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--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Berry Tart with Mascarpone Cream and Cherry Almond Pie

It only took me two and a half years, but I finally figured out what makes the S.'s son J. hum.

The guy's got a sweet tooth.

You would think this would be easy to discern. But J. is so amiable and easygoing that any conversation about likes/dislikes, what he wants from the store etc. always ends in: I'll eat anything.

And he does. But I got wise to his ways earlier this week when I made a pineapple upside-down cake and four of them polished it off after dinner.

The next night, I offered ice cream with homemade caramel sauce--gone within seconds.

Two nights ago, I made the Berry Tart with Mascarpone Cream. It was gone by tea time yesterday.

Last night, I made the Cherry Almond Pie, and I can only hope there's some tonight for Miranda to serve!

And why do I slave away like this, producing spectacular homemade desserts every single day? One, because I'm paid good money to do it, but two, because J. gets such a beatific smile on his face when he's about to tuck in to his dessert, or when he's just finished it. I don't know about you, but I love a good audience more than anything, and he's it.

I had an unexpected glitch while making the Berry Tart. The recipe asks you to whip the mascarpone (does anybody else besides me pronounce this "marscapone"?) with with sugar and heavy cream to stiff peaks, which I did. It very quickly turned yellow, and started oozing liquid, and if you've ever shaken cream in a jar you'll know that I made sweet butter. Hmmm.

Fortunately, the Fruitful Basket had mascarpone, so 10 minutes later I tried it again, with a different brand and a different carton of heavy cream. Success!

I don't know what made the difference, except that the first mascarpone sat on the counter for an hour or so and the second, different brand was very cold. Also the cream in the first batch was older. Ah, the mystery of baking.

If you try this recipe, here's a tip that will save you some time--don't bother rolling out the crust for the tart--it's unnecessarily fussy and will make you crazy. When I made it I thought it seemed an awful lot like the crust recipe for the Blueberry Tart (see two posts below) which you'll recall I liked very much. So I just patted the dough into the pan and it was fine. Better than fine--the tart was truly delicious--gorgeous to look at and a fine contrast between the juicy berries and the smooth, sweet mascarpone.

* * * * * * * * * *

The Cherry Almond Pie, alas, will probably get eaten up before I return, although J. and E. do leave today for the Vineyard. I had to make some educated adjustments to this recipe, and I was sweating it because about two weeks ago I made a lattice-top peach pie from the orchard peaches on the property and they were VERY juicy...the juice screwed up the crust baking and the pie, while it was a thing of beauty, was doughy inside and disappointed the enthusiastic diners.

So when I thawed out my 2 lbs. of sour cherries (I'll tell you sometime about the day I spent pitting a case of sour cherries) I realized that there was TONS of liquid, again. The recipe suggests that you grind 2 tablespoons of quick-cooking tapioca and mix it with the fruit, letting it sit for 15 minutes. Well, after 30 minutes it still looked very liquidy and I jumped out on a limb and ground another 2 tbsp. This, after more sitting, looked promising.

This pie has an unusual lattice-top--it is made with egg yolk, almond paste, a little butter, and lemon zest. This is piped onto the top of the pie. I was nervous about this too, because piping takes a little time, and while you're doing it the filling is sitting on that bottom crust, wreaking havoc.

If you're an experienced baker, you've already looked at the ingredients for the lattice and realized all that sugar means trouble--early browning and eventual burning. You're right--I had to keep a sharp eye on it and cover it with foil, though not before the edges of the lattice had blackened.

Experienced toast makers, though, will know that burnt stuff can be scraped off! No harm done.

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