great desserts

Chocolate Mousse and Sea Salt Caramel Pie

caramel mousse pie

Post-fast, this was the perfect dish. It is the exact opposite of everything we have been eating for the past few months. This pie has a rich, chocolate mousse with the most luxurious texture. The caramel satisfies every craving with a lightly-salted sweetness. The crust is perfectly flaky and buttery. Overall, the entire dessert is the epitome of decadence, and it will delight your taste buds!

caramel mousse pie

 

But this pie– with the mousse and the caramel and the perfect crust– it will not come without effort. The effort and time that I put into the process of preparing this dessert gave me a great opportunity to reflect on the fast and what it was like.

As a spiritual exercise, I must admit that the fast did nothing to make me want to read the Bible more or pray all the time. It did teach me a great lesson in lack. I learned what it’s like to lack choices. I learned what it means to not be able eat whatever you want every night. I had to worry very much about food costs, I had to worry about food content, and I had to worry about food consumption.

caramel mousse pie

 

As for cost, I could not overspend, even though I needed more organic and natural products. There was also a cost element involved in the time it took to plan each meal, go to the store, and prepare it. This was truly a lesson in how difficult it can be for some folks to find and afford healthy food options.

I was appalled at the grocery store price pyramid. Foods with high sugar content, high fat content, and fewer natural ingredients are usually pretty expensive, but they are often on sale (so they appear cheaper). On top of this, good, fresh produce (though often inexpensive) never goes on sale, and spoils faster (often leading to increased overall food costs). If you use coupons or sales to guide your buying habits, you will be eating solely canned, packaged foods.

It was extremely disappointing, but also a great chance to see how much I had to give up in order to be able to afford to eat organic and sugar-free: the time it takes to visit the market more often and actually prepare every single meal, combined with the added cost per meal of fresh ingredients. This lack of affordable and healthy options made it difficult for us to eat as much as we felt we needed, and I can hardly imagine how impossible it would be for people with a stricter budget.

caramel mousse pie

 

Perhaps one of the most upsetting things about going on the Daniel Fast was our crash course in food content. I remember one afternoon in particular. I came home from a long day at work and an extra trip to the grocery store, hell-bent on making this delicious and hearty soup for dinner. I was careful to make sure I bought everything we needed, including vegetable broth. On a whim, I decided to read the ingredient list on the broth box. Ingredients: salt, modified palm oil, monosodium glutamate, autolyzed yeast extract, sugar….. my heart sunk. In what universe does vegetable broth require any of these ingredients?! 

I went through a range of emotions over the following week or so, but I settled on anger. I felt anger towards these companies, I felt lied to. I also felt that oh-so-familiar pang of lack. Maybe I was getting salt and oil and whatever else out of that vegetable broth, but that broth was lacking a key component: vegetables!

The major issue we ran into nine times out of ten was sugar. Companies today put sugar in everything, even when their product isn’t meant to be sweet. This was immensely frustrating for many reasons, but it also felt nutritionally lacking, and potentially harmful. Anyone with strict dietary restrictions that include something as ubiquitous as sugar has probably felt this frustration many times before, but this was my first experience truly understanding what it must be like to try and maintain a natural diet in today’s world.

caramel mousse pie

 

Because a fast (by its very definition) is a decrease in overall food intake, we also had to worry about food consumption. This was another great eye-opener for me. I am a foodie, and I am more than happy to admit that. I love eating, I could eat all day. I often eat more than I need to eat, and I don’t feel too bad about it as long as the food is tasty. Throughout the entire process of the Daniel Fast, our stomachs actually shrank.

We became accustomed to eating less food, less soda, and less calories. Post-fast, we have found that portion sizes at restaurants are way too large, and many recipes make enough food to feed a party of 12. We have had to adjust to this, and work on ordering/making less food so as to create less waste. It was a shocking realization, how little we need to thrive. While I am happy to again be eating leavened breads, cheese and eggs, I am finding it necessary to adjust my expectations. It is important to understand how little we really need, and to understand how much we typically waste in terms of food.

caramel mousse pie

 

Having said all of that, and interspersed it with pictures of a decadent dessert, I will admit that I still love good food! I love to indulge, and I love to experience my food. Sometimes I still eat too much, and I often still eat food that is not great for me.

Yet, I now understand food from a different perspective. I know what it feels like to lack food options. I know how biased our industrial food culture is, pushing people towards packaged, processed foods using coupons and cheap prices. I know how little food we really need, and how much we often over consume.

caramel mousse pie

 

This pie was made with a ton of effort, and a lot of love. It was made for a multitude of people too! It was shared and enjoyed– in moderation. It is decadent, but it is also an art.

It is art creating the perfect flaky crust out of flour and frozen butter, making sure to add in juuuuust the right amount of ice water to develop those thin layers. It is art sculpting an old-school mousse with no mixer, straining arm muscles and working as a team until the perfect peaks are visible.

Overall, I do think that the fast was an incredible and enlightening experience that allowed me to see food from a different perspective, but it also has allowed me to enjoy food in a different way, and I hope y’all enjoy this pie! It was made for sharing!

caramel mousse pie

 

Chocolate Mousse and Sea Salt Caramel Pie

serves as many as you like!

Ingredients

for the crust
2 sticks salted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6-8 tablespoons ice water
parchment paper, 9″ pie pan, pie weights (or dried beans/rice)

caramel mousse pie

for the caramel
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt

caramel mousse pie

for the mousse
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 tablespoons salted butter
3 eggs, separated
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon kahlua

caramel mousse pie

 

To start, the crust must be made. It is the foundation of any good pie, and a homemade crust makes a world of difference. The goal is to get the butter cold enough that it is spread into the flour in specks, and cooks into flaky layers. You need a good food processor for this.

First, chop the butter into cubes and freeze it for an hour. This may seem like a lot of down time, but it really does help create the texture you want in a good crust. I recommend making this pie on a day off or weekend, when you would otherwise be lounging around anyway!

caramel mousse piecaramel mousse pie

 

After the butter has chilled, remove it from the freezer. In a food processor, combine the flours, salt, and sugar, and mix them together. At this point you might need to work in batches, especially if you have a smaller model food processor like I do!

Add half of the butter to the flour mixture and pulse. You want to make sure that it gets pulverized and blended with the flour. I needed to wait a few minutes in between pulses in order to let the butter warm up a bit. This can be frustrating, but it will work, I promise!

caramel mousse piecaramel mousse pie

 

Add in the rest of the butter along with 1/4 cup of ice water, and continue to blend, until you have a thick, powdery substance. William calls this “butter flour” and he is exactly right! It should not be a paste really, it will be drier than you think!

caramel mousse pie

 

Once you have blended everything, add in more ice water, one tablespoon at a time. You are looking to create the perfect dough. It should appear crumbly at first (so do NOT add in too much water). If you’re really lucky, it will be speckled with golden butter flakes!! You can work with it in a small bowl at this point.

caramel mousse pie

After you have added in the correct amount of ice water, dump the crumbly “dough” onto a counter, protected by parchment paper. You want to use a frisage technique here. It’s a French method of pulling together pastry dough. This is a very delicate way of bringing the dough into a single mass, using only the heal of your hand.

caramel mousse pie

As you push down and continue to roll the dough together, it will slowly appear less crumbly.

caramel mousse pie

You will hopefully begin to see those butter flakes, and you can start to use the parchment paper to actually push the dough into a ball shape.

caramel mousse pie

I really only had to work with this pastry dough for a few minutes, and it is very important that the dough not be overworked. The less you work with it using your hands, the less likely the butter flakes are to melt off and disappear!

After the dough has been pulled together, place it back in the small bowl and refrigerate for about an hour.

Once the dough has chilled a bit, remove it from the refrigerator and place it back on the parchment paper counter. Using a floured rolling pin, gently roll the dough out into a circle. I find it most convenient to first make sure the dough is balled into a perfect sphere (this makes rolling it into a shape that vaguely resembles a circle much easier!). Place the dough over the edges of a buttered pie pan and gently fold it over. Be sure to press the dough out into the pan so that it forms to the shape of the pan itself.

caramel mousse pie

I then took scissors and trimmed the edges of the dough, to ensure that it would be somewhat presentable! This is by no means necessary and it will not hurt your pie if you leave it be!

Next, freeze the pie for 30 minutes. I know that the constant cooling is time consuming and boring, but I promise it will make for the best crust because it keeps the butter chilled!

After the pie is once again cold, cover it in parchment paper, weighed down by pie weights or dried rice.

caramel mousse pie

Bake in the oven at 350°F for 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven, taking off the pie weights and parchment paper. Now, prick the bottom of the pie with a fork. This whole process seems overly-complicated, but it helps the pie keep its shape and cook all the way through. (If you don’t trust me about the necessity of following these instructions, you can view the consequences for yourself here!)

caramel mousse pie

Bake the crust in the oven for another 10-15 minutes. The rim should become a darker, golden brown and those layers should be visible. The center will look uncooked for the longest amount of time, and you want to leave the pie in as long as possible to get that cooked (without burning the edges).

caramel mousse pie

It probably will not become all the way cooked, but I did not want the edges to get too brown, so I opted to take mine out earlier rather than later. After this entire process is finished, place the crust in the fridge to cool down before starting on the caramel!

caramel mousse pie

 

The second “piece of the pie” is the caramel. This part seems really easy, but caramel is difficult to make. To be honest, I underestimated caramel and the end result here was not what I intended. I was looking for a clearer, darker caramel. Alas, I created an opaque, and saucy mess– but it is a delicious mess and it soaks into the crispy layers of the crust in the most perfect way!

This process isn’t too pretty, so I don’t have great pictures.

First, combine the sugar and water in a pot and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir until all of the sugar dissolves, and a brownish color develops. (I had issues with massive bubbling-over, so especially if you own a gas stove I would recommend taking it slow and doing this entire process over low heat.)

caramel mousse pie

After a brown color has developed, take the pot off of the heat and fully stir in the cream. Let this cook for 1-2 minutes over low heat. Add in the butter and salt, and cook over medium-high heat to form bubbles. Continue stirring, and cook the mixture for a few more minutes or until it develops a deeper, brown color. Set it aside to cool for a minute or so before pouring onto the crust.

Once the caramel has cooled down a bit, pour it over the chilled crust and place it back in the refrigerator for about five hours to solidify. I know this seems like a long wait, but you can use some of this time to make the chocolate mousse by hand!

caramel mousse pie

 

The last step is to make the mousse!

In a pan over low heat, melt the chocolate into the butter. I recommend using a rubber spatula and stirring the pot often to prevent any burning. Every recipe says you must use a double boiler for this, but I have never had a problem putting the chocolate over direct heat as long as I watch it closely.

caramel mousse pie

After the chocolate and butter have melted, take the pot off of the heat and let it cool down.

In the meantime, separate the yolks and whites of 3 eggs into two bowls. Because we do not own an electric mixer of any kind, we make all our mousses by hand. If you are in the same boat, I would highly recommend finding people to help you whisk and freezing the whisking bowls for about half an hour before you use them! A frozen whisking bowl will help develop peaks faster so you can create air bubbles with less effort!

[side note: if you are using an electric mixer please watch carefully for peaks. this process will be easy peasy for you, and you could accidentally make butter!]

caramel mousse pie

Beat the egg yolks until you notice thick ribbons forming that stay together for a second or two. This should be after about 2-4 minutes of whisking. Combine the yolks with the chocolate, stirring constantly to avoid cooking the yolks. Add in the kahlua, and mix well.

caramel mousse pie

 

In a separate, frozen bowl, beat the egg whites and a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. This will take a while, but here is what they should look like when you’re done:

caramel mousse piecaramel mousse pie

 

In a third, frozen bowl, beat the cream to stiff peaks. Again, this is a process and any helpers should be welcomed into the kitchen at this point!

caramel mousse pie

Now, fold together the chocolate, egg whites, and cream to create a luscious mousse!

caramel mousse pie

 

Be sure to fold everything together carefully, not mix, so as to preserve the fluffy texture.

caramel mousse pie

 

This mousse will get lighter in color as you stir, but it will still have a rich, dark chocolate flavor that offsets the sweetness of the caramel!

caramel mousse pie

 

Now, gently spread the mousse over the caramel and pie crust using a rubber spatula.

caramel mousse pie

Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 3 hours to 3 days. By the third day this pie will be divine. If you can wait that long, the caramel flavors will soak into the crust and solidify to create the most amazing combination! Note that the caramel will be thin and drip out almost like a sauce, especially if you consume it earlier!

After the pie has chilled sufficiently, slice it and sprinkle it with sea salt!

caramel mousse pie

Enjoy with friends and family and be thankful for the many blessings (and wonderful food) we have!

caramel mousse pie

 

 

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Chocolate Pie

chocolate pie

 

I must confess– I have never made a pie before. Actually, I’ve never even finished a whole slice of pie. Pie is not really my favorite thing to eat. I have always found the crusts too dry and the fillings too sugary. But, when I woke up on the morning of Thanksgiving and realized that we had not a single dessert planned, I got to work on fixing this.

I taught myself a little bit about how to make the crust and what options there are for the fillings. As it turned out, I still wasn’t that enthused by my options. So, I took a pie crust recipe from inspired taste and changed it up a bit. I used Italian tipo 00 flour, and salted butter. I really wanted the crust to stand out in contrast to the filling.

chocolate pie

 

I actually used a chocolate pudding recipe for the filling- whoops. The recipe was inspired from this one, but I used less sugar and, again, salted butter. I knew I wanted something that wasn’t cloyingly sweet and I knew I needed a smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture to contrast with the crisp, flakiness of the crust.

I also gave in and just used cool whip for the topping. I know, I know, it’s such a cop out! But homemade pie crusts are time consuming, and all of the recipes are strangely written and confusing! I was so done with the pie at this point- and I do not have any mixer other than my own two hands, so homemade whipped cream was not about to happen.

chocolate pie

 

To be honest, after tasting this pie, I will probably just use cool whip again! It was pretty darn good! The BF loves pie, so he just ate it cold. I had to heat mine up because, well, it turns out I’m just not that into pie! He tells me that this one is a winner, though, so I’m posting it! (Also, it made for some really pretty pictures, and that was encouraging.)

I tried to simplify the pie crust instructions as much as possible, to make this recipe really accessible to beginners. If you’re an expert with pies, I would love to hear about any helpful hints or tips you have! I’m sure they will prove useful, as I will probably be making this again, since it was such a big hit!

Though it may be time consuming, I promise that the end result is worth it and this is the kind of pie that could work for any nice dinner, not just a holiday. Next time, I am considering decorating the top with some fruit, to give it some color and freshness!

chocolate pie

 

One last note- since I used two separate recipes, there was extra pudding. I just left it in my fridge and I’ve been snacking on it since Thanksgiving. This has worked out well, and I have no complaints! 🙂

Chocolate Pie
serves about 15 (one 8″ pie, and 6 minis)

Ingredients

for the crust
2 1/2 cups Tipo 00 flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 sticks chilled, salted butter
7 tablespoons ice water

for the filling
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups whole milk
4 egg yolks
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons salted butter

optional:
whipped cream and berries for topping

 

chocolate pie

 

First, prepare a cup of ice water and set it aside to chill.

For the next part, I used a food processor, but you could just as easily make the crust by hand (you might need to soften the butter a bit). Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the salt, and the sugar to a food processor. Mix everything together just a few times. Cube the chilled butter.

chocolate pie

 

Add the butter to the food processor and pulse until it becomes grainy, and the butter is mixed throughout. It will look  a little like crumbled feta.

chocolate pie

chocolate pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, add the contents of the food processor into a medium bowl. Add the rest of the flour (1 cup) and mix together with a rubber spatula until there is no dry flour left and the “dough” becomes less grainy.

chocolate pie

 

Add the ice water to the bowl and mix together until the dough forms a ball.

chocolate pie

 

Using a sharp knife, cut it in half and flatten each half to form two discs. Wrap the discs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

chocolate pie

 

While the dough is chilling, prepare the filling. In a saucepan, mix together the sugar, cornstarch,  and salt.

chocolate pie

 

Using a whisk, combine everything. Next, measure out your milk and separate the egg yolks. I know that it is super annoying when a recipe calls for just egg yolks, but whenever this happens I use it as an excuse to make a delicious egg-white omelette for breakfast the next morning! If you pour the whites into tupperware and seal it, they will keep fine in the fridge overnight, and you don’t need to feel like they are going to waste!

chocolate pie

 

 

Add the milk and egg yolks to the sugar mixture and whisk together over medium heat. Stir the mixture with a rubber spatula, paying close attention to the consistency. You will need to remove the mixture from heat the minute it begins to boil or become thick (and trust me, you will know when this happens).

chocolate pie

 

Continue stirring occasionally, and keeping an eye out for the boiling. Prepare the chocolate by chopping it finely.

chocolate pie

 

 

After the sugar and milk mixture has become thick, take it off of the heat and mix in the chocolate, vanilla, and butter.

chocolate pie

 

You can really see how thick it has become by the way the chocolate is swirled into the sugar-milk mixture!

chocolate pie

 

After you have added in the butter and vanilla, continue to stir!

chocolate pie

 

You are done once the mixture has become thick and smooth.

chocolate pie

 

Set this aside to cool in its pot. Now that the filling is done, return your attention to the crust!

Start by preheating the oven to 425°F and placing a baking sheet on the middle rack. This is important, as you are preheating the pan as well as the oven.

Roll out one of the circles of the dough onto a floured surface, so that it is 1″ wider in diameter than your pan. I used an 8″ pie pan, and also made six individual, mini pies. But this makes enough dough for two bigger pies if you prefer.

chocolate pie

 

Press the dough into your pie (or muffin) tin and prick the crust with a fork.

chocolate pie

chocolate pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I used this muffin tin to make my mini pies, and they are so precious, I’ll definitely do that again!)

 

Now, normally at this point you would insert a pie weight or dried beans into the pie to keep the dough from shrinking. This sounded really weird to me as a novice, so I just didn’t do it. Everything turned out totally fine, and I will probably ignore those instructions again. BUT if you want your pie crust to stay as big as it is and to wrap around the filling fully, I would suggest weighing it down. After you have weighed it down (or not, if you’re like me, and too lazy) put the crust in the freezer for 10 minutes.

After the crust is firm, place it into the preheated oven, on the preheated baking sheet. Turn the temperature down to 400. Bake it for half an hour, and do not be alarmed if it shrinks. It will look so weird, but it turns out fine in the end!

Give the crust some time to cool before you put the pudding inside of it.

chocolate pie

 

You do not need much to fill them up, as they will be topped with whipped cream later!

chocolate pie

 

Now comes the fun part- the waiting game. Place your pies in the freezer uncovered for at least 4 hours. They can keep in the freezer for much longer, but will need to be covered to prevent freezer burn. Find something good on Netflix, and start your marathon!

 

After they have chilled and completely solidified, take them out and give them about five minutes to defrost. Using a rubber spatula, spread the whipped cream over the top and cut the slices, just before serving!

chocolate pie

 

You can even have them without whipped cream, and heated!

chocolate pie

chocolate pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will warn you, the pie can “melt” pretty fast, so it is in your best interest to use your sharpest knife and cut it into slices before the pudding becomes sticky and goopy again. You can also pre-slice it and refreeze it for easy serving!

chocolate pie

 

Enjoy!

chocolate pie