Pumpkin Spice Mousse with Pie-Crust Twists & Maple Pecan Brittle

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Pastry Chef Bria Helgerson doesn’t like pumpkin pie. (Collective Midwestern gasp(!) But she does like pumpkin, and baking and being creative with pumpkin possibilities. So putting together holiday dessert menus for Bottleneck Management’s Old Town Pour House, Southbranch, and Sweetwater Tavern & Grille (all in Chicago), had to mean something other than ordinary. Ideas filtered in: one chef mentioned his love for pumpkin mousse, another talked about deconstructed apple pie, “and all that struck a chord,” says Helgerson. As the ideas gelled, Helgerson’s cloud-light deconstructed pumpkin pie took shape. Roasted-pumpkin mousse layered with maple pecan brittle and cinnamon sugar “pie crust” twists, it’s probably the classiest pumpkin you’ll put in your mouth. Watch for more vintage-dessert re-conceptions as Helgerson–Corporate Executive Pastry Chef for Bottleneck, Inc–launches more sweet ideas with the opening of her company’s newest venture in the Tribune Building early 2013.

 

Makes 8 to 10

Roasted Pumpkin Puree Ingredients

  • 1 small sugar pumpkin

 

Pumkin Mousse Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 1/2 cup milk, divided
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Cinnamon-Sugar Pie Crust Twists Ingredients

  • 1 lb (one box) butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes, chilled
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 egg plus 1 Tbsp water (egg wash)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Maple Pecan Brittle Ingredients

  • 2 cups pecans
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter, plus a little to grease the parchment paper

Instructions

  1. Make the roast pumpkin puree:  Preheat oven to 325. Cut pumpkin into wedges. Scrape out as many seeds and strings as will come away easily. Put pumpkin pieces on their sides in a baking pan with 1/4 cup water. Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake at 325 for an hour–until pumpkin is soft when pierced. When cool enough to handle, discard any remaining seeds or strings; scoop pulp into a bowl and blend/whip until smooth. (Note: You won’t use all of this for this recipe–freeze the rest for later.)
  2. Make pie-crust twist dough: [Note: This is really a “blitz” puff pastry (“cheaters” puff pastry) which is lighter, and crisper than regular pie dough.  You will have enough left over to make extra twists for the dessert buffet, or, use for another elegant dessert.] In a large bowl, mix together flour and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, or, two knives, just until butter is evenly dispersed and covered in flour. You will have fairly-large chunks of butter throughout the flour. Add water and mix with fingertips just until dough holds together when pressed. It will be extremely shaggy at this point–but don’t worry about that at this stage. Place shaggy dough on plastic wrap and, using plastic to help, shape this into a flat disc, about an inch thick. Chill for 30 minutes.
  3. Wrap and fold: Remove dough from fridge to a well-floured surface (Or, cover surface with smooth sheets of plastic wrap.) Roll dough into a 12 x 30 inch rectangle, pressing together any spots that tear or break apart. Dough will still be a bit crumbly and loose, but again, don’t worry, it will come together as you roll and fold in subsequent steps. Once you have a rectangle, fold dough into thirds, like a letter, brushing off any excess flour as you fold. (If you roll out over plastic wrap, this will help you lift and fold the dough.) Turn dough 90 degrees and roll out again to a 12 x 30 rectangle. Fold this rectangle into thirds again. Wrap folded dough in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Remove from fridge and repeat the rolling and folding process two more times, with a 30 minute rest in between each fold. Dough will be stiff, so use your muscle power when rolling out! After your fourth and last fold, let dough chill and rest for 1 hour.
  4. Shape twists and bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut dough into four quarters. Wrap three of the quarters tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for another time. Take the remaining quarter, and on a lightly floured surface, roll into a 1/4-inch-thick square. Cut into 3/4 inch wide strips (or enough to have two sticks per serving) and twist each strip a few times, pressing the ends gently onto the parchment paper to prevent the twists from unraveling. Beat the egg with the water and gently brush a thin layer of egg wash over the twists. Mix sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle on to the egg-washed strips. Bake for 20 minutes–watching very carefully during the last five minutes to ensure the sugar doesn’t burn– until puffed, golden brown and crispy. Cool completely.
  5. Make maple pecan brittle: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly butter the parchment and spread the pecans over the parchment. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, maple syrup, water and salt. Stir gently to evenly distribute the water, making sure to wipe any sugar off the sides of the pan before starting. In a separate bowl, melt the butter and have ready, near your workstation. Place a candy thermometer on the side of the pan, with tip inserted in the sugar liquid. Cook, WITHOUT STIRRING, until temperature tops 290 on the thermometer. The syrup will have taken on a deep amber color. Moving quickly, stir in the melted butter. Pour hot mixture over the pecans on the parchment and spread evenly. Cool 30 minutes.  Place pan in fridge and cool for a few more minutes or until brittle is hard and, well, brittle. Break into shards, so that you have at least 8 to 10 pieces to use as a garnish for each serving of mousse. Chop the rest of the brittle into small pieces.
  6. Make pumpkin mousse: Combine 1/4 cup milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream and sugar in heavy-bottomed saucepan. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar has dissolved. In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup milk with the cornstarch to make a slurry–whisk eggs into this until smooth. When the sugar and milk in the sauce pan are simmering, very slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Transfer mix back into saucepan and set over medium low heat. Whisking constantly, cook until mixture thickens into a pudding-like consistency. Remove from heat. While still hot, strain through a fine mesh sieve to catch any bits of egg or hardened custards. Stir in butter until smooth. In a separate bowl, mix together pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Fold pumpkin mixture into custard and chill for at least four hours, preferably overnight. When custard is well chilled, whip the remaining two cups of heavy cream. Fold in the pumpkin custard and chill until ready to serve.
  7. Assemble dessert: Using small, footed dessert glasses, spoon several Tbsp of pumpkin mousse into the bottom of each glass. Sprinkle about 1 Tbsp of the finely chopped brittle over each. (Adjust amount depending on the size of your dessert glasses.) Layer another several Tbsp of mousse on top of each. Top each with dollop of fresh, whipped cream and  a large shard of pecan brittle. Sprinkle a little very-finely chopped pecan brittle dust over all. Serve each dessert with two cinnamon pie crust twists. Serve immediately.

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