Monday, July 14, 2008

Brandied cherry chocolate tart

This tart, oh, this tart. Even Joel, who lacks enthusiasm for both cherries and chocolate loved this one, and was disappointed when he returned home from work to discover that I had given the rest of it away (part to a neighbor, the rest to my aunt).

This recipe cemented an obsession with the Macrina Bakery and Cafe Cookbook (breads, pastries, and sweets edition). Kathryn bought me the cookbook after eating at the bakery and cafe in Seattle during her U.S. road trip honeymoon. Looking through it, I got the food tingle- that sensation where my brain and my taste buds start jumping around in unison just-won-the-lottery style.

Cooking from it gave both brain and buds even more giddy pleasures. And it solved, in one easy step, my biggest problem with tart/pie crusts. Though I handle gently and chill often, I still tend to get crust shrinkage. But the flaky pie dough recipe (flour, salt, cold unsalted butter, chilled vegetable shortening, and ice water) called for me to roll a slightly larger circle, leave 3/4 inch overhang, and then build a double-thick crust. No shrinkage, and more glorious crust!

Next, I simmered cherries (they were supposed to be all bing, but it was the last bing cherry dessert of the season, and I had to add a few rainier cherries) in a brandy simple syrup, then drained them, sprinkled them around the pre-baked tart crust, and then whipped up a chocolately custard which struck that perfect balance of rich-but-not-oppressive.

I baked it, let it cool, sprinkled a bit of powdered sugar, and served it alongside a dollop of only faintly-sweetened whipped cream. I really liked it because each of the three elements (crust, cherries, custard) was delicious, complimentary, but also able to be tasted and appreciated in itself.
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