Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sharon has a case of spring fever: bring on the chocolate!

Spring seems to have arrived in West Kerry. And isn't it pretty?

It's very welcome too. The brighter mornings mean that I'm not (quite) as reluctant to get out of bed when the alarm rings. The longer evenings mean that my dog now gets a walk when I've finished work for the day - something that makes him ridiculously happy.

And much more unexpectedly, the hint of green growth in the air and the (admittedly slight) upturn in temperatures have made me miss my stall at Dingle's Farmers' Market.

At the end of October last year, I was glad to pack my stall away. I was exhausted and needed a rest from the back-breaking work of baking. But months have now gone by and I'm itching to return to the kitchen. I miss the chatter of the customers and the banter of the other stallholders. It's time for Little Miss Cupcake to return.

Thus inspired, I decided yesterday was a day for experimenting with new products for my stall. This was the end result:

Mini chocolate and raspberry tarts (taken from the Avoca Café Cookbook) and little chocolate and raspberry pots (made with leftover chocolate mixture)

Here's how I made them:
Shortcrust pastry:
225g/8oz plain flour
150g/5oz butter, diced
25g caster sugar
1 egg yolk

Chocolate filling:
190g/7 and a half oz raspberries
350ml/12 fl oz double cream
15g/half an ounce caster sugar
250g/9oz dark chocolate, grated
1 tablespoon rum (optional)
Raspberries to decorate

  • Sift the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. (If you're lucky enough to have a mixer or a food processor, this can do the hard work for you.)

  • Stir in the caster sugar and then mix in the egg yolk. By this stage, your pastry should hold together but if it's still crumbly and dry, you can add some cold water if necessary.

  • Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and leave it to rest in the fridge for 30 mins.

  • Roll it out on a lightly floured surface and use it to line eight mini tartlet tins (mine were 9cm in diameter).

  • Cover the pastry with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. (If you have ceramic ones, use those but any dried beans will do. Their function is to prevent the pastry from rising.)

  • Bake in an oven which has been preheated to 180 degrees C/350 degrees F/gas mark 4 for 15 mins.

  • Remove the beans and greaseproof paper and return the pastry cases to the oven for another 5 mins until very lightly coloured.

  • Leave to cool

  • When the pastry has cooled, line the base of each tart with raspberries.

  • Put the cream and sugar in a pan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it melts.

  • Add the rum, if using.

  • Leave to cool a little then pour the mixture over the raspberries.

  • Leave to set in the fridge for a minimum of one hour.

  • Decorate with more raspberries and serve.

    I had some chocolate mixture left over and decided to use it to make chocolate pots. I put some raspberries in little espresso cups and then covered them with chocolate, placed them in the fridge to set and put a pert little raspberry on top.

    My verdict? These tarts and pots would appeal to customers with sophisticated tastes; those who like their chocolate strong and bitter and their desserts tangy and tart. I can think of several who will love them but I know lots have a sweeter tooth. I'll have to come up with a variation that will appeal to them too. I'm thinking chocolate honeycomb tarts and pots. Watch this space!

    1. Will you sell them in those teacups? What can you use that is nice, but not too expensive?

    2. Those teacups would definitely be to expensive (and I like them too much to part with them!) so when they appear on my stall, I'll have to think of different containers. Any ideas?