Simple, sleek, and oh so chic

IMG_2103BSMbanner_baked-150There’s something slyly seductive about the pairing of smooth, rich chocolate and a good, smoky whiskey.  A well-made chocolate tart for dessert is almost like an elegant little black dress – chic, simple, and irresistible to pass up, rather like Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.  Splash in a little booze and you’ve got the makings of Holly’s wall-to-wall party in her cozy Manhattan flat.  Well, maybe not as raucous – but you get the idea.  I may be getting a little carried away – I will seize any opportunity to throw a little Audrey into anything!

This week, Baked Sunday Mornings highlights Baked’s Simple Chocolate Whiskey Tart, crowned with soft, billowing Whiskey Whipped Cream.  I’ve been looking forward to making this recipe since I first received Baked Elements, as I’ve gradually become a pretty big fan of tossing whiskey into – well, any dessert, especially good whiskey!

Honestly, you will find that the best thing about this tart is that it lives up to its name for being ‘simple’.  You start by making a super-buttery crust with homemade or pre-made shortbread cookies, crushed to fine crumbs in a food processor.  I used a box of Archer Farms Shortbread Cookies I found at Target, but you could also go with Lorna Doone cookies, if you are taking the pre-made route.  Combine the crumbs with melted butter, a touch of granulated sugar and salt; press this into a springform pan.  As the crumb crust seemed a little more ‘tacky’ and sticky than a typical crumb crust (there’s a ton of butter in it, what with the butter cookies AND butter), I found it most helpful to use a metal measuring cup to tamp down the crumbs and press them against the sides of the pan; the IMG_2076crumbs stuck less to the metal than my fingers.  As with most crumb crusts, pay heed to the instruction that you should place the springform pan on a sheet pan, as excess butter in the crust does tend to seep out of the bottom of the pan when baking.  You will have a smoky, greasy mess in your oven if you skip this suggestion (take it from one who knows!). I ended up baking my crust a touch longer than the recipe suggests; after 12 minutes, it still looked rather shiny, soft, and greasy rather than dry.  I think I took it to about 17-18 minutes, but do keep an eye on it, as you don’t want it to over-brown.

The luscious filling is made by combining milk (whole or 2%, which I used and it worked just fine) and heavy cream; heating this almost but not quite to the point of boiling or scalding. Pour the milk/cream mixture over a combination of bittersweet (or dark) and milk chocolates, allow the chocolate to melt, then whisk to form a sort of loose ganache.  As with any chocolate, using quality chocolate yields the most favorable results.  I typically use Ghirardelli chocolate baking chips and they work perfectly fine – and do not contain fillers, like most chocolate chips do (check the ingredient list).  Make a ‘slurry’ – a thickening mixture – of one egg plus one egg yolk, a tablespoon of flour, and 2 tablespoons of whiskey.  My current whiskey of choice is Knob Creek.  It’s a little pricier, but worth it for the results you’re aiming for.

Once the ganache mixture has cooled or is only slightly warm, gently whisk in the whiskey slurry.  Try not to over-whisk this chocolate mixture if you want a finished tart that looks IMG_2083smooth and satiny on the top; I found that I incorporated a few too many small air bubbles/pockets in mine as I whisked everything together.  The tart still came out lovely, but was speckled with several burst bubbles on top.  Pour the chocolate filling into the tart shell and bake off for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the sides look set and the middle is still a bit jiggly.  I let the tart cool completely before attempting to remove the sides, as springform pan tarts or cheesecakes always make me slightly nervous in this regard; the edges look so lacy and delicate and I hold my breath as I slowly release the outer ring.  This tart released beautifully, sliced up nicely, and served smoothly from the plate, largely due to the quantity of butter in the crust.

While the tart was baking, I had to chuckle when my boyfriend Jake mentioned that the kitchen smelled like a chocolate doughnut – it truly did! The combination of chocolate and whiskey is really intoxicating in a lot of respects.  Jake currently works part-time for a local ice cream company, Purple Door Ice Cream, which I have talked about in prior posts.  They make an excellent whiskey ice cream – and have even gone so far as to top that with a chocolate whiskey ice cream, served for dessert at one of our favorite local restaurants, the Smoke Shack.  Dusted with a hint of cinnamon, this ice cream gloriously weds chocolate and whiskey in creamy, wonderful bliss.  I could eat a whole pint in one sitting, so I’m thankful it is only exclusive to this restaurant.  It’s even more romantic and delicious when shared by two.  We absolutely love this ice cream, and I was curious to see if this Chocolate Whiskey Tart would be a richer, decadent ‘cousin’ to the flavors in that ice cream.  I found that it certainly was – one bite of this tart was swoon-worthy.  The punch of whiskey flavor is bold and grand, but it doesn’t overpower the sexy chocolate; rather, it complements it IMG_2099perfectly.  The shortbread cookie crust is rich, buttery, and a touch salty – the perfect bedding for that sleek, dense chocolate.  I’m fairly sure a graham crust would do sufficiently in a pinch, but if you can try the shortbread cookie crust, do.  I topped individual slices with Whiskey Whipped Cream and a dusting of unsweetened cocoa powder, as suggested by Baked.  If you’re serving the tart all at once, follow Baked’s lead and pile the middle of the tart with the mound of whipped cream and dusting of cocoa for a show-stopping, presentational flourish.  The whisper of whiskey in the whipped cream heightens the deliciously boozy flavors in the tart, making this truly the ultimate dessert to serve to the whiskey lovers in your life.  (Warning: teetotalers may not be huge fans.)

To make this sexy and sleek tart yourself, follow this link:

Simple Chocolate Whiskey Tart with Whiskey Whipped Cream

I guarantee this is one you will add to your dessert repertoire!

A couple last notes…

I made only half of the Whiskey Whipped Cream that the recipe suggests and found it was sufficient enough in quantity, especially as I was only serving the tart at odd times, individually.  If you’re a HUGE whipped cream fanatic, by all means, forge ahead with the entire recipe – just know that you will have lots of whipped cream!  As long as I am once again promoting Purple Door Ice Cream, might I also recommend that – if you’re not a fan of whipped cream – you could side this with Purple Door’s Whiskey ice cream?

IMG_2092You also may want to try this tart both at room temperature and refrigerated.  Baked suggests that it can taste differently both ways.  So far, I have only tried it chilled from the fridge, but I can imagine that the boldness of the whiskey may either deepen or mellow into the chocolate at room temperature.  Give it a try.  After all, who wouldn’t want a second piece of this later on? Enjoy!

Thanks to Jake for the top/first photo, by the way…

photo

Advertisements

Golden granita (with a touch of bubbly)

IMG_2062

BSMbanner_baked-150There are very few desserts one could make that are simpler than a delicious granita – nice and icy cold and fluffed with (simply) a fork from the freezer.  Though the holidays are a few weeks past at the time I write this post, I am reminded by this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings selection – Lemon Lime Champagne Granita – of the several years when I, as a child, yearned for Santa to put that Snoopy Snow-cone Machine under the tree for me.  It seemed all of my friends had one.  I adored the Peanuts characters, and what kid doesn’t like a good, fruity dessert reminiscent of those sickly-sweet Slurpees you could buy at K-Mart – which inevitably provided you with killer brain freeze – right?

Alas, Santa never came through with the Snow-cone Machine (for reasons unknown – perhaps a fear of the small, sharp rotating blades inside?  Who knows!).  As an adult, however, I can delight in the fact that making my own tasty, refreshing icy treat is as simple as combining a few tasty ingredients together with a simple syrup, tossing it in a metal pan, freezing it, and occasionally stirring it with a fork to yield those beautiful, flavorful crystals of ice.  I’m pretty sure a recipe such as this one would be ultimately better than anything a plastic Snoopy doghouse could churn up too!

IMG_2067I’m a touch behind schedule on posting my entry for Baked Sunday Mornings; this granita was highlighted by my fellow BSM bloggers last week.  Time got past me, however, as I opened a new show this week, and with wrapping up the holidays, things were just crazy.  That bottle of Korbel champagne we reserved for cracking open on New Year’s Eve remained nice and chilled – and unopened – past midnight January 1st.  We were simply too tired to stay up too much later and indulge in some bubbly.  It’s called getting OLD, folks.  In making this delicious granita, I discovered that the delay in popping the cork was well worth it.  Not being a huge champagne fan myself – I reserve it strictly for special occasions and can usually only tolerate a few sips – I was intrigued to see how Baked incorporated it into this citrusy granita… Not to mention, it provided the perfect indulgent but light dessert for watching the Golden Globe Awards!

In the past, my favorite granita to make has been espresso granita (Bon Appetit magazine has a fantastic recipe).  Topped with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and chocolate shavings, it’s a wonderful summertime treat reminiscent of iced coffee, and the textural contrast on the tongue of icy coffee and luscious whipped cream is amazing.   Baked’s granita incorporates the tangy flavors of lemon and lime with the effervescent flavor of champagne and clean, crisp mint.  It’s an irresistible combination, and again – it’s so simple to put together.

First, a simple syrup of equal parts water and sugar are heated together until the sugar dissolves; set this aside to cool.  Combine your champagne, a few leaves of fresh mint (if desired), freshly grated lemon zest (from two lemons) and lime zest (one lime), and the IMG_2074juice from the lemons and the lime.  When cooled, stir in the simple syrup, and pour the entire mixture into a metal pan.  Pop the pan into the freezer, allowing for plenty of time for freezing.  The freezing of the granita is probably the most difficult part of making it – you will be impatient to give it a try!  Every hour, use a fork to stir and break up the granita as it forms into ice, ‘fluffing’ it gently.  (I’d say a few cursory tastes are allowed as you go…)  As the granita firms up, you will get larger chunks of ice – carefully break these up and continue to fluff the granita until it forms a nice, almost slushy (but firmer) mixture.  Voila!  You have your granita.  Discard the mint leaves, and serve in a pretty dessert glass – with a fresh sprig of mint on top of each mound of granita. Easy, right?  And very elegant.

Baked makes a very important note that you shouldn’t feel that you need to use an especially expensive champagne for this granita – which is very true.  A nice prosecco may even do the trick.  I would suggest that, with the tart citrus and sweetness from the sugar in the syrup, you use a drier champagne (something with more ‘brut’).

IMG_2066The taste of this granita really surprised me.  It’s pretty amazing.  The ice bursts with the cheerful lemon, lime, and mint flavors, and while one might think the lemon and lime zests would be off-putting, they actually provide a nice textural contrast (somewhat chewy) which isn’t disturbing in the least.  The champagne is subtle, but it’s there – and it rounds out the overall flavor profile beautifully. I had a thought that this might be an excellent palate cleanser between meal courses – it’s so light and refreshing.  I would say this Lemon Lime Champagne Granita definitely takes home the Golden Globe Award for a truly outstanding, easy dessert to toss together!

IMG_2069If you have a bit of leftover bubbly in your fridge from New Year’s (yeah, right!) and want to try your own hand at making this easy granita, follow this link:

Lemon Lime Champagne Granita

… and be sure to follow the Baked Sunday Mornings ‘Leave Your Links’ page to see how my fellow bakers fared!

A Happy New Year to all!  Be sure to visit Neufangled Desserts again next week when I make Baked’s Chocolate Whiskey Tart!  Can’t wait!

IMG_2064