You know how you get a picture in your head of what you want something to look like. And then you go for it and things are shaping up nicely until…they don’t. At this point, you can do one of several things. You can throw away whatever it was you were making and start over. You can throw away whatever it was you were making and go get a pedicure. Or you could change your expectations so they are aligned with the new reality.
You know, make lemons out of lemonade.
For example, the wee chocolate tarts I had planned looked like this in my head.
I thought, “Hey, what could be more perfect for #tbtfood than individual chocolate cream pies? Diner food.” Of course, being me, I didn’t make new meringue since I had some coffee Italian meringue in the freezer leftover from this week’s Ice Cream Tuesday. Sadly, the meringue did not behave as I hoped it would. Instead of sitting jauntily and lightly on the tarts in a cute wee swirl, it sort of…schlumped. I’m still perplexed by its behavior since the key lime mallow cream I made behaved beautifully. Alas, it is a mystery for another day.
After futzing with it for a bit to try to make it behave, I considered going the pedicure route and then I spoke sternly to myself.
“Jenni, you can work with what you have.” and I heard Tim Gunn chime in with a “Make it work,” so I knew that I had to.
I shoved my tray of schlumpy chocolate meringue tartlets under the broiler and watched helplessly as the meringue had the nerve to schlump even more, even as the tops were getting nicely toasty.
I thought to myself, “mushroom caps!”
Normally the phrase mushroom caps doesn’t do much for me, but this time, I was Reinvigorated. The culinary world has a long and storied history of serving food that looks like other food. Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked in a Pie. One small scoop of mango sorbet on a bed of meringue looks like a fried egg. Baked Alaska. Hey, that flaming thing is frozen on the inside!
And now, wee tartlets that look like mushroom caps. I even used a small strainer to sift on the merest bit of espresso powder and cocoa powder to make them look even more like mushroom caps.
I am not saying that everyone needs to make mushroom cap tartlets, but it’s what I decided to do when Plan A schlumped.
If you want to make sure your meringue is perky, make it fresh. Then you can have tartlets that look like the ones in my head, or better yet like the ones in your head.
For these guys, I used a standard graham cracker crust and added some peanut brittle to the mix. Partly because I had some leftover (along with the meringue) from earlier in the week, and partly because I wanted to use the same three flavors that worked so well in the gelato–chocolate, peanut, coffee–in a completely different dessert.
The experiment? Flavor-wise, it was successful. I’m a fan of this combination. Feel free to leave out the peanut brittle if you aren’t a fan, though.
Here’s how I made my guys.
For the Crust
- 10 double graham crackers
- 2 oz peanut brittle
- 2.5 oz melted butter
- heavy pinch of salt
For the Filling
- 1/2 oz unsalted butter
- 4 oz semisweet chocolate chopped, (you can also use chips. I used Ghirardelli)
- 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2.25 oz granulated sugar, (use brown sugar for deeper flavor)
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons (4 1/3 teaspoons) cornstarch
- 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder, (regular is fine. I used Hershey's)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 oz heavy cream
- 8 oz whole milk
For the Meringue
- I used this recipe using a good 1/2 teaspoon of salt and with the addition of 3 Tablespoons of freeze-dried coffee, (espresso powder would work too)
For the Crust
- In a high powered blender or food processor, blend/process the graham crackers and peanut brittle into dust.
- Add the salt and pulse to combine.
- Drizzle in the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are evenly moist.
- Place cupcake liners in 10 muffin tins and evenly distribute the crumbs among the liners.
- Press down with a 1/4 cup measure (or similar--my 1/4 measure is the perfect size to fit inside a muffin cup).
- Form a shell with sides about 1/2" high all the way around.
- Bake at 350F for 10 minutes.
- While still hot, carefully press down on all the shells again with your measuring cup (or whatever you're using) just to make sure the shells are well compacted.
- Set aside to cool.
For the Filling
- Combine the butter, chopped chocolate or chips, espresso powder and vanilla in a medium bowl. Set a fine mesh strainer over the bowl and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder and salt and whisk until there are no lumps.
- Whisk the eggs into half the cream and whisk that mixture into the dry ingredients to make a smooth paste.
- Add the rest of the cream and the milk.
- Cook over medium to medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil.
- Let boil about 10 seconds and then pour through the strainer into the bowl with the chocolate chips in it.
- Force everything through the strainer and then make sure to clean off the back of the strainer with a spatula and put that into the bowl too.
- Whisk together until smooth. Cool to room temperature and then chill.
For the Meringue
- Make according to the directions and then scrape into a large piping bag fitted with a round or star tip. You can also scrape it into a zip-top bag. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Carefully remove the cupcake liners from the cooled tart shells.
- Spoon the filling evenly into the tart shells.
- Spoon on or pipe on the meringue in whatever way you see fit.
- Brown under the broiler for just a couple of minutes or brown the meringue with a blow torch.
I seem to be saying this a lot recently, but it’s true: you can almost always find a way to make something work. And make it delicious!
Thanks for spending some time with me today, and Happy Throwback Thursday Food to you.