Friday, August 8, 2014

Bittersweet Chocolate Sorbet


When I was much younger, I backpacked through Europe for a few months.  I had no itinerary and was as free as the wind. Ah, those were the days! I remember making a quick decision to go to Belgium for their renowned chocolates. My taste buds were jolted! This was the best chocolate I've ever had.  Rich and creamy and tasting so fresh. Even the cheap supermarket Belgium chocolate bars were far better than anything I tasted back in the United States. I loaded my backpack with about a dozen Belgium chocolate bars to bring back to the US.  I wanted all my friends to share in this amazing experience.  Unfortunately, I don't think any bar made it on my plane ride back. But I always consider Belgium chocolate as the best you can buy.

Recently a friend who works at the United Nations told me of his office mates returning from trips to Russia with loads of dark bittersweet chocolates.  He scoffed at Belgium chocolate and said they were too creamy and milky. I was interested and had to try some...

Coincidentally, I live by a small Russian deli and I rarely go inside this place. In New York City, there are hidden surprises in small stores nestled between blocks filled with nail salons and bodegas.  New York is like that and you never know what you will find in one of these stores. I bought a huge bar of chocolate for just $5. Now, that is a NY deal. I couldn't read the packaging as it was all in Russian, but that luscious picture of dark chocolate on the cover told me all I had to know. The chocolate flavor was quite good and it was a nice deep dark color, though not quite as sweet as other chocolates. The cocoa content was a nice high 72%. Not bad at all.  They say the higher cocoa content has more antioxidants.

I couldn't eat the whole bar so I thought making a bittersweet chocolate sorbet. Here are some of the few ingredients for the sorbet. Try shopping for high quality cocoa such as Ghirardelli.

Here is the sorbet after churning in an ice cream maker.  Notice how it starts to form big chunks of sorbet.  If the sorbet is still runny after churning for the recommended amount of time (for me it is about 25 minutes), you may need to either chill the mixture more or freeze the ice cream bucket for a longer period of time.

Enjoy in bowls or in cones!  We had it both ways at my house last night.

Bittersweet Chocolate Sorbet
(Adapted from David Lebovitz's Perfect Scoop)
2 1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
Pinch of Salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (72% cocoa, preferably)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Place the bittersweet chocolate into a food processor and chop fine.

2. In a large saucepan, combine the 1-1/2 cup water, sugar, cocoa and salt.  Bring to a boil and whisk frequently.  Continue boiling for 45 seconds and continue whisking.

3.  Remove from the heat and add chocolate until it is melted. Stir in the vanilla extract and remaining 3/4 cup of water.  

4. Transfer to a blender and blend for 15 seconds.  I use the "liquefy" setting on my blender.  This adds a bit of air into the mixture and makes the sorbet extra creamy.

5.  Chill mixture thoroughly. Transfer to the ice cream maker and whisk the mixture while pouring into the machine. Freeze according the ice cream maker's instructions.

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Rustic Apple Tart

Today at the local farmer's market, we saw the first signs of apples. I know it is still summer, but I am a bit tired of the humidity. I guess my wish was granted, because today felt like a Fall day. With the cooler weather, I felt like baking and I remember a great rustic apple tart that I made a few times.  You can just shape the dough anyway you want and it still looks great. You can even make it a square or rectangle. It is much easier than an apple pie and oh so impressive and delicious. You can also swap apples for other firm fruit such as peaches or pears, or even have a mixture of different fruits.

This tart will remind you of the Tarte Tatine dessert at French restaurants, and with most french recipes, it has loads of butter.  The tart will impress any dinner guests, but even if you are baking just for your family, this tart will up the ante on your meal. It is much easier than making an apple pie. You don't even need to chill the dough and you are only rolling out one single crust.

I used a mixture of gala and Granny Smith apples.  You can also use Golden Delicious or any firm fruit.

The dough easily comes together in a food processor.  I used a mini-prep processor from my days in a small NYC studio apartment, and all the ingredients just fit.

Roll out the dough into a circle and you don't need to be precise. Remember, this is a 'rustic' tart. We will be folding over the edges later.

Start adding the apples at the outer circle. Imagine if there were three concentric circles, you are starting with the outermost circle. I like to choose apple slices that are similar in size and have the nice pointy edges.

Now the apple design is done. You just need to brush with butter and sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Pretty easy, right?

Here is the finished tart!  

Rustic Apple Tart

1-1/2 cup plus 1 tablesppon all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1-1/2 sticks (6 ounces) of cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, plus 2 tablespoons melted
1/3 cup ice water
3-1/2 tablespoons sugar
4 large apples - peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. In a food processor, pulse 1-1/2 cup flour with the salt.  Add the cold butter and process just until the butter is the size of peas, about 5 seconds.  Sprinkle the ice water into the mixture and process until mixture is just the size of peas, about 5 seconds.  Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times, until it comes together.  Pat the dough into a disk.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 16 or 17 inch round, about 1/4 inch thick.

2. Line a large unrimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Roll the dough around the rolling pin and unroll it onto the prepared baking sheet. 
Note: I used a rimmed baking sheet and it turned out fine.

3. In small bowl, combine the 2 tablespoons of the sugar with the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour and sprinkle over the dough. Arrange the apple slices on top in overlapping concentric circles within 3 inches of the edge. Fold the dough over the apples in a free-form fashion.  Brush the apples with melted butter. Combine the remaining 1-1/2 tablespoon of sugar with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle over crust and apples.

4. Refrigerate the tart until slightly chilled, about 10 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake the tart in the center of the oven for 45 minutes or until the apples are tender and tart is a golden brown.  Remove and slide the parchment carefully onto a cooling rack.

If you make the tart ahead, it can be stored overnight at room temperature. Reheat at 325 degree oven before serving.

The original recipe source is Food and Wine, with contributions by Jacques Pepin and Grace Parisi. I made a few modifications and instead of brushing melted apricot preserves after baking, I added cinnamon to the sugar and sprinkled on top prior to baking.  I also noticed my tart was ready at 45 minutes instead of the 1 hour noted in the original recipe.

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