Gluten-Free Chocolate, Port-Poached Cherry, and Chèvre Cream Tarts
I can't decide what I like best about these tarts. There's the gluten-free press-in crust that, thanks to dutch-processed cocoa powder, tastes like almond-flecked oreos. There's the cloud of whipped goat cheese filling that smacks of cheesecake. There are plump cherries simmered with ruby port and vanilla bean that manage to taste even more like themselves than plain cherries.
Chilling time: 15minutes
Servings: 6small (3 1/2") tarts, or 1 large (8-9") tart.
In a wide, stainless steel skillet, combine the pitted cherries, port, vanilla pod and scrapings, and sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, shuffling the pan occasionally, until the cherries are firm-tender, about 10 minutes.
Carefully strain the cherries into a heat-proof bowl. Drain well. Return the juices to the pan; simmer until thick, syrupy, and bubbling, about 5 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally. You can either store the cherries in their syrup, or store the two separately. Let cool to room temperature, then chill both until cool, 1 hour or up to several days. (You can probably refrigerate the cherries in their syrup for up to a month or two, though I have yet to test this theory.)
Make the crust:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350º. Place six 3 1/2" tart pans with removable bottoms (or one 8 or 9" pan) on a baking sheet.
In the bowl of a food processor, blend the sliced almonds, flours, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt until the almonds are pulverized, about a minute. Scatter the butter pieces over the top, sprinkle over the vanilla extract, and process until the mixture forms large, moist clumps.
Divide the crust crumbs evenly among the tart pans. Press first the sides, then the bottoms, into the pan, taking the time to make the crust even and square where the sides meet the bottom. (If the dough is soft or sticky, chill it for 5-10 minutes until it will behave.) Freeze the shells until firm, at least 15 minutes (or wrap and freeze for up to several months).
Bake the shells until they are dry and fairly firm to the touch, 15-20 minutes. Let the shells cool completely. Store them in their rings for protection until ready to serve.
Make the goat cheese whipped cream:
In a large bowl, combine the crumbled goat cheese, cream, vanilla seeds, and sugar. Whip with a sturdy wire whisk until soft peaks form. (Tip: if you overwhip and the mixture becomes grainy, gently fold in a tablespoon or two of heavy cream until the mixture smooths out again.) Chill if not using right away.
Assemble the tarts:
Just before serving, carefully remove the shells from the pans by placing a tart pan on a small, inverted bowl and gently easing away the sides. Use the tip of a sharp knife to gently pry the tart shell away from the bottom of the pan.
Place the tart shells on their serving plates. Divide the cream among the shells. Spoon the cherries over the cream, drizzling with their syrup. Serve right away.
If gluten is an issue for you or your guests, be sure to seek out certified gluten-free ingredients (particularly oat flour). If gluten isn't an issue, feel free to use this recipe instead. I like the Oreo-like flavor of dutch-processed cocoa powder in the crust, but natural cocoa should work, too; the crusts will be lighter in color, and have a slightly different (though still delicious) flavor.I used an organic California zinfandel port from Sobon that was mildly sweet, and I think it contributed to the deliciousness of the cherries.Cherry pitting can be messy business, so I recommend wearing all black to do the deed, and latex gloves if you mind having purple-hued fingers the next day.If you lack individual tart pans, this recipe should work in an 8- or 9-inch tart pan.These should be assembled "a la minute," or to order, lest the shells become soggy, but you can make all the components up to two or three days ahead. If you prefer to assemble the tarts in advance, you can paint the inside of the crusts with melted chocolate (shown here) to protect them from the moisture of the filling.All ounce measurements are by weight.Nutritional values are based on one of six tarts.