cranberry-chocolate tart

tart slice

Another perfect example of why being blonde in the kitchen can be a problem…especially when baking.  I am notorious for leaving out a step or an ingredient…something.  Cooking –  not so much.  Don’t know why that is.  I had already started this tart for Thanksgiving when I realized my removable bottom pan was bottomless.  That’s right…it was inconveniently “removed”.  My guess is, it is wherever I sent dessert home last year.  All I know is, it wasn’t in my kitchen.  So with filling made and cookie crust ready to press, I was tartpan-less.  There was no way I was going to negotiate the parking lot at a mall, or Target (which shares space with Wegmans), the day before Thanksgiving, to purchase a new one.  Hell no.  So I borrowed a friend’s pan and all was good in the world again.  Tart came out, and I will continue to not read recipes all the way through.

cranberry – chocolate tart (from Gourmet Magazine)

cranberry topping:

1/2  cup cranberry juice, divided
1  tsp. unflavored gelatin
1  12 oz. bag fresh cranberries
3/4  cup sugar
2  tsp. fresh lemon juice
1  tsp. lemon peel, finely grated
1  tsp. peeled fresh ginger, grated
pinch of salt
4  TB crystallized ginger, finely chopped


get started on the topping:

Pour 1/4 cup cranberry juice into a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over.  Let stand until softened, 15 minutes.  Combine 1/4 cup cranberry juice, cranberries, and next 5 ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until cranberries are tender but still plump, about 5 minutes.  (You want to see round cranberries on the tart – not mush).  Strain into bowl and set the cranberries aside.  Add gelatin mixture to hot juice in bowl.  Stir until gelatin dissolves.  Stir cranberries back into juice.  Chill until cranberry mixture is cold and slightly thickened, at least 8 hours or overnight.

note:  This can be done 2 days ahead.  Cover and chill.  If doing ahead, stir in crystallized ginger into cranberry mixture when you assemble the tart.

cranberry mixture20121120_183227


1 1/4  cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (made from about 6 1/2 oz cookies, finely ground in a food processor)
1/4  cup sugar
1/8  tsp. salt
5-6  TB unsalted butter, melted

get started on crust:

Position rack in center of the oven and preheat to 350.  Combine chocolate wafer cookie crumbs, sugar and salt in a bowl.  Add 5 tablespoons melted butter and stir until crumbs feel moist when pressed together with fingertips, adding remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter if mixture is dry.  Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and up sides of 9 inch diameter tart pan with removable bottom.  (I sprayed with non-stick spray just in case).
Bake chocolate crust until beginning to set and get slightly crisp, pressing with spoon if crust puffs during baking, about 14 minutes.  Transfer tart pan to rack and cool crust completely before filling.

wafer cookiescookie crust

mascarpone filling:

1  8 oz. container mascarpone cheese
1/2  cup powdered sugar
1/2  cup chilled whipping cream
1  tsp. vanilla extract
crystallized ginger (either strips or pieces for garnish)

mascarpone filling

get started on filling:

Using an electric mixer, beat all ingredients except ginger in a medium bowl just until thick enough to spread.  Do not overbeat or mixture may curdle.  Spread filling in cooled crust.  Spoon cranberry mixture evenly over mascarpone filling.  Chill at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.  Garnish with crystallized ginger, if desired.  Cut tart into wedges and serve cold.


note:  serves 10-12.

mississippi mud cake

One of my fondest memories of college was getting care packages.  I mean the climbing trees to get into bars thing was cool too, but that’s a different post.  I am talking about that time when you are sitting on the floor in your tiny dorm room, and you cut open that brown paper wrapped package with your address written in Sharpie marker, to reveal whatever goodies are packed inside.  On several occasions, my grandfather sent me a care package of his delicious brownies.  These were not just any brownies.  Take your best brownie, and then top it with 1 solid inch of chocolate fudge with walnuts.  These brownies were so insanely good, and highly sought after by fellow dorm-mates when news of the dessert delivery spread down the hall.  I could blame the occasional delivery for my freshman fifteen, but I think that was more the Dr. Pepper, Oreos and daily microwaved helping of nachos.
I mentioned in another post that I am not the best baker in the world.  That would probably be the main reason for me not trying to duplicate my grandfather’s brownies.  I would hate to ruin the memory of them.  But after trolling through a holiday issue of Southern Living, I saw the pictures of this Mississippi Mud Cake and the fudge-like layer on the top, and it immediately sent me back to my grandfather’s brownies.  It had three components, a brownie cake, marshmallows and chocolate frosting.  I decided to give it a shot.  They were awesome.  I say were because of the speed in which I kept eating them.  Mid-life fifteen here I come!

chopped pecans

mississippi mud cake (from Southern Living August 2007)

1  cup chopped pecans
1  cup butter
1  4oz. semisweet chocolate baking bar, chopped
2  cups sugar
1 1/2  cups flour
1/2  cup unsweetened cocoa
3/4  tsp. salt
4  large eggs
1  tsp. vanilla extract
1  10 oz bag miniature marshmallows
Chocolate frosting (recipe follows)

get started on the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350.  Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8-10 minutes until toasted and fragrant.  Microwave butter and chocolate in a large microwave-safe glass bowl at high for 1 minute or until melted and smooth, stirring every 30 seconds.



In a large bowl, sift sugar, flour, cocoa and salt together.  Whisk eggs and vanilla together and add to dry ingredients.  Pour melted chocolate and butter mixture into large bowl with cocoa mixture and stir to combine.  Pour batter into a greased 15 x 10 x 1 inch dish or pan.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with marshmallows.  Bake 8-10 minutes more until marshmallows are golden brown.  Drizzle warm cake with Chocolate Frosting and sprinkle with toasted pecans.

marshmallowsgolden marshmallows

chocolate frosting

1/2  cup butter
1/3  cup unsweetened cocoa
1/3  cup milk
1  16 oz. package powdered sugar
1  tsp. vanilla extract

get started on chocolate frosting:

Stir together first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted.  Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat and beat in powdered sugar and vanilla extract at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until smooth.

mixing in powdered sugarchocolate frosting

note:  Recipe says this makes 15 servings but depending on how you cut it, this could serve 4 nicely – kidding.