Ten years ago (yes, ten!) , I set off for the University of Maryland after spending a whopping 18 years in Pennsylvania. I adore the town where I grew up. And when everyone asked me why I wasn’t going to college there, I said, “If I don’t go away to college, I won’t ever go anywhere. I’ll be right back after I graduate and I don’t want to say I’ve never lived anywhere else.”
So you know how that one ends. Because here I am in DC with no plans to move back to PA anytime soon.
I hate it.
And I also sometimes love it.
If you’ve ever moved to a new place you likely understand this raging internal conflict.
The one thing that has made this whole transplant experience worthwhile are the friends I’ve made here. In fact, I’m sure I would be quite miserable without them. I am beyond fortunate that I work with some of the best girls in town.
And they humor me by coming over for dinner every now and again. You know three of them already. That’s AGOMYR in the bottom left corner, Hey Girl Hey in the bottom right, and of course, CV smack in the center with the blue dress. The lovely lady in the top left of the picture is my ex (roommate, that is), and the fifth member of our little crew is our resident health expert. She does crazy things like exhibit self control when faced with a plate full of desserts. We don’t know how she does it, either.
These ladies came over the other night, so I baked.
I started getting Joy’s Dark Chocolate Ganache Tart with Fresh Berries and Whipped Cream together the evening before everyone arrived, and I had a little epiphany. Said epiphany was not that Joy’s cookbook is the new best thing that happened to my kitchen, because I figured that out already. It was that the baking I was doing was a different kind entirely.
If you hang around here long enough, you’ll realize that baking is part of my everyday life. I’m never too far from needing thirty cupcakes, a batch of brownies to bring to Grandma Glass of Milk, muffins for a staff breakfast, or cookies, just because I don’t like to have an empty cookie jar.
But that’s not this kind of baking. That’s the kind you can do with your eyes closed if you have to. This kind of baking was the kind that matters. It’s the kind that takes time, and thought, and care. It can’t be done in an hour. As I put together the tart shell with my own two hands, and whipped up the ganache, I thought about how this is the kind of cooking that you want people to feel. You want your friends to take a bite and realize you’re telling them something.
I’m so glad you came over.
You make living here fun.
To make a tart to feed your friends, you will need:
For the shell (which tastes like a big giant graham cracker):
- 1 1/2 C all purpose flour
- 1/2 C powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- scant 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 stick unsalted butter, cold, small diced
- 1 large egg yolk, slightly beaten
Combine flour, sugar, salt, and spices in large bowl. Cut in butter with your fingers. This means you want to get in there and smush the little butter pieces until they get all mixed with the flour. If you’ve never done this before, it may feel weird, and like you’re not getting anywhere. But keep at it, until your biggest pieces of butter are no bigger than a little pea. Once incorporated, add the egg yolk and mix things together again with a fork. Dump the mixture into a nonstick tart pan, pressing the crust flat to the bottom of the pan, and up the sides. Place tart crust in the freezer for an hour.
For the ganache:
- 8 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used Scharffen Berger)
- 1 1/4 heavy cream
- 1/2 stick butter, at room temperature, cut in half
Place chocolate in medium bowl. In small saucepan, heat heavy cream till it barely simmers. Pour cream over chocolate, and let sit for one minute. Stir gently with whisk, until chocolate and cream are combined. Add the pieces of butter, and stir in with spatula until melted. Set ganache aside and let it cool to room temperature.
Place a rack in the upper third of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter one side of a piece of foil and press buttered side against the crust. Bake shell for 20 minutes, remove foil, and bake for another 15. Remove shell from oven and let cool completely.
You’re almost there.
For the topping:
- 1 1/2 C fresh berries that you would want to eat with chocolate (Joy recommends raspberries and blackberries)
- 1 C heavy cream
- 3 T powdered sugar
In a mixer fitted with whisk attachment (or with your hand mixer) beat cream and sugar until stiff peaks form.
Pour cooled ganache into cooled shell. Top with whipped cream and berries.
Serve to people you love.
Dear readers, in case you’re all sentimental now and in dire need of a good laugh, please observe what happened after my husband returned home from his guys’ night adventure and ate his own piece.