Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Chocolate/White Chocolate Mousse Raspberry Tart

Oh, Lord. This is a long one.

I first made this tart on a dare. When I started cooking, I was on a project for BSG in St. Louis. One of my friends and co-workers there, Scott, would "dare" me that I couldn't make "X." That is, whatever it is he was craving at that time. Sometimes, I bit. Because whatever “X” was, it usually sounded like a good idea.

Once, when I was putting together a meal for the occasion of his wife, Namita's, visit to our project city, he dared me that I couldn't make a chocolate/white chocolate/raspberry desert of some type. So, I hunted down this recipe in my mom's collection of cookbooks as mine was pretty sad at the time and the internet was just a-birthing.

Yes, I'm old. Shut up.

It comes from a little collection called Beat This!, by Ann Hodgman. Quite appropriate for a challenge, I'd say. The book is a diverse gathering; the only thing tying the recipes together being the author's certainty that they are all simply the best ever. I bought my own copy, finally, but I can't say I've made anything else from it yet. That needs to change. It's just that the collection is such a random assortment, I never think to reach for it when I have something specific in mind. It is a very entertaining read and is definitely recommended.

To make this, I had to buy a tart pan. As I walked out of the store, I looked down at my bag and said to myself (and I'm totally not kidding here), "Well, Hal, today you are no longer a man."

I got over that. But that moment of emasculation is why I insist on calling this a tart instead of a "pie," as Hodgman calls it. If I had to have that moment to get the right pan, then it's a tart, damn it.

As I was going at it that afternoon, I could not make the crust to save my life. Three times I went at it, until I finally broke down and went to the store for that Pillsbury pre-made AND pre-rolled crust.

The rest went well and it was a big, impressive hit. It stayed in the repertoire, but it always bugged me that I was "cheating" because a) I'm terminally guilt-ridden and b) it was supposed to be a "french sugar cookie crust" which I really, really wanted to try. Really more of "b," to be honest, but never underestimate a Catholic upbringing, even second-hand as mine was. I even once tried rolling out the Pillsbury Sugar Cookie dough as a crust. Yes, disaster.

Whew, home stretch here, I promise.

So, now that I'm challenging myself, have learned a regular crust and was having a big-ass dinner, it was time to try again. Since I had the cheesecake, I took comfort in knowing I could abort at any time, if need be.

First thing Thursday morning, I tackled the crust. The first try, I did it as instructed in the food processor and got a big gloppy mess. Right away, I decided, "Screw it," and pulled out the pastry cutter. Sure enough, perfect. I forgot to set the timer and almost forgot it while it was blind baking, but thank God I remembered at the last minute and pulled it out at exactly the right time. There were going to be no threesies that day.

With that done, I pulled out all of the ingredients, lined them up and left them while I started work on all the rest of the dishes. If I got through with everything else, I'd tackle it. If not, it was a long weekend. I'd do it later.

Chris and BJ were the first to arrive at around 4:30 or so. I was rounding things up, sans tart, when they asked if there was anything they could do. Chris is a master of deserts and I realized, “Aha, here we go!” So I threw the book his way and asked him to start prepping. I knew he could handle it. Dinner was going to be a little late, but, by God, we’d have the tart. By the time, I could jump in, Chris was working the raspberries. We double teamed the rest and nailed it. I’m digging this collaborative cooking thing.

By the way, I think the flicking fingerfuls of white chocolate on the finished product sounds messy and like a waste of good white chocolate. I just melted a couple of ounces, spooned it into a sandwich bag, gathered it all in one corner, nipped off the tip and had myself a quick and easy little pastry bag. And the result? An already awesome desert made much, much better with the proper crust.

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