One of the things I miss most about Oregon is the light dusting of snow we’d get a couple times a year. I grew up in a valley there so the snowfall was always really mild, just an inch or two thick, but goodness me, did it make everything look beautiful. White, crisp, and clean, I love the soft curved edges snow puts on everything. It just brightens up the world a bit, while simultaneously making any junk-strewn property look like a Thomas Kinkade painting.
While there was actually a bit of ice on the sidewalk earlier this week in my southern California neighborhood (madness!!), it wasn’t fulfilling my longing for the look of snow (I even would have settled for a dense frost, really). So, I decided to make something that would look like winter really had come to Los Angeles, and after remembering Carey’s amazing candied thyme project, I decided to candy some mint leaves to create a wintery treat that both tasted and looked of the season.
For the crust I used some crushed hazelnuts and Frangelico to give it a rich, nutty, and buttery flavor. I cooked the crust on it’s own and the hazelnuts that were embedded into the crust toasted up nicely and filled my house with a scent that I can only describe as smelling like “Santa’s kitchen”. The filling was a simple peppermint white chocolate mixture that set at room temperature, and when topped with the candied mint leaves, it became pretty much the most holiday-y thing I’ve ever made. And the best part was that it was relatively simple to make!
The most tedious part was candying the mint leaves of course, but only because I had to brush a few dozen of them, not because it was actually difficult to brush them with egg whites and sprinkle them with sugar (if you’ve painted your nails, you can brush a mint leaf with egg white). But the presentation and wonderfully fresh and creamy minty flavor of the tart’s topping and filling was totally worth the effort. I hope you agree when you try it, and wish you all warmth and coziness during this chilly part of the year. Here’s hoping it warms up in 2014…
Peppermint White Chocolate Tart With A Hazelnut Crust and Candied Mint Leaves
- 1 and 1/3 cups flour
- 2 tablespoons crushed hazelnuts
- 2 tablespoons corn meal
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- ½ cup butter very cold
- 1 egg whisked
- 1 tablespoon Frangelico
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
White Chocolate Filling
- 1 and 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
- Candied Mint Leaves
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1 egg white whisked
- 1 cup ultrafine baker's sugar
- First prepare the candied mint leaves. Lightly brush the exterior of mint leaf with the egg white (you don't want to brush it on too thick otherwise the sugar will stick in too thick of a layer and you won't be able to see the details of the leaf through the sugar). Use a small spoon to gently sprinkle the sugar evenly over the leaf until it is coated in a light dusting of the sugar. Place the leaf on a wire rack to dry and repeat this process with the remaining leaves. Allow them to dry until they are stiff and crisp when poked (about 45 minutes).
- While the leaves are drying you can prepare the crust. Mix together the flour, hazelnuts, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl until blended. Cut the butter into pea-sized pieces over the bowl, stir to coat the pieces in the flour mixture. Use a dough scraper or pastry cutter to chop at the mixture in the bowl to cut the butter into even smaller pieces. Empty the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the egg and Frangelico and mix at medium-low speed until it is just incorporated, taking care not to overwork the dough.
- Grease and lightly flour a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Set aside. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper until it is ¼ inch thick. Flip the sheet over onto the tart pan and peel the parchment sheet off, leaving the dough on the pan. Press the dough into the pan and trim excess dough to form the crust to the pan. Poke the crust in several places with a fork to keep bubbles from forming. Place the crust in the freezer for one hour. Grease a sheet of aluminum foil and press the greased side snugly onto the crust. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and then bake the crust for 35-40 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges. Remove and set aside to cool while you prepare the white chocolate filling.
- In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, mix together the white chocolate, cream, and peppermint extract. Continue stirring until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and immediately pour into the prepared tart crust until full. Allow the filling to cool for 40 minutes before arranging the candied mint leaves on top of the tart. Serve immediately.