Posts Tagged tarts

Passover Chocolate Orange Almond Tart with Almond Praline

Passover Tart 2

Chocolate, almond, orange - perfect for Passover.

If you’re really looking to rile up your Jewish friends, ask them about their most detested Passover desserts. We got into just such a discussion at my book club this weekend, and our Jewish members were quick to trot out a litany of complaints. Cakes made with matzoh meal are coarse, sponge cake is dry, cookies taste weird without flour – the kvetching went on and on.

Now, as some one who really likes to show off at the holidays, I feel a great deal of sympathy for Jewish bakers. It’s really difficult to bake something delicious – or even halfway tasty – without two of the most basic ingredients in baking – flour and leavening. Matzoh meal just doesn’t have the same properties as cake flour and, no matter how finely it’s ground, it never will.

Still, with a little bit of planning, some high quality chocolate, and a love of almond flour, you can make a Passover dessert that’s both impressive and delicious. This tart is an adaptation of a recipe for a chocolate torte, which I found in Joan Nathan’s excellent Jewish Cooking in America. The recipe originally calls to bake the torte in a buttered springform pan, but I baked it in a tart shell made from ground almonds and flavored with sugar and orange zest. I also added orange juice and zest to the dense filling, which compliments the intense flavor of the chocolate. Finally, to help dress it up for the holiday in appropriate style, I topped it with a chocolate glaze and pieces of homemade almond praline. FYI: while the tart contains no leavening, it does use butter, so it can’t be eaten with a meal where meat is served.

Yes, the glaze and praline aren’t exactly necessary – but they add a note of grandeur to an otherwise fairly simple dessert. And, for those who like to impress, the extra half an hour of work is well worth it.

Passover Tart 4

No one could possibly kvetch about this tart.

Passover Chocolate Orange Almond Tart with Almond Praline

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Holiday Desserts – Double Chocolate Mint Tart (And An Unfortunate Event)

Double Chocolate Mint Pie

It did not arrive at the party this way.

There are some desserts that you make to please, and there are some desserts you make to impress. Lately, I’ve been wanting to make the latter kind. It’s finally the holiday season, the time for fancy desserts – in fact, given my current baking inclinations, holiday desserts are going to be my December baking project. But last weekend my desire to impress was thwarted by my general clumsiness – well, that and some new jeans that are a little too long, and a pair of stilettos.

So there it is, above – a double chocolate mint tart. A chocolate cookie crust, filled with chocolate ganache, topped with a layer of white chocolate mint mousse, and drizzled with chocolate sauce. It was my own creation, which I was taking to one of the many pre-Thanksgiving parties I attended this year.

Too bad I tripped on my walk to the metro carrying this tart – in classic Jenna fashion, I fell flat on my face, arms and legs akimbo (I trip like this at least twice a year, if not more). My tupperware container flew from my hands and landed upside down, several feet away. One passer by stopped his bike, exclaiming in a worried tone “Oh my god – are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m okay,” I replied. “But I don’t think my dessert is okay.” After all, bruised knees will heal. I could not say the same for my tart.

Most of the tart ended up on the roof of the tupperware container, and I was able to scrape the filling back into the tart shell when I got to the party. But folks, it was not the same. Instead of lovely layers of cookie, ganache and mousse, everything was mixed together – more like a trifle scraped into a tart pan.

It wasn’t all bad – even in its uncomposed state, the tart was pretty delicious – in fact, it a hit at the party. Part of my problem with a lot of chocolate desserts is that they’re too heavy, so intensely chocolatey that I can only eat a couple bites. But this is a chocolate dessert that doesn’t overwhelm – the intense chocolate ganache layer and the rich chocolate sauce is offset by the creamy, minty, white chocolate mousse. The crunchy chocolate cookie crumb crust is the perfect foil to filling – in fact, every time I make a crumb crust, I fall a little more in love with them.

I guess that’s another point in this dessert’s favor – it was suprisingly resilient, even in the face of klutziness. But I really want someone else to make this for a holiday party – so it can be served in its proper, impressive fashion.

And if you do, I suggest you save your stilettos for another night.

Double Chocolate Mint Pie - Post Flip

It arrived this way.

Recipe: Double Chocolate Mint Pie

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Farmers’ Market Cooking: Zucchini and Swiss Chard Tart

Veg Tart 1

My recipe for health. For lunch.

Food Inc. must have gotten to me, because I actually made it down to the Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning. I decided to do a little experiment and see what it was like to do my weekly grocery shopping at the Farmers’ Market, rather than the Giant. Granted, there were a couple items that I couldn’t get there, like olive oil, savory thins (the world’s best cracker), and tupperware, but I scored some lovely produce and a beautiful hunk of goat cheese.

Mount Pleasant Farmers Market 1

The Mount Pleasant Farmers' Market, on Saturday morning.

For my first foray into farmers’ market cooking, I decided to try one of The New York Times “Recipes for Health,” by Martha Rose Shulman. Last week focused on Mediterranean vegetable pies that were heavy on the vegetables, and light on the fat. Given that I had randomly picked up Swiss chard and zucchini with my farmers’ market haul, I decided to try the Provencal tart, which features both ingredients.

Mount Pleasant Farmers Market 3

Zucchini (in the back), pre-tart.

I was intrigued with the yeasted bread crust that Shulman uses for the tart – I had never had a tart with a yeast crust before. The recipe calls for half whole wheat and half white flour, and uses olive oil for the fat. I loved making the crust, because there’s just something magical about yeast for me, and, as Shulman notes, it was incredibly easy to roll out. But after tasting the finished tart, I don’t know if I’m sold on yeast crusts, even they are better for me than the classic butter version. I didn’t roll out the dough thin enough, because it was definitely too bready and chewy on the sides. I also missed the crisp flakiness of the butter crust.

The filling was okay, although I wonder if it was the best use of my farmers’ market haul. The onions added a sweet flavor to the filling, which I’m not sure if I liked. I liked that I could really taste the chard and zucchini, and the thyme and garlic brought out their flavors. I substituted goat cheese (not the good stuff I got from the farmers’ market, but some left over from last week) for the Gruyere that the recipe originally calls for, but I couldn’t really taste it.

All in all, this tasted a little too much like a recipe for health for me, and the payoff wasn’t big enough given the substantial amount of work it took to make. But as vegetable-based dishes go it’s not bad, and I’m actually looking forward to having it for lunch this week. Maybe with a couple of tweaks (ditch the onion, up the cheese, maybe up the garlic). I’d even make it again.

Veg tart 3

This tart looks so . . . healthy . . .

You can find the crust recipe on The New York Times web site. The recipe for Provençal zucchini and swiss chard tart is here. If you want, you can substitute the goat cheese for Gruyere, like I did, although I might suggest that you up the cheese amount by 1/4 cup, no matter which type you use. I mean, it’s a recipe for health, but you only live once, right?

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