These days it seems like waiting around every corner there's a profound and thought provoking new perspective anxiously coiled in anticipation for that bright, illuminating moment when our respective smartphones and tablets spring to life. Poised and ready, these new views seek to challenge us to think different and re-evaluate this thing called life and the vast and inexhaustible mysteries of the human experience.
It's during times like these that I find myself drawn back to days gone by; to nobler times when the genteel overruled the grotesque and when dignity and propriety were the order of the day. It is from these revered times that I draw the sentiment which so aptly describes how I feel about this particular recipe. It is in the immortal words of the seminal and enduringly timeless rock band Warrant that I find my truth:
She's my cherry pie, cool drink of water, such a sweet surprise. Tastes so good make a grown man cry....Sweet cherry pie, oh yea…In all seriousness though, I spent a number of my younger years in the "valentine's haters" club. Over the past 16 years of marriage, motherhood, working, sickness, recovery, life etc etc, I've realized that there are a whole lot of things out there that legitimately deserve to be on my 'dislike' list; and at the end of the day.....a holiday that celebrates love and appreciation for the people in my life just isn't one of those things.
And amazingly enough, once I let go of that particular bias, I found that my love of Valentine's day and everything surrounding it has just grown and grown with each passing February. So now I make no apologies for throwing my heart and soul into celebrating it each year. Mind you, I don't think shimmery balloons, teddy bears and cheap chocolates are ever a suitable demonstration of your feelings (unless you count that one year that I completely filled Ben's office with them while he was away at lunch....but that was different), however....I do believe that there is no greater time of year to throw yourself into extravagant, indulgent, luxurious desserts. I mean honestly...."love" always gets a pass right?! And so, in the name of love, I give you this year's offering......
Cherry Cream Pie (tarts) w/Chocolate Macaroon Crust
Chocolate Macaroon Crust
1 1/2 cups unsweetened extra fine-shredded coconut (I recommend Let’s Do Organic* for my recipes)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons coconut oil
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon full fat coconut milk
*You will find that different shredded coconut brands act differently. This has to do with the "fineness" of the shred or grind. Though "Let's DO Organic' doesn't label their shredded coconut as extra fine, it is. I recommend an extra fine shred for my macaroon recipes because it holds the best. If you use a coarser shred you may find that you need to use less wet ingredients and the final product may be more fragile. Consistency differences from brand to brand are just one of the quirks to grain free baking. Pulsing the coarser shredded coconut brands in a food processor may help with these issues.
Cherry Cream Filling:
1/2 cup (about one cans worth) of cold coconut cream (like found at the top of a chilled can of coconut milk)
1 tablespoon maple syrup/honey or maple sugar
5 tablespoons cherry jam (store bought or use homemade, see recipe below**)
*Optional 1-2 tablespoons water (or use the coconut water leftover in the can)
Whipped Cream Topping:
1/2 cup of cold coconut whip cream (as seen above)
Honey or maple syrup if desired, sweeten to taste (1 tablespoon is usually good)
Shaved bittersweet chocolate and/or whole cherries to garnish
**Cherry Jam (make a few hours to 3 days in advance)
1 pound fresh pitted cherries (can use frozen too. You won't need as much liquid)
1/4 cup Madeira or Marsala wine (or water)
1/3-1/2 cup honey or maple syrup (sweetness will vary depending on the ripeness of the fruit)1 tablespoon lemon juice
Directions for making the jam: Gently pulse the cherries in a blender or food processor. This step can also be done at the end of the cooking process if you have an immersion blender. Don't puree them, just pulse until the cherries are coarsely ground, leaving some large pieces for texture. Transfer to a small sauce pan. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook until the liquid part of mixture starts to thicken. This could take anywhere from 15-45 minutes depending on the size of your pan/pot. Stir often toward the end, pulling the spoon across the pan. You'll know it's about done when you pull the spoon through the jam and it takes a second for the juices to fill the space back in.
Remove from heat and allow to cool completely, then chill. The jam will continue to thicken as it cools. If you find it is too thick once cooled, stir in a little more water or lemon juice to desired consistency.
Directions for the tarts:
All components can be made ahead of time and assembled when desired.
For the crust:
Makes 12 mini (2 1/2 inch) tartlets, 4 small (3 1/2 inch) tart shells or 1 (6-7 inch) pie/tart
Preheat the oven to 345 degrees. Lightly grease your tart pan.
Combine all the ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Mix well.
Press the macaroon dough evenly into the tart pans. About 1 rounded tablespoon per mini tart or 3 level tablespoons for the four small shells. Take your time pressing the dough firmly into the pan and shaping the sides for best results. If your house is super warm, chill the unbaked tart shells in the freezer for a few minutes.
Bake the mini shells for about 15 minutes (times will vary from oven to oven and size of pan). Check them half way through. Gently press down the center of each tart if it is rounding up, rotate the pan and continue to bake till done. They should be firm to the touch. Let cool completely in the pan or they will break apart. They will be much stronger once cooled.
For the Cherry Chiffon Cream:
Transfer the cold coconut cream to your standing mixer bowl (or medium sized bowl if using a hand mixer.) Add the maple syrup (you can use maple sugar if the coconut cream is on the "looser" side) and beat for about 2 minuets. If your cream is super thick and dense add a tablespoon of water (or more if needed) until the cream is light but not runny. If it's already a pretty loose cream, leave it as is. The density of coconut cream can vary quite bit. You are going for a light and airy type of mousse here that will retain its whipped texture even when chilled again.
Continue beating air into the cream for another few minutes then add the jam 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat well the whole time. I like to let my mixer go for another 3 minutes or so to get the lightest, most airy cream possible. The cherry cream should be able to hold it's shape but not be to dense. Transfer the cream to a bowl and use immediately or chill to enhance the the flavor and color. The cream will thicken up a little once chilled so don't worry if it is a little too loose.
Clean the beaters and bowl to remove any residual cherry cream, then beat the rest of the coconut cream with the optional sweetener. Beat till light and airy. Alternatively you can always whip the cream topping before preparing the cherry cream so that you don't have to clean the bowl at all. This is, of course, a more logical approach but then that would be just a tad too put together and organized for the likes of me, haha... :)
Assembling the tarts:
Carefully remove the cooled tart shells from the pan, unless using you're doing a single pie crust, in which case you can just leave it in the pie pan. I usually place a cookie sheet on top of the mini tart pan and flip the shells out onto the sheet. Sometimes they require a little tap to get them all out. Be gentle as the tart shell edges can be fragile.
Scoop mounds of cherry cream into each tart. Smooth them out if needed.
Using a piping bag with a star tip (or whatever you like), pipe a small amount of plain coconut cream on top of the cherry cream.
Garnish the tops of each filled tart with shaved bittersweet chocolate and a cherry. Serve right away or chill for later use.