This lovely, simple dessert was the perfect ending to a summery meal, eaten al fresco in the garden.
Oh, wait. I’m daydreaming. Seattle is in the throes of one of the coldest springs on record. Cold. Damp. Chill. Rain. Wind. Brief glimpse of sun. More rain. So this tart was a welcome breath of summer, even if we did have to take off our mittens to eat it.
I made the pâte sablée crust, without nuts, and it was wonderful. I wanted to eat the whole thing, unadorned, like a big cookie. Just break it up and devour it. But I exercised restraint, because the combination of the buttery crust, the strawberry jam, and the strawberries is luscious – especially with a dollop of crème fraîche on top.
I cut up the strawberries and let them macerate for half an hour or so in just a sprinkling of sugar and a splash of home-made rhubarb liqueur. After topping the individual portions of crust with the jam, fruit, and crème, I sprinkled on some chopped pistashios.
I’m inspired to try this recipe with other combinations of jam and fruit.
To my mind, chocolate, raisins, and rum are a great combination. I used a mix of golden and dark raisins and black strap rum, which has a lovely, dark, molasses-y flavor. I know this will make you raisin-haters out there shudder – but I would add more raisins if I made this again; they just weren’t enough of a presence. Neither was the rum, for that matter. I think next time I would skip boiling the raisins in water and just steep them in warmed rum for half an hour or so.
Making these brownies in a square pan seemed a bit plain to me, so I decided to play around with the shape. I wanted individual brownie “cakes” instead of cut brownies. I have a so-called “muffin top” pan, which I’ve never used for muffins. (I bought is because I liked the shallow shape, and I’ve made beautiful mincemeat tarts in it.) This pan has a non-stick surface, but I buttered it anyway. Good thing I did, as the first batch I made was difficult to remove after 15 minutes’ cooling time as you can see from one of the mangled brownies below.
I let the second batch cool in the pan for 25 minutes, and they came out easily.
The result is a classic shiny, crackly brownie top with a cakey interior, and quite fragile. I had this crazy idea that if I made individual brownies, Mark and I would each have one and I would freeze the rest for later – to be eaten in moderation over a period of time. Ha! As soon as I whipped some cream to have with the brownies for dessert that night, moderation went right out the window. These would be perfect to stack, with cream in between!
But I guess we did use moderation – we only stacked two, not three or four.