Thursday, June 29, 2006

Take Another Little Piece of My Tart

I just don't know why I get certain ideas in my head sometimes.

Here I've been craving sweet foods like mad lately and thinking I should give in and bake cookies or brownies or something portable for lunches and such... and something I could pass around freely to friends.

So what do I end up making instead? A tart.

Go figure.

Perhaps it's because I knew I would be entertaining dinner guests this week, and perhaps it's because I knew that one of those guests (the lovely Phoenix, naturally) would be more than willing to help me prepare the tart. And maybe it's just because I've had a recipe for a cheese and jam tart in my notebook for several years now and haven't yet tried it.

Whatever the reason may be, that's what I ended up baking tonight.

When I came home from work, I mixed up a short crust pastry dough based on a recipe from the Tassajara Bread Book and slid the ball of dough into the refrigerator to chill. Once Phoenix and Mr. Nice Guy showed up, Phoenix and I quickly rolled out the dough, lined a cake pan (since I don't have a tart pan), and finished filling the crust.

As you might expect, I could not adhere strictly to the recipe, so after spreading the cream cheese-egg layer in the crust, we added a layer of finely chopped Scharffen-Berger bittersweet chocolate before spreading the lot with my homemade strawberry-rose petal jam (in place of the raspberry jam originally suggested in the recipe).

Mr. Nice Guy, once again living up to his appellation, headed out to pick up pizza for us for dinner: not just any pizza, but a spanokopita pizza from the local Greek restaurant, a treat much enjoyed by vegetarians and omnivores alike.

After a most satisfying dinner, we took the tart out of the oven and allowed it to cool while we relaxed and enjoyed a delightful conversation.

When at last I sliced the tart, the mingling of fragrances greeted us, and we hurriedly tucked into a deliciously creamy, not too sweet, and richly fruity dessert with a mysterious hint of dark chocolate giving the whole concoction depth and that indefinable magic. The cheese and jam filling alone would have been lovely and pleasing in an old-fashioned sort of way, perfect for tea time, but the chocolate took it to new heights of sublimity.

As you might well guess, everyone approved of the dessert most highly. And if you wonder what constitutes high praise in my household, I will show you.

That's right: plates were licked clean. All three plates. (It's okay, we’re as good as family.)

If that isn't convincing enough for you, I have extra to share.

Not to mention the recipe.

Jam and Cheese Tart

I have no idea where the original recipe for this tart came from, but I have, of course, modified it from the original to fit your tastebuds. The pastry recipe is the second short pastry recipe from the Tassajara Bread Book (with modifications). If, like me, you use homemade jam and you like your jam on the runny side (I don't always use pectin), allow the tart to cool at least half an hour before serving so that the jam can congeal slightly. If you feel really decadent, you could always top this with fresh whipped cream, a sprinkling of more dark chocolate, or fresh berries. But don't hold me responsible if people swoon all over your dining table.

Short Crust Pastry
1 1/2 to 2 c whole wheat pastry flour
2 T maple sugar
1/4 c finely ground pecans or hazelnuts
1/2 c butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg
2 T water

Combine flour, sugar, and nuts. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add the egg and water and work the dough together (with a spatula or your clean hands) until the flour disappears and the dough holds together, no longer sticking to your hands. Dust lightly with flour, shape into a ball, and place in a plastic bag, pressing down to form a disk. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

1 egg
1 8-oz package cream cheese, room temperature
3 T sugar (cane juice crystals)
2 oz finely grated dark chocolate
1 c strawberry or raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350 F. Roll out dough to a circle large enough to cover your tart pan, cake pan, or pie dish. Trim pastry, then gather the remains together and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine egg, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy. Spread mixture over bottom of the pastry. Sprinkle with finely grated chocolate, then top with jam, spread into an even layer.

Form a ball with the remaining dough and roll out again. Cut into long strips 1/2" wide. Brush edge of pastry with water, and lay strips over the filling in a lattice pattern. Press edges to pastry shell to seal, then trim.

Bake tart at 350 F for 40 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Cool 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve warm or refrigerate until served.

Makes 8 servings


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