The Lunar New Year is the most extravagant occasion on the Asian calender…and it’s widely known that it all centres around food. There’s meanings behind the dishes that are traditionally consumed: long noodles are symbolic of longevity, dumplings and wontons of gold ingots. The act itself of making the dumplings is an activity of reunion; believed to bring good luck and prosperity to a household.
Fish sounds similar to the Chinese pronunciation of ‘surplus’, and so it is often cooked and consumed as the centrepiece of the meal. For dessert, there’s sweet red bean soup – with its lucky red colour, peanuts for their symbol of longevity (almost an infinity shape), and of course – fortune cookies!
I had my Lunar New Year dinner a little ahead of the official night, because the main evening fell on a weekday night (not the best for preparing extravagant dishes), and my brother-in-law had a few members of his family in Sydney for a brief few days last week and of course we saw it as a golden opportunity to catch up… and I saw it as an opportunity to show off 😉 I volunteered for dessert duty, and the trust that my sister and brother-in-law bestowed in me to produce a dessert fit for the event was touching indeed.
I had made Pineapple Tarts the year before, so didn’t want to repeat myself. I was a little stuck on ideas for a Chinese New Year dessert; a Sticky Cake (Nian Gao) is a very popular cake made of steamed glutinous rice flour, but my family had made it in the past and I wasn’t overly partial to the dense slices of cake that glued my molars together. Then I remembered that peanuts are a traditional Chinese New Year snack, and so I decided to put my own Western spin into the mix – creating the famous combination of peanut butter, jam and chocolate.
This was a project similar to my 25th Birthday Cake, but a little harder even as in that case the base flavour was chocolate – and there are near countless aromas and textures that go with it! But peanut butter is a little harder. I thought about it over a couple of days, and created a little doodle.
I tossed away the idea of the salted caramel popcorn after a bit of a think. As cute and quirky as it looks on top of the tart, it would need to be refrigerated and few things in this world taste worse than chewy, cold popcorn. I usually use dark chocolate when making desserts due to its bittersweet qualities, but as I was playing with peanut butter here, it was already a salty element that needed more sweetness to counteract it. I was stuck on whether to drizzle it or coat the whole top of the tart; it would all depend on how densely the mousse would set – and peanut butter mousse was not something I had ever made before! With it being such a key element to this dish, it was an understatement to say that my success for the evening relied entirely on that mousse.
A busy week probably didn’t help either. The tart was for Saturday night, and I had done some preparation on Thursday night by making the shortcrust pastry for the base and refrigerating overnight. I planned to make the tart base and mousse on Friday evening to allow it to set in preparation for Saturday’s dessert. But then I got home later than expected around 10pm and was exhausted…to power on or go to bed and try it in the morning?
I get these strange huge bursts of energy at times. They are usually while I’m cooking – lost in my own world – or while I’m teaching Zumba and I’m on my last legs after 45 minutes of body rolls, jumping, shouting and arm waving. I’m pleased to say that in just over one and a half hours on that Friday evening, I managed to roll out the pastry, bake the shortcrust pastry, create the raspberry jelly “jam” to set, made the peanut brittle from scratch, and whipped up the peanut butter mousse to pour into the tart. One and a half hours. Even I reeled the next day when I realised how much prep I had managed to do; and this was a completely original recipe too!
Anyway, enough about all of that. I’m sure you want to know what the elements of this amazing dessert are? Okay.The title of the post doesn’t allow me to write in its full title, so here you go:
It’s a Peanut Butter Mousse Tart with Milk Chocolate Choc-Top, Smashed Homemade Peanut Brittle, Caramelised Banana, Raspberry “Jam” Jellies and topped with fresh raspberries. I was overwhelmingly pleased with how it turned out. Crispy buttery base, a fluffy and smooth mousse, crunchy peanut brittle, slightly smoky pieces of toffee banana, silky and refreshing cubes of raspberry “jam” jelly and that gorgeous sweet and sour element of fresh raspberries.
You will really need time and patience for this one. Just being honest. This one is an ambitious recipe.
You will need:
For the shortcrust pastry:
- 250g plain flour;
- 125g unsalted butter;
- 2 egg yolks, chilled, and about a tablespoon of chilled water;
- 80g of sifted icing sugar.
For the brittle:
- 85g caster sugar;
- 1 tablespoon of liquid glucose;
- 125g salted peanuts, roasted;
- Pinch of bicarbonate of soda;
- 25g butter.
For the raspberry “jam” jellies:
- 100g frozen raspberries;
- 400ml hot water;
- 3 tablespoons caster sugar;
- 14g powdered gelatin.
For the peanut butter mousse:
- 350ml thickened cream (for whipping);
- 100g caster sugar;
- 140g smooth peanut butter spread;
- 2 gold-strength gelatine leaves.
For the milk chocolate choc-top:
- 200g milk chocolate, chopped;
- 100g thickened cream;
- 15g unsalted butter.
For the caramelised bananas (you will need a blowtorch);
- One ripe banana;
- Caster sugar, for caramelising.
Fresh raspberries, micro sorrel leaves to garnish.
So the tart base is what holds everything up. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, icing sugar and butter together until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. With the motor running, drizzle in the egg yolk-water mixture until the dough just comes together. Tip out onto a clean work surface, knead together and flatten into a round circle before wrapping in cling film and refrigerating overnight or for at least three hours.
When you are ready to bake it, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Roll out the pastry to fit a full-sized, round pie/tart tin and line it, trimming the edges. Line with baking paper and pour in baking beads or rice, before placing into the pre-heated oven and baking it for ten minutes. Remove from the oven and take away the beads/rice and layer of paper before baking for another 10 minutes or until the pastry is beautifully golden. Turn the oven off and put the pastry shell to the side to cool.
While it’s cooling, you can move onto your brittle and “jam” jelly.
For the jelly, combine 100g of frozen raspberries with 3 tablespoons of caster sugar and 300ml of hot water in a small saucepan. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until pulpy, then whizz with a stick blender. Dissolve 14g of the gelatin in 100ml of hot water before adding to the raspberry mix and stirring to combine. Pour into a box (about 10cm x 20cm – a regular-sized takeaway box is what i used) lined with cling film and set in the fridge overnight. You want your cubes to be about 1cm by 1cm large.
Making the brittle is so fun and rewarding. It makes quite a bit, more than what you need for the tart, but I broke up the rest and my sister put them into little snack bags for our guests at the end of dinner.
Line a tray with baking paper. In a small saucepan, stir together 85g of caster sugar and the teaspoon of liquid glucose until dissolved.
Increase the heat to medium, and cook until golden (150 degrees if you have a thermometer).
Remove from the heat, then working very quickly, add the 25g of butter, pinch of bicarbonate of soda and the 125g of peanuts. Mix thoroughly before pouring and spreading it out over the tray. Leave to set.
Hopefully by now your tart shell will have cooled enough for you to make your mousse! If it’s not, put it in the fridge while you whip this up.
For the mousse, soak the two gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water. Heat 150ml of the thickened cream, 100g of caster sugar and 140g of smooth peanut butter spread in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Stir to combine, then heat until just boiling around the edges. Remove from the heat, squeeze as much water as you can out of the gelatine leaves and then add them to the peanut butter mix. Set to the side to cool.
Whip the remaining 200ml of cream to soft peaks, fold in the cooled peanut butter mix. Make sure there are no lumps in it!
Pour this mousse into your cooled tart base. I had a little extra and poured it into a glass, which I was thankful for as it allowed me to test the mousse as soon as I jerked awake at 5am on a Saturday morning having a panic attack that it hadn’t set! Of all the things to wake up at 5am for… but it was perfect.
Airy, fluffy and beautifully salty and sweet at the same time. Look at that smooth top!
In a heatproof bowl, add the 200g of milk chocolate, 100ml of thickened cream and 15g of butter. Sit it over a small saucepan of simmering water on the stove and stir until melted and glossy. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before pouring and spreading this over the surface of the mousse tart. Place back in the fridge to set for an hour or two.
When you are ready to assemble, caramelise the bananas. Slice the banana into thick pieces at an angle, then sprinkle one sliced side generously with caster sugar. With a hot blowtorch, heat the surface of the sugar until it bubbles and browns.
To finally assemble the tart: place a few pieces of the brittle in a small sandwich bag and lightly smash with a rolling pin so it’s all in an assorted state of shatter. Turn out the raspberry jelly and carefully cut into cubes. Pile the smashed peanut brittle and jelly cubes onto the middle of the chocolate top. Garnish with fresh raspberries and micro sorrel leaves if desired.