chocolate

Tarte Noire (chocolate tart)




When I was traveling, people were always asking me where I was from, and whenever I said "I'm from Texas," there was always some spark of recognition and excitement. 
Saying you are from Texas is not like saying you are from North Dakota. 
Or Wisconsin. 
It's just not. 
It was the best when someone who happened to be French asked, because their eyes would light up and they'd say something like, "OH! TEXAZZZ!" Before making finger guns and asking me about horses and cowboys and Chuck Norris. 


So while I was so far away from home, I fell in love with the with the pie-making, porch-sitting, beer-drinking, no bullshit, music-loving, Tex-Mex-eating, lonestar, cowgirl, wildflower piece of myself. 
A piece of me I didn't even know I had. 
I fell in love with the vastness and vulgarity of Texas from a thousand miles away. 

The poet Charles Bukowski wrote: 

“Texas women are always
healthy, and besides that she’s
cleaned my refrigerator, my sink,
the bathroom, and she cooks and
feeds me healthy foods
and washes the dishes
too.”

And I know and love this now as well. 

I am home now. 


I've been lying in the hammock some, drinking pots of coffee, walking the dog. 
And then, on Tuesday, suddenly, I was ready to be in the kitchen again. 
The first time I actually felt like being in the kitchen in over a year. 


So I baked a chocolate tart. Which was not Texan at all, but French--because the world is topsy turvy like that sometimes, and it is possible to crave Tex-Mex when in France and French food when back in Texas. 

And while I pressed the tart dough into the pan, I thought about Paris. 
I thought about Paris, and how the only real way to understand a city, is to walk through it. 
But mostly I thought about all the people, who made the past few months a sort of miracle. 


Roberto told me, that if you want to cook, you have to cook with "the love." 
And that it's cooking with "the love" that gives food the real flavor. 

So I thought about Paris. And I thought about Texas. 
But mostly, I thought about you.

This tart is one of the best I've ever, ever made. 


xoxo


Tarte Noire (chocolate tart)
from Dorie Greenspan's From My Home to Yours 

Another thing, is that this tart is stupidly simple, and very, very sexy. Even if you can barely bake, this tart is unbelievably doable, if a bit time consuming. Additionally, for the chocolate ganache, it is imperative that you use the highest quality baking chocolate. 

For the Filling

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature

1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough (recipe below)

Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and have a whisk or a rubber spatula at hand. 
Bring the cream to a boil, then pour half of it over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seonds. Working with the whisk or spatula, very gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles, starting at the center of teh bowl and working your way out in increasingly larger concentric circles. Pour in the remainder of the cream and blend it into the chocolate, using the same circular motion. When the ganache is smooth and shiny, stir in the butter piece by piece. Don't stir the ganache any more than you must to blend the ingredients-- the less you work it, the darker, smoother and shinier it will be. (The ganache can be used now, refrigerated or even frozen for later.)
Pour the ganache into the crust and, holding the pan with both hands, gently turn the pan from side to side to even the ganache. 
Refrigerate the tart for 30 minutes to set the ganache, then remove the tart from the fridge and keep it at room temperature until serving time. 


Sweet Tart Dough 

NB: Don't roll the tart dough out, simply press it into the pan and save yourself much time and angst. 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confections' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in-- you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses-- about 10 seconds each-- until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change-- heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. 


To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press teh dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don't be too heavy handed, press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking. 

To fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 F. 
Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (Watch it though, to make sure it doesn't get too golden brown.) 

Midnight Cheese


There's a line from the Joni Mitchell song "My Old Man" that I love, it goes "The bed is too big, the frying pan is too wide."


Baby, that's where I'm at.
Lately, when I can't sleep, I roll out of bed and stand in cold light of the refrigerator and eat hummus and chocolate and cheese in an attempt to fill up the night and the hollow spaces inside me.
Because at night, I easily get lost in the past and overwhelmed by the future, and food is so tactile and so real that something as simple as a snack brings me back to the present, which is also intimidating, but better, because there is chocolate to be had in the present. 
And chocolate is comforting. 
The famous food writer Ruth Reichl wrote a beautiful memoir called Comfort Me With Apples, which is a mostly perfect title, but if I were to write that food memoir right now it would be called Comfort Me With Chocolate. Or, Comfort Me With Cheese


Baby, if we're being totally honest, I just can't bring myself to really cook meals these days. 
The frying pan is too wide. 
So mostly I am eating eggs, hummus, beans out of a can and apples and coffee and beer. 
Which is simple and small and just fine. 


But this is really to say, I think about you all the time and I have a lot to say, I'm just figuring out how to say it right. 
I don't know. 
I'll bake you a cake soon and we can talk about that. 
But right now my frying pan is too wide, and I really just want to eat two kinds of cheese until I'm full enough and then go laugh and drink beer with my people. 
Because right now that feels nice and sweet and good. 

So. 
Cake soon. 
Meals again soon. 
But for now. 
I love you I love you I love you. 

xoxo
mary 



Excellent Midnight Cheeses:
Tillamook Sharp Cheddar: http://www.tillamook.com/
Cabot: http://www.cabotcheese.coop/
Barber's 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar: http://www.barbers1833.co.uk/



Tiramisu


I spent several hours last Friday with Luca and Piper, making a tiramisu. 
It was so beautiful. 
I accidentally dropped a entire bowl of whipped cream on the floor.
We dunked ladyfingers in rum and espresso, stirred custard, and layered everything with architectural precision for hours. 
I thought to myself: There is nothing else I would rather be doing. 



I don’t know quite how to explain to you, but sometimes I so strongly feel the unbearable brevity of life. 
Dessert is a perfect metaphor for this feeling: you eat it, and it is gone, living on only as a picture and a memory of a flavor. 

These days, there is so much to love, to hold on to, to learn, to do. 
There is so little time.
These nows do not last forever. 



I don’t know what to do with this feeling.
But it makes me want to make more tiramisu and sing louder and hold you tighter and tighter.
Because tomorrow is uncertain. 
Because life is too short to not do these things. 

Now does not last forever. 

It is all so short. 


It is just so very, very short. 



(We made it for a birthday.) (Also Luca took most of these pictures.) 

xoxo


Tiramisu
from allrecipes.com

6 egg yolks
3/4 cup white sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup strong brewed coffee at room temperature
2 tablespoons rum
2 (3 ounce) packages ladyfinger cookies
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder


-In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Whisk in milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Boil gently for 1 minute, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Cover tightly and chill in refrigerator 1 hour.

-In a medium bowl, beat cream with vanilla until stiff peaks form. Whisk mascarpone into yolk mixture until smooth.

-In a small bowl, combine coffee and rum. Split ladyfingers in half lengthwise and drizzle with coffee mixture.

-Arrange half of soaked ladyfingers in bottom of a 7x11 inch dish. Spread half of mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers, then half of whipped cream over that. Repeat layers and sprinkle with cocoa. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours, until set.

German Chocolate Cake



There was a pair of artists. They were called Christo and Jeanne Claude.

They were known for making tremendous art installations all over the world.
They swathed an entire island in pink fabric.
For several weeks they transformed Central Park into a series of fluttering saffron colored gates.
They wrapped the Reichstag, the German Parliment, in aluminum fabric.
This is all very impressive.
But even more interesting to me, is that the first time they kissed, the kiss was so passionate that Christo chipped a tooth.


Chipped a tooth. 

This is so hard for me to comprehend or even understand.

Tooth chipping passion.
They were hungry for each other. 


I've been thinking a lot about the idea of being a hungry person. 
Hungry for love. 
Hungry for touch. 
Hungry to be noticed. 
Hungry to dance. 

Hungry for cake. 


Because life is so short. 

It is so 

heartbreakingly 

short. 


I mean, the other day my brother told me that if every human life span is about 50 years, then basically all of recorded human history would fit into 100 lifetimes. 


I mean. 
What. 

So I want to have my cake and eat it too, and I just want to be so completely involved and PRESENT in NOW. 
My friend Connor and I talked about this. That when you realize that the present is all there is, that even the next breath you take is uncertain, then you are free to truly LIVE your life. 
Which is the best argument to eat cake instead of salad and get a tattoo and cut your own bangs that I have ever heard. 


So Christo and Jeanne Claude swathed an entire island in pink fabric.
And transformed Central Park into a series of fluttering saffron colored gates. 
And the first time they kissed, their first kiss was so passionate that Christo chipped a tooth.

They were so hungry to live in the present. 
They ate their cake. 
There is not the slightest doubt in my mind, that if they had this cake they would probably have eaten the entire thing. Because it really is that good. 

XOXO





German Chocolate Cake

This recipe is from a family cookbook someone gave to my mother many years ago. The format of the recipe is kind of unusual, (I didn't feel like rewriting it) so I recommend reading through it a couple times before starting. All the ingredients are italicized. Making the cake is pretty simple, and highly rewarding. As I suggested in the obnoxious post above. 

Preheat oven to 350 F. 
Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans. 

Microwave below in large microwavable cup or bowl for 1 1/2 minutes until chocolate begins to melt (stir half-way through.) Stop and stir when it boils up on sides of bowl or cup during the microwaving. 

1/2 cup water
1 package (4 oz. bar) Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate

Let rest five minutes, then stir until all chocolate dissolves. 

Sift together in another bowl 

2 1/4 cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

set aside. 

In another bowl, cream until light and fluffy:

1 cup soft butter (2 sticks)
2 cups sugar

Add ONE at a time:

4 egg yolks

Beat well after each addition. 
NOw add and mix in the chocolate mixture lightly. Along with 

1 teaspoon vanilla

Add, alternating flour and buttermilk:

Flour mixture you made 
1 cup buttermilk

Alternate with about 1/3 flour, 1/2 buttermilk, 1/3 flour, 1/2 buttermilk and finally the rest of the flour. 

In another clean bowl, beat at high speed until stiff peaks form:

4 egg whites. 

Fold the whites gently into the batter. Pour into prepared pans. 
Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until cake springs back when gently touched. (Toothpick test doesn't work.) Cool for 15 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely before frosting. 


Coconut-Pecan Frosting

Mix together in a large saucepan 

1 can evaporated milk (12 oz)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) 
4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Cook and stir on medium heat for about 12 minutes, or until thickened and golden brown. Remove from heat and stir in:

4 to 7 ounces ounces Angel Flake Coconut or whatever sweetened shredded coconut your heart desires
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Cool to spreading consistency. Frost cake.