Sunday, April 6, 2008

Chestnuts and pintxos (and more)

This is a multi-part entry, and it all started with two separate ideas that become one collective dinner: chestnut mousse from Fanny at Foodbeam, and a pintxos dinner party. I’ve explained pintxos before which are little tapas on pieces of bread, but if you want to hear more about them, look here. So first off, the chestnut mousse. I don’t think it’s as normal to eat chestnuts in America as it is in Europe, or Spain, at least I didn’t grow up eating them. So I wasn’t so familiar with them, but I had a can of chestnut puree and was wondering what to do with it. I could’ve done a chestnut cheesecake, but the mousse looked nice and fluffy.

Next, the pintxo party. Pintxos are a great thing, and they’re also a lot of fun to play around with because you can do lots of different combinations, and surprise people. This was just something that came to my mind suddenly one day, and I thought I need to have a pintxo party stat.

With multiple, miniature-sized portions for dinner, I wanted the dessert to also be little portions as well, but something smart and with lots of components. Taking the chestnut mousse, I got more inspiration from a fancy little pastry shop here in Barcelona called Bubo. It’s got glass cases filled with perfectly sculpted, shiny square cakes, and little shot glasses of desserts called gots in Catalan, or gotas in Spanish, which mean drop. And they have layers of different textures and flavors, for example one with a pistachio cake/cookie like base, then a layer of creamy mascarpone cream, some red fruit gelatin, and then a shot of green, pistachio sweet syrup to top it off. This is what I wanted my chestnut mousse to be a part of, so I had to figure out other flavors to work well with it. I looked through, and found various recipes combining chestnut and pears. Then came my moment of certainty in lots of indecision: I wanted a disc of pastry to separate some of the layers. I worked with that, and found some recipes for pear tarts, and used a couple for the roasted pears and pastry shell, changing a few details. So now I had my main components: roasted pears, pastry disc, chestnut mousse, and then something to top it off. What else goes well with chestnut? Chocolate. And cinnamon. Done. Cinnamon truffles it would be. Let the food begin.

Gotas of Chestnut Mousse, Roasted Pears, Pastry, and Cinnamon Truffles

chestnut mousse

3 gelatin leaves
350 ml whipping cream
250 g chestnut puree
80 g sugar
2 Tbsp water
3 egg whites

Put the gelatin leaves in a bowl, cover with cold water and allow to soften for at least 20 minutes. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks and refrigerate until needed. In a pan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile start whipping the egg whites. When the syrup reaches 110°C, pour it over the egg whites and mix until the bowl is barely warm to touch. Drain the gelatin leaves and melt in a pan set over low heat, then add to the chestnut puree.

Fold in the whipped cream and egg whites. Pour into a metal bowl and refrigerate overnight, or at least six hours.

adapted from

1 ½ c all purpose flour (187.5 g)
3 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
10 Tbsp (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces (142 g)
1 large egg yolk

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor until combined. Add butter; using on/off turns, cut in until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg yolk; using on/off turns, mix just until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 40 minutes and up to 2 days. Now, if you’re making little gotas, then you roll the dough out after refrigerating and I just took the glasses I was going to use, turned them upside down over the dough and traced around it, because pastry dough normally shrinks up in the oven anyways, so this would get them inside the lip of the cup, but not all the way down to the bottom (and by the way, I used tapered glasses, that are smaller at the bottom and kind of flute out at the top). Set the dough discs aside until you cook your pears.

pear tart filling

4-5 large pears
½ stick (1/4 c) unsalted butter (56.75 g)
½ c sugar (100 g)
½ tsp cinnamon

Peel and halve pears, remove the core and cut into long slices. Heat butter in a 9- to 10-inch pan over moderate heat until foam subsides, then stir in sugar (sugar will not be dissolved). Arrange pears in pan, it normally says cut side down or whatever, but I had lots of pears and little space, so I arranged them however I could. Sprinkle pears with cinnamon and cook, undisturbed, until sugar turns a deep golden caramel. (This can take as little as 10 minutes or as much as 25, depending on pears, skillets, and stove.) Cool pears completely in skillet (I didn’t do this, I poured them into a baking dish to cool, as I was going to adjust my dessert a bit from one big tart). Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F. Now put your pastry discs over the pears so that none are overlapping. Bake tart until pastry is golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes. Cool on rack 5 minutes. Now remove the discs and place them somewhere else, probably browned side down (if that makes sense, so you don’t get pear juices everywhere). Take one of your glasses, spoon some pears and juice into it, and let cool there as much as you can, because once you put that pastry disc on there, the glass will get really steamy. Then after the pastry disc, put a big dollop of chestnut mousse, and finally, to top it off, a cinnamon truffle (recipe follows, not exactly sure why I put the truffles last, as you definitely need to make them before).

cinnamon truffles

250 g cream
200 g dark chocolate
cinnamon stick
ground cinnamon
cocoa powder (not sweetened)

Truffles are so good, and so easy, it’s a wonder people (including me) don’t make them more. Heat the cream with the cinnamon stick and a few shakes of ground cinnamon in a double boiler until it boils, then through a fine mesh sieve, pour over chocolate (in a metal bowl is best) and stir until all chocolate is melted, adding more ground cinnamon as you see fit. Pour in a splash or rum and stir again. Now it needs to solidify, so you can put it in the fridge overnight, or if you’re like me and make it the same day on the spur-of-the-moment, cover with cellophane, but not touching the chocolate, and put into the freezer for a few hours, until it’s manageable with your hands. When it reaches this soft-solid stage, in a plate or bowl mix together cocoa powder and ground cinnamon, this is what you’ll be rolling the truffles in. Spoon a teaspoon sized portion of chocolate into your hand and roll quickly into a ball, then roll around in the powders, and put on parchment paper. When you have them all done and rolled, put into the fridge until you need them to top off the gotas. You may snack on one, or two, if you must.
Now the pintxo part of the night (dessert always first, right?) I’m just posting pictures, so if you want recipes, give me a comment requesting it and I’ll tell you how to do it, although most are pretty simple. Oh, and one more thing before I start, most of the pintxos were not done by me, but by D, so I can only take credit for two of them, another reason I’m not posting the recipes, as they’re not my own and I didn’t make them.

minted mushy peas and jamon iberico

roasted garlic, grilled tomato, and basil (this is my first one)

baccalao (salt cod) and potato, deep fried red cabbage, vanilla syrup

grilled oyster mushroom, gorgonzola chantilly, garlic shoot, tomato and thyme syrup

milk-braised pork, pickled cucumber

scrambled eggs, xistorra (Spanish sausage), green salsa (brought from Texas...this is obviously my second pintxo, in the breakfast taco style)

roasted butternut squash, goat cheese, toasted pinenuts, arugula

1 comment:

Tara said...

These all look fantastic!