spread the batter with a spoon into a leaf shape.  Use a teaspoon of batter and put four to six leaf shapes on the pan.

Bake for 5-7 minutes until they almost stop bubbling.  Remove from oven.  Some people say you should wait 30 seconds then scoop the tuile up from the baking sheet and drape them over a rolling pin while they're still hot and flexible.  I found it easier to just roll up the aluminum foil and let them cool that way.  If the foil dented as I rolled, I pulled the sides of the roll outward to straighten the dents.

When you've made as many leaves as you want for the garnish, line the bottom of a springform pan with nonstick foil or parchment.  Spread the remaining batter with a spoon and bake until it almost stops bubbling.  Line the ring of the springform pan with plastic wrap and stick the bottom with the crust in.  Make sure the excess plastic wrap sticks out the bottom of the pan, rather than sitting on top of the crust.  You don't want plastic wrap inside your dessert.

Step 2: Make the Cranberry Mousse

1 C unsweetened cranberry juice (plus 2 ish tablespoons to bloom the gelatin)
1/2 C grade B maple syrup
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 C whipping cream
zest of 1/2 orange or 2 drops food grade orange essential oil

I couldn't find fresh cranberries at the store.

I did find them TODAY... after the party.  Grrrr.  I wasn't about to use canned cranberry boogers with high fructose corn syrup, but I did find unsweetened plain cranberry juice.

I also couldn't find the oranges I'd bought when I made this, but I remembered I had food grade citrus essential oil - I used blood orange for this, and just two drops made a huge difference in the flavor complexity (to me, anyway).

Add a couple tablespoons of cranberry juice to the gelatin in a small cup to bloom.

Stir maple syrup into cranberry juice in a wide saucepan over medium heat.  Cook to reduce until juice is less than a cup.  Remove from heat.  Boiling liquid is hot enough to ruin the gelling properties of gelatin, so cool it for a minute.  Stir bloomed gelatin into hot juice until dissolved.  Add zest or essential oil.  Let it cool a bit in the fridge; it's best if the mixture is room temperature or cooler before you mix it with the whipped cream.

Whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks.  Gently fold in the cooled cranberry juice mixture.  Spoon into the crust and let chill while you make the pumpkin mousse.

Step 3: Make the Pumpkin Mousse

Okay, it doesn't have to be pumpkin.  You can use sweet potato or butternut squash instead.  I used sweet potato because it only takes 5 minutes to cook the sweet potato in the microwave, and I wasn't confident about the quality of sugar pumpkins at the store.  

1 C cooked, pureed orange vegetable - squash, pumpkin, or sweet potato
1/4 C honey
1/4 C grade B maple syrup
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
sprinkle cinnamon
a few microplane shaves of nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 C sour cream
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
2-3 T orange juice - I used the concentrated stuff without adding water
2 C whipping cream
1/4 tsp salt

Mix orange juice with gelatin and let sit for awhile to bloom.

If you don't want too many little fibers in your dessert, force the puree through a sieve or ricer.  Add honey, syrup, spices, vanilla, and salt.  I decided at this point that it wasn't smooth enough so I put this mixture into the food processor before adding the sour cream.  Mix until smooth.

Gently heat the bloomed gelatin over low until it's completely melted.  Don't overheat and destroy the gelatin, and don't leave some gelatin undissolved.  Add the gelatin mixture to the pumpkin mixture and blend thoroughly.

Whip cream until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold pumpkin mixture into whipped cream, and spread mousse over the cranberry mousse in the pan.  Return the pan to the fridge to chill for a couple more hours.

Step 4: Make the Sugar Leaves

Don't do this on a humid day.

1 T grade B maple syrup
1 T corn syrup
2 T granulated sugar

Heat syrup and sugar in a small pan, stirring until melted.  Cook without stirring until mixture reaches 300 degrees F.  You can swirl the pan if it needs to be mixed.

Once the sugar reaches temperature, turn the heat off and lift the pan so it doesn't keep climbing in temperature.  You can return it to the burner after a couple minutes to keep it warm and pliable while you make the leaves.

Slowly run a spoon through the hot sugar to help it cool until most of the bubbles are gone.  Drip about a teaspoon of hot sugar onto parchment.  Use a skewer to drag the sugar outward to make pointy edges on the leaf.  The sugar will be really sticky and cool quickly as you make the points thinner.  Once the outside edge is cool enough to handle, gently grasp both sides and pull outward and upward.  The molten sugar in the center will stretch and thin.  Keep pulling until you've pulled most of the sugar off the parchment.  Pinch the rest of the pliable sugar together near the parchment to form a stem.

This might take a little practice.

Use all the sugar to make leaves.  Set them aside.

Step 5: Add Chocolate to the Garnish

1 tsp olive or coconut oil
1/2 C chocolate chips

Melt oil and chocolate together.  Paint the back of the toile leaves with chocolate, especially at the edges.  Put remaining chocolate in a ziplock bag and snip a tiny corner off.  Use this to pipe veins on the tuile and sugar leaves.

Step 6: Unmold and Decorate

The mousse had rough edges when I pulled away the plastic wrap.  I scraped them with a utensil to smooth them out.  You can leave them rough if you like.

Cut a stencil out of stiff paper with an xacto knife.  Hold the stencil over the dessert and sift on some cocoa powder.  You can use unsweetened cocoa powder or a good quality hot chocolate mix (without dried milk or corn syrup solids).  I used a spicy aztec hot cocoa.  I like complex sometimes.  Remove the stencil and decorate the dessert with the leaves. 

Serve immediately before the sugar leaves melt and the tuile leaves soften.