With this unusually warm fall weather we’re having on the East Coast, autumn has been at our door steps but never quite passed the threshold and settled into our kitchen. With Halloween behind us and Thanksgiving approaching, I wanted to prepare for the flavors of the coming holidays. So far, I’ve used apples and pears—plus, butternut, acorn, and delicata squashes incorporated into grain salads for healthy meals.
Having grown up in subtropical Hong Kong and then living in California, I couldn’t help but be moved by the changing of seasons I first really experienced in New York. With each season came a change in culinary focus. You can get a lot of produce and ingredients year round to make certain recipes any time, but eating the food associated with the appropriate season makes more sense to me. Fall, being my favorite season, brings thoughts of favorite comfort foods and holiday specialties.
Like some, I was not a fan of pumpkin pie when I first tried it. The unfamiliar flavor profile didn’t do much for me . . . until M’s stories of extended-family holidays and the two aroma-filled days of cooking by his mother, aunts, and grandmother that usually included his favorite pies—apple and pumpkin. Sitting at the children’s table with his cousins didn’t necessarily mean child-size portions.
Pumpkin Mousse Tartlets are a great way to get non-believers to open their mouths for something new. The chocolate tart shell is enough of a temptress, but the luscious pumpkin mousse is infused with orange zest to brighten the earthiness of the pumpkin. Banana lends its natural sweetness to add depth to this seemingly ordinary looking dessert—tartlets that are both elegant and rustic and ready for Thanksgiving.
Pumpkin Mousse Tartlets
recipe inspired by Ina Garten
make 10 tartlets
36 chocolate wafers, about 3 cups
1/4 cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ cup half-and-half
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 large egg yolks
1 package (2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 ripe banana, finely mashed
2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 tablespoon dark rum
½ cup cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in the center position of oven.
2. Place chocolate wafer, sugar, cinnamon in a food processor, pulse to combine until fine crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse to just combine. Divide chocolate crust mixture into 10 3-inch tart molds and press evenly into the sides and then the bottom.
3. Bake for 12-15 minutes until set, cool completely at room temperature. Crust will firm up slightly as they cool.
4. Dissolve the gelatin in ¼ cup cold water.
5. Place half-and-half, pumpkin, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a heat-proof bowl, set it over a pan of simmering water until hot, about 5 minutes. Whisk the egg yolks in another bowl, stir about a cup of the hot pumpkin mixture into the egg yolks to temper, then pour the egg-pumpkin mixture back into the double boiler and stir well. Heat the mixture over the simmering water for another 4 to 5 minutes, until it begins to thicken, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
6. Combine dissolved gelatin, banana, orange zest and rum in a large bowl. Strain in pumpkin mixture and mix well. Set aside to cool. (Straining the pumpkin mixture ensures a smooth silky mousse)
7. Whip the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and continue to whisk until you have firm peaks. Carefully fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture and pour it into the cooled tart shell. Chill for 2 hours or overnight.
8. Serve Pumpkin Mousse Tartlets by themselves or with a dollop of Rum Scented Whipped Cream.