Best of Show, Outstanding Adult, and 1st Place in Adult Tarts by:
DULCE DE LECHE MOUSSE IN PECAN NESTS
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Preheat Oven: 350o F
Total Cook Time: 45 minutes
Chill Time: 1-2 hours
Total Time: 2-3 hours (with chill time)
Number of Recipe Servings or Yield: 8 tarts
CANDIED PECANS FOR TOPPING:
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 tablespoon heavy cream
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup pecans
• 1 1/3 cups pecans
• 3/4 cup powdered sugar
• 2 large egg whites
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup heavy whipping cream
• 1/2 cup dulce de leche (jarred or homemade)
• 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder
• 1 tablespoon hot water
• Step 1: Toast the 1 1/3 cups pecans for the nests on a cookie sheet in a 350o oven until fragrant, approximately 12-14 minutes, stirring once or twice to prevent burning. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
• Step 2: Make candied pecans for topping: Place 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon heavy cream in a small saucepan and heat on low until butter melts. Sprinkle 1/3 cup sugar on top (don’t stir yet) and continue heating on low until sugar dissolves and mixture starts to bubble. Add ½ cup pecans, stir, and bring to boil over medium heat. Boil for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture resembles caramel. Dump out onto parchment paper to cool. When cooled, chop into small pieces. Set aside.
• Step 3: Place the now cooled oven-toasted 1 1/3 cups pecans in the bowl of a food processor with the ¾ cup powdered sugar. Pulse to grind the nuts into a fine meal (approximately 50 pulses). Set aside.
• Step 4: Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer along with 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar, and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract. Whip on medium high, scraping sides of bowl occasionally with spatula, until stiff glossy peaks form, 7-8 minutes. Using a spatula, fold in the ground nut/powdered sugar mixture, mixing just until well blended. Scoop into a piping bag fitted with a ½-inch star tip. Pipe 8 nests onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet (tip: draw 8 evenly spaced 3-inch circles on a rectangle of parchment paper, then flip and place on baking sheet): start at the center of each circle and pipe in a circular motion to form a 3-inch circle. Pipe a second layer on top of the outside circumference layer of the nest base to form a “lip” (think inverted jar lid). Leave out on countertop to rest for 15 minutes while you heat the oven to 375o. Place nests in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 325o. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly browned on the edges. Remove from oven and cool completely.
• Step 5: Make the mousse: Add 1 tablespoon of hot water to a small mixing bowl and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon gelatin powder. Stir until gelatin is completely dissolved. Set aside. Whip 1 cup heavy cream with mixer until soft peaks form. Start slowly drizzling the gelatin water into the whipped cream and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in ½ cup of dulce de leche with a spatula until well blended and no streaks of caramel remain. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe generous dollops of mousse into cooled nests. Sprinkle tops with the chopped candied pecans. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Refrigerated in a covered container, they will keep well for a day or two.
Note: Pecan decorations were made by sandwiching two toasted pecan halves together with dulce de leche, and then wrapping it in homemade marshmallow fondant. This was then pressed into a DIY pecan mold made from gelatin and glycerin. Not only are they cute, they taste good, too! Leaves were made from the same marshmallow fondant.