White Chocolate Mousse Tart + Pink Peppercorn Strawberry Sauce

White Chocolate Mousse Tart + Pink Peppercorn Strawberry Sauce

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope your day is filled with joy and love–even if that means cuddling your dog a little extra.

I did not plan on posting for Valentine’s Day. That all changed when I watched the latest episode of Kids Baking Championship. I watch almost any baking show available.

On the last episode, the challenge was to create a tart with crazy ingredient. Pink peppercorns were one of the ingredients given to use. So, laying in bed, watching these kids kill it in the kitchen I thought, “I can do that!”

Strawberry, chocolate, and a little spice from peppercorns just seemed like the perfect Valentines combination. So the stars aligned, and this recipe would be the perfect one to post on Valentine’s.

Also, I knew my husband would love it. Two birds, one stone.

The tart itself is nothing crazy–simple dark chocolate pate sucree (crust) sits on the bottom with a swirled airy white chocolate mousse to full it. The crazy comes in with the sauce for the top, cooked down fresh strawberries with pulverized pink peppercorns.

Pink peppercorns work perfectly with fruit because they are much more floral than normal black peppercorns. They also have less of a peppery bite.

Finished tart ready to be served

This is not a beginners recipe so as always I want to give you a few tips to help:

  • Creating a light mousse only takes a few ingredients and proper technique. You use both meringue and whipped cream. To create a perfect meringue use room temperature egg whites and ensure there is not even a fleck of egg yolk in the whites.
  • Folding is how your incorporate meringue and whipped cream into the chocolate. Folding is not like whisking or stirring. To fold you gently cut down the middle of your mixture with a spatula, then fold over one half of the mixture over the second half. Repeat until everything is blended.
  • Always chill your tart shell before rolling it out, fit the shell to the tart pan once cooled, and also chill again before baking it once it is fit into the tart pan. This will prevent shrinkage.
  • Always poke holes with a fork in the bottom of the tart dough to prevent it from puffing during baking.

White Chocolate Mousse Tart + Pink Peppercorn Strawberry Sauce

A slice of tart with sauce on top and a bite taken out

Ingredients

  • For the Crust:
  • 1/3 Stick of Cold Butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 1/3 Cups of All Purpose Flour
  • 3 Tablespoons of Dutch Process Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 Cup of Powdered Sugar
  • 1/8 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1 Large Egg
  • For the Mousse:
  • 6 Ounces of Good White Chocolate
  • 1 1/4 Cups of Whipping Cream
  • 2 Large Egg Whites, room temperature
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 1/8 Teaspoon of Cream of Tartar
  • For the Sauce:
  • 1lb of Fresh Strawberries
  • Juice from 1/2 Lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon of Pink Peppercorns
  • 1/4 Cup of Sugar

Instructions

  1. First create the tart dough.
  2. In a food processor combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Pulse until the ingredients are combined.
  3. Next add in the cold butter. Pulse the mixture together for approximatley 15 seconds or until the mixture resembles chunky sand. You want the butter to be in shape of various sized pebbles.
  4. Add the egg into the food processor and mix until combined.
  5. Pour the dough out onto a floured surface and form it into a ball. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and allow it rest in the fridge for one hour.
  6. While the dough chills, create your mousse.
  7. In a double boiler over medium heat, combine 1/4 cup of the whipping cream with the white chocolate.
  8. Stir continually until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Once smooth, set aside to allow it to cool for at least 15 minutes.
  9. Next make your merigue by combining the egg whites and cream of tarter in a stand mixer. Beat the egg whites on medium speed until stiff peaks form.
  10. Place the meringue in a seperate bowl, and then clean the mixing bowl.
  11. Make the whipped cream by combining the remaining heavy whipping cream and the vanilla extract in the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix on medium speed until stiff whipped cream forms.
  12. In a large bowl, fold 1/2 of your meringue into the white chocolate until it is fully incorporated. Fold the remaining 1/2 of meringue into the mixture.
  13. Next fold 1/2 of your whipped cream into the merigue and white chocolate mixture until it is well combined. After fully combined, fold in the remaining 1/2.
  14. Cover and allow the white chocolate mousse to rest in the fridge while you finish the tart crust.
  15. After the tart dough has chilled for one hour, place your dough on a well floured surface. With a floured rolling pin, roll out your tart dough into a sphere that is two inches larger than the tart pan you plan to use.
  16. Place the tart dough into the pan and pressing it in. You want to form the dough to the pan completely then trim off the ends. Poke the bottom of the tart pan with a fork.
  17. Place the tart pan in the fridge to allow the dough to cool while you preheat your oven. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  18. Once the oven is heated, line the dough with parchment paper then fill it with pie weights.
  19. Bake for 20 minutes.
  20. Allow the crust to cool completely before filling it.
  21. While the crust cools, create your strawberry sauce.
  22. Rinse, hull, and slice your strawberries into large chunks.
  23. Place the strawberries into a small saucepan along with the sugar and lemon juice.
  24. Heat the mixture over medium heat until it reaches a boil.
  25. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the strawberries to cook for 20 minutes.
  26. While the strawberries cook, grind or pulverize the pink peppercorns into a course powder.
  27. After 20 minutes is up, remove the strawberry sauce from the heat and stir in the pink pepper. Set the mixture aside to cool.
  28. Finish the tart by smoothing the white chocolate mousse into the chilled tart shell. Then, allow it to set up in the fridge for at least one hour.
  29. Slice and serve the tart with the stawberry sauce.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2019/02/14/white-chocolate-mousse-tart-pink-peppercorn-strawberry-sauce/

A close up of the tart

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Lemon & Cream Cheese Babka

Lemon & Cream Cheese Babka

I will be the first to admit that I am not a professional baker. I have baked for many, many years, but am in no way at the level of professional. I have just as many bad days in the kitchen as good ones.

This is especially true when it comes to yeast. Yeast is my kryptonite.
Anytime I go into the kitchen with plans to bake yeast risen bread, I am fully prepared to have the bake come out wrong. The silver lining is that you can always learn by messing up.

This past weekend may have been my worst weekend in the kitchen to date. I decided to challenge myself by attempting a Babka. A Babka is a traditional Jewish sweet yeast risen bread that is swirled with chocolate or cinnamon. The bread dough itself is basically a brioche dough. Technically speaking, it is medium of the difficulty of yeast breads.

Three days and four attempts is what it took to get this recipe right. I threw out two doughs and one finished loaf before the fourth and final loaf came out soft and pillow-like. So you do not make the same mistakes, I wanted to share what I learned from my experience. What else is a blog good for?

As for the filling, (per usual) I did not want to take the traditional route. My husband’s grandmother gave me a some homegrown lemons. Her lemon tree yielded for the first time this winter. Lemon is the perfect pick-me-up during the cold months when we lack sun and fresh ingredients. I juiced and zested them, combined them with softened cream cheese, then rolled the mixture up into the dough. My poor husband had to go to the store to get me more cream cheese after I threw out my third attempt.

The finished loaf is delightfully sweet, with a hint of tang. I think a glob of raspberry jelly would adorn a slice of fresh baked lemon cream cheese babka perfectly.

Several slices of lemon cream cheese babka sitting on a wood tray

What I learned throwing out three batches of babka dough:

Batch one and two:

  • Always check your yeast. Yeast will last in the fridge, but of course not forever. Instead of wasting your time making an entire batch of dough to only realize that it will not rise, take the first 5 minutes and make sure the yeast you are using is alive. It is simple, always bloom your yeast in warm water or milk (depending on the recipe). If it sits for 5-10 minutes and it is not bubbly…your yeast is bad. If it is bubbly…it is living!
  • Make sure your ingredients are not cold. If you know you are baking with yeast, set out your eggs, flour (if you store it in the fridge), etc in advance to ensure it is they are room temperature. Cold items will slow down the growth of your yeast. Just like a warm environment will speed up the yeast’s growth.

Batch three:

  • Kneed your dough for longer that you think. Let me explain: Written recipes have various times for kneading dough with a stand mixer. Truly you can only tell when a dough is ready by touch or sight. Just because a recipe says knead for 5 minutes, does not mean that dough will be ready to rise after 5 minutes of kneading. It is easiest to tell when a dough is ready by kneading it by hand. If that is not you (me either), then you must look at your dough to see if it has been kneaded enough. If the recipe says the dough should “pull away from the bowl and form a soft smooth dough”, then make sure it does just that. Otherwise your finished bread will be more like cake than bread.
  • It often takes longer than the recipe says to let your dough double during a rise. Each home and each region is different. For example, I live in the deep south where it is humid. So during the summer it may take less time for my dough to rise. Right now it is dead of winter, and it took a bit longer for my dough to rise to double. My house was very cold. The moral of the story–watch your dough and only move on to the next step when the dough has actually doubled. Do not simply let it sit for the time designated in the recipe.
  • This is babka specific. Some methods call for slicing your rolled up dough down the middle then twisting it. Next, you stuff it into your bread pan to allow it to rise. The finished loaf has exposed filling on the top. The slicing method works great for certain fillings, but not all fillings. Cinnamon sugar or chocolate are ideal, cream cheese is not ideal to cook exposed to the heat of your oven. For my version I used a different method, I did not slice the dough. I rolled it up then twisted it together before placing it in the loaf pan. This way the filling stayed inside of the bread without being directly exposed to the heat of the oven. Consider the method of babka rolling you want to use based upon the type of filling you stick in your babka. Literally you can stuff anything inside a babka, sweet or savory.Upclose picture of the inside of the lemon swirrled babka

Lemon & Cream Cheese Babka

Sliced loaf of babka being presented by the baker on a wood serving board

Ingredients

  • For the dough:
  • 3 Cups of All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Cup of Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup of Warm Milk, between 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of Yeast
  • Zest from 1 Lemon
  • 1 Stick of Butter, softened
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of Salt
  • For the filling:
  • 1 Eight Ounce Block of Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1/4 Cup of Powdered Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl bloom your yeast: Pour in warm milk then sprinkle your yeast over the top. Do not stir. Allow the yeast to bloom for approximately 5 minutes, or until small bubbles form.
  2. While you yeast blooms, prepare your stand mixer. In the mixing bowl, with a dough hook attached, combine your flour and sugar.
  3. After you yeast has bloomed, pour it into the flour mixture. Turn you stand mixer on low and allow it to begin mixing.
  4. Next add in your eggs and vanilla. Mix until it all comes together. If the mixtures looks too dry and crumbly add in more milk.
  5. Turn you mixer up to medium and add in your butter one tablespoon at a time. Let each piece of butter fully incorporate before adding the next. When you are ready to add in the last piece of butter, pour in your salt as well.
  6. Knead the dough on medium speed for approximately 10 minutes, or until a smooth elastic dough that pulls away from the side of the bowl forms.
  7. Place the finished dough in a bowl that is coated in cooking spray, then spray cooking spray over the top of the dough. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  8. Allow the dough to rise, in a draft free place, for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.
  9. While you dough rises, create your filling.
  10. In a small bowl, zest and juice your lemon.
  11. Next, whisk in the remaining ingredients to the lemon filling until the mixture is smooth and fully combined. Set aside, covered, until ready to use.
  12. Once the dough has doubled, gently turn it out onto a heavily floured surface.
  13. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to create a 16x12 inch rectangle.
  14. Spread your lemon cream cheese filling onto the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch space around the outside of the dough.
  15. Starting at the short side, roll up your dough like you would a jelly roll. Press the ends into the roll to seal.
  16. Fold your roll in half, then twist the halves around itself at least four times.
  17. Place the loaf into a greased bread pan. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise to double. At least 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  18. Once doubled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fairenhiet.
  19. Bake the bread for 30 minutes on the middle rack. After 30 minutes, bake it for an additional 30 minutes covered in aluminum foil to avoid over browning.
  20. A thermometer in the middle should read 190 degrees. If after an hour of baking the middle is not done, cook the loaf for an additional 10 minutes.
  21. Let bread cool before slicing.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2019/01/25/lemon-cream-cheese-babka/

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Ultimate Cornbread

Ultimate Cornbread

Officially, it is the time of year for parties, potlucks, family gatherings, and anything in-between. Fall is the time of year that I love most, mainly because all of the festivities gives me an excuse to cook – as if I needed one. For most cooks, the love of cooking comes from sharing your finished dish with others.

But with all of the doing and making everyone gets a bit tired, which is where quick and easy recipes come into play. A home cook can never have too many delicious quick recipes, the kind you lean towards when in a pinch or too busy to really put work into a dish.

A homemade batch of cornbread can easily fill in the gaps for any potluck or gathering. For me, the problem is that making perfect cornbread is not something I have mastered – until I came up with this recipe.

There are many schools of thought on cornbread; some like is sweet, some like it course, some like it filled with things, etc. Personally, I love the sweet version that comes straight from a box. I grew up eating sweet skillet cornbread, so anything short of what I grew up with was was never good enough.

Until this recipe, I did not know out how to make sweet cornbread that stayed together when sliced. And because everyone has their own preference in cornbread, I wanted to include as much in one recipe as possible…creating the ultimate cornbread.

My version uses honey as one of the sweeteners along with fresh sweet corn on the cob stirred right in. To balance everything out, fresh jalapenos are added for a little heat. Finally, smoked cheddar cheese is grated over the top to add a final layer of umami. As the cornbread cooks, the cheese becomes bubbly and browns on the top of the bread.

The best part, the dish takes only 15-20 minutes to mix together and bake – perfect for anyone in a pinch or just plain overworked.

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Ultimate Cornbread

Ultimate Cornbread

Ingredients

  • 1 Stick of Unsalted Butter, Melted
  • 1 Cup of Cornmeal
  • 1 Cup of All Propose Flour
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 Cup of Honey
  • 1/4 Cup of Sugar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 2/3 Cup of Milk
  • 3 Teaspoons of Baking Powder
  • 1 Jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 1 Corn on the Cob, kernels removed from the cob
  • 4 Ounces of Smoked Mild Cheddar, grated

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Prepare a medium cast-iron skillet or 9x9 pan by greasing it.
  3. In a mixing bowl, stir together all of your ingredients except for your cheese. Mix until fully combined.
  4. Pour the batter into your prepared pan.
  5. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top of your batter.
  6. Bake the cornbread, on the middle rack, for 15 minutes.
  7. Slice and serve warm.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2018/11/06/ultimate-cornbread/

 

Maple & Burnt Cinnamon Cakes

Maple & Burnt Cinnamon Cakes

After reading the title, you may be asking yourself–what the heck is burnt cinnamon? When I first heard of it, I thought the same thing. Of course I was curious to know what it tasted like, so baking time ensued after a short deliberation on how to use it.

I will say this–making burnt cinnamon is one of the easiest things ever. You literally take a cinnamon stick, place it on a sheet pan, and torch it with a brulee torch. Voila! You have burnt cinnamon.

Charring the outside changes the flavor of the cinnamon. It mellows it out and adds roasted chocolatey notes. It only changes the flavor slightly, so you can use it in any recipe that calls for cinnamon.

I am hooked. I will probably forever char my cinnamon before adding it to a recipe.

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After it is charred you can grate it yourself, or steep in it milk to transfer the flavor. For this recipe I did both.

Since the air is so crisp and cool out, completely unlike the low country, I wanted to use a few falls flavors. Do not get me wrong, I love pumpkin but I wanted to stay clear of it as a fall flavor. Maple seemed ideal, and would be easy to impart into any recipe as the sweetener.

I created these tiny cakes by baking them in a maple leaf cake mold. You can bake the batter in any miniature cake mold or bake the entire cake in a bunt cake pan. I recommend a bunt cake pan, if you go big, because the batter results in a denser cake.

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Maple & Burnt Cinnamon Cakes

Maple & Burnt Cinnamon Cakes

Ingredients

  • 1 Stick of Butter, softened
  • 1/2 Cup of Brown Sugar, packed
  • 1/2 Cup of Maple Syrup
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 1/2 Cup of Milk
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 1/2 Cups of Flour
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 1 Teaspoon of Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/2 Cup of Powdered Sugar

Instructions

  1. Burn the outside of your cinnamon stick with a torch. Set aside to cool.
  2. Once cooled grate 1/2 teaspoon from the cinnamon stick and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine your milk and cinnamon stick. Bring to a low simmer then cover and let steep for approximately 15 minutes. Set milk aside to let cool before using.
  4. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and prepare your cake pan by coating it in butter then flour. Be sure to shake out the excess flour.
  5. In your stand mixer, cream together your butter and brown sugar. Beat on medium for approximately five minutes or until light and fluffy.
  6. While the butter mixes, prepare your dry mix. In a bowl mix together your flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and grated burnt cinnamon. Set aside.
  7. In another bowl, whisk together your eggs, 1/4 cup of milk, vanilla, and maple syrup. Set aside.
  8. With the stand mixer on low, mix in 1/3 of your dry mixture. Next, mix in 1/3 of your wet mixture. Continue alternating between wet and dry, ending on the addition of the final 1/3 of your we mixture. Do not over mix.
  9. Pour your batter into the desired pan and level off. If using mini cake pans, only fill each one until 2/3 full.
  10. Bake your mini cakes for 20 minutes. For a full cake, it should take approximately 45 mintues to bake. To check doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake and if it comes out clean the cake is baked.
  11. Remove the cake(s)from oven and allow to cool completely before glazing.
  12. To create the glaze, combine powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of cinnamon milk. Whisk together until smooth, add more milk as needed if glaze is too thick. You want the glaze to resemble a thin paste.
  13. Glaze the outside of a large cake by pouring the glaze over the cake. For the small cakes, you can dunk the tops into the glaze.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2018/10/24/maple-burnt-cinnamon-cakes/

Pluot & Almond Galette

Pluot & Almond Galette

Summer is all about seasonal cooking with the freshest ingredients (and laying by the pool too), so when I make a trip to the store I grab the produce that looks best and is in season, it automatically drives what I will make next. The same applies if I spot something fun and unique that I have never tasted before–my mom taught me to try everything at least once. Not too long ago I spotted pluots, a plum and apricot hybrid. A fruit that has the best of both and that is easy to bake with.

Being lazy after a long summer day laying by the pool, I do not always have the most energy to really make my baked goods pretty. Sometimes you just want the end result without all of the work. A galette is perfect for that baker.

A galette is essentially a free form pie, great for those of us that struggle with making our baked goods pretty. A bit more rustic, you simply roll out your pie crust, pour your filling in the middle, and fold the edges up and over. The center stays open allowing the sugar in the filling to cook down and get extra gooey.

For this recipe I use brown sugar instead of regular sugar; it adds a deeper flavor to the baked good

There are a few tricks to remember when making a pie crust because we all know they can be very tricky:

  • Make sure your butter is very cold, the same applies if you are using lard or shortening.
  • Use a pastry cutter, and if you do not have one use a large fork.
  • Do not overwork or your pastry will become tough.
  • Adding a bit of vinegar allows the glutens to relax, so your dough is not tough.
  • Always let your dough rest in the fridge at least 30 minutes before using.

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Pluot & Almond Galette

Pluot & Almond Galette

Ingredients

  • Crust Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
  • 5 tablespoons ice water. Add more if needed
  • Galette Ingredients:
  • 1 Tablespoon of Brown Sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons of All Propose Flour
  • 2 Tablespoons of Butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 6 Pluots, sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tablespoon of Milk
  • 1 Cup of Sliced Almonds, coarsely chopped

Instructions

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and mix until combined.
  2. Cut in your butter with a pastry cutter until butter is mixed in in large chunks. In the alternate use a food processor and pulse together until butter is combined in large chunks (about 5-10 seconds).
  3. Pour in your 5 tablespoons of ice water.
  4. Lightly fold together ingredients with your hand until the dough just comes together.
  5. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and let rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using.
  6. While the dough rests prepare the rest of your ingredients.
  7. Slice your pluots into thin wedges, and place in a mixing bowl.
  8. Add your sugar, flour, vanilla, and salt to the pluots. Stir together until fully combined then set aside to allow the natural juices to come out.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  10. When the crust is ready, remove from the fridge a roll out into a 13 inch circle. Gently place the pastry onto a sheet pan with a slipmat.
  11. Leaving about a 2-inch border at the edge of the dough, sprinkle your chopped almonds onto the bottom of the crust.
  12. Next, layer your pluots on top of the almonds, then gently spoon the juice remaining in the bowl over the fruit.
  13. Evenly arrange your small pieces of butter over the top of the fruit.
  14. Gently fold the 2 inch border of crust over the filling, you may have to create pleats to allow the crust to lay flat. The center of the galette will expose the fruit filling.
  15. Create an egg wash by whisking your milk and egg yolk together.
  16. Brush the wash onto the crust, then sprinkle with white sugar.
  17. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the crust is golden brown.
  18. Let cool completely before serving, or the juices will not set and run out.
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https://epicuropedia.com/2018/08/21/pluot-almond-galette/