Monday, March 30, 2009

Cherry Peppercorn Tart

I'm really into desserts (and food for that matter) that blend sweet and savory flavors in one mouthful. Perhaps it's because I don't have much of a sweet tooth; For dessert, I prefer a cheese plate to chocolate cake.

My interest in this "meritage" of flavors, was further confirmed on a recent trip to Paso Robles. We ate dinner at a wonderful restaurant across from the park called Villa Creek. For dessert we had a peppercorn cherry tart. It was to die for! Each bite was an awesome contrast between the sweet taste of the cherries with the sharp spicy flavor of the peppercorns. I spent the entire drive home and following week thinking how to make this delicious tart.

Given the fact that it was January and cherries are not in season, I bought frozen (pitted) organic cherries. Once cooked, they tasted fine. (However, fresh, ripe, domestic cherries would be spectacular!) My first attempt was not that good because I didn't have the texture of the filling right; it was too runny. (Mind you, I had never successfully baked a pie before this endeavor. I had no idea that you are supposed to use cornstarch or tapioca to thicken the filling) My second attempt was much better. I ended up using tapioca to thicken the cherry/peppercorn filling (Next time I will try the corn starch mixture) I also put ground peppercorn in my pate brisee. It was a good tart, but not exactly on par with Villa Creek. Here is a rough sketch of my recipe:

2 cups of flour
8 oz cold unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of crisco
2 tsp of sugar
1 tsp of salt
1 tablespoon of ground peppercorns
4-6 tablespoons of ice water

3-4 cups of pitted cherries
2 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of lemon zest
1 tsp of vanilla
1-2 tsp of ground peppercorns
1/4 water
2 tablespoons of cornstarch

If anyone reading this gets a 'wild hair' and decides to try this delicious tart, I would love your comments and suggestions for improvement!

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