Chocolate Chestnut Tart

December 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Chocolate always seems like such a relief after the decadence of Thanksgiving, ironically. It packs a dark punch, with hints of bitterness, which offsets the soothing heaviness of the butter-laden cakes and pies of the proceding days. It awakens one from the food-induced slumber, a sort of jolting enlivening that reminds you that, yes there is a whole host of things to do following the big day.

Last weekend, San Francisco brought a blanket of white fog that wanted to keep me in bed. This weekend threatens to be the real beginning of the long winter in Princeton. I know people further north might scoff at that, but to this California girl it is depressingly long when you finally hit March and still can’t go outside without a jacket. But for now, the shivers have the charm of it being the holiday month, complete with Advent calendars, peppermint bark and strands of colorful lights. And chestnuts roasting on the open fire, you can add those to the mix too. Except I might have cheated and roasted these in the oven.

That’s not to say that I’m done with the pumpkin and the pecans — no, I’m not anywhere near done — but I’m ready to bring on the slow, dripping dark molasses, the grated, spicy ginger, the icing dribbles, and the glitzy holiday baking that somehow manages to feel homey despite sophisticated appearances.

No one prepared me for the disappointment of cracking open piping-hot chestnuts with my bare fingers only to find that over half of them had gone bad, which is completely normal apparently. With that kind of success rate, I only had enough to use thin slices in a decorative manner. I spread a sweet pate brisée crust with roasted chestnut spread (available at your local specialty store), over which I poured David Lebovitz’ chocolate tart filling. The initial taste is the undertone of burnt caramel, then soothed by the sombre, molten chocolate. If you want lessons on roasting chestnuts, it suffices to cut an X at the top of the nut (through the skin) and to throw them on a tray in the oven at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes. If you just want to eat chestnuts, I suggest skipping the home-maker’s lesson and hitting up the guy peddling chestnuts (did you know they are actually boiled and then just “roasted” for show?) on the nearest street corner.

Molten Chocolate Cake

November 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

I thought there would be cake at the finish line of the Philadelphia Marathon. At least that’s what all the cheering squads along the course with cardboard signs would have had you believe. Cake and beer. Sadly, the post-race eats were more along the lines of Chewy granola bars, though a lovely lady, completely unaffiliated with the race, did hand me a free jug of chocolate milk.

It was a great race. We lined up in our respective corals before the sun had risen. Parts of the course were lined with people, screaming, clapping, in costume, like they were at a parade. Our, wonderful, wonderful, friends were standing at miles 1, 8, and 14, cheering. Apparently they had quite a time shoveling down half a scorching-hot pizza and walking a half-marathon trying to find us on the course.

Mid-race, I wondered why the hell I had ever decided that this would be fun. But the last two miles I almost felt like I was floating, which is a feeling I never thought I would associate with marathon running. Even now, just one day later, I’m struggling to remember anything specific about the race itself.

Admittedly, there were things we could have planned better — namely having a place to meet afterwards in the madhouse that was the finish line area. So sadly, there are no smiling post-race pictures with medals around our necks, but I will say that it was an adventure. We rolled out of Philadelphia Sunday afternoon, with a stop at the Medic tent and then at Dunkin’ Donuts.

I can’t say I feel like running another anytime soon. But if you happen to be at Boston 2013, please remember my cake and beer at the finish line.

In the meantime, I’ll be eating this.

I don’t think I’ve ever made anything else from Martha Stewart besides these cakes. They pour lava chocolate, which is reason enough to make them. And they come out perfectly every time, dark, rich, baked on the outside and gooey on the inside, in less than ten minutes, which is like exactly what you’re craving at 11 p.m..Needless to say, I’ve made them quite a few times.

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