Hum-a-na, hum-a-na, hum-a-na! Be still my beating heart! Indeed, Cranberry Heart Tarts garnished with Chocolate Covered Cranberries are worthy of much adoration and attention. This luxurious tart, in the perfect shape and color for serving up to your sweetie on Valentine’s Day, is perhaps the easiest dessert I’ve ever made. Assuming you’ve got some frozen cranberries on hand (they are not in season in February), I have to practically insist you make this tart.
Back in college, I worked at the Allentown Farmers Market, a great under-cover year-round market that brought in lots of farmers and specialty food purveyors. I happened to help out at one of those specialty food stands and distinctly remember the onslaught of customers the weekend before Valentine’s Day desperately seeking boxes of our plump delicious chocolate covered strawberries. Mind you, they cost over a dollar a piece, a price this then poor college student who happened to know how to make her own at home for pennies thought was outrageous! Still, for the three years that I worked there, we sold out every single time.
Chocolate and fruit do epitomize the food that might be served at a lovers’ tryst. Not wanting to ignore that association in my current quest for local seasonal sweet treats but lacking any strawberries, I decided I’d give coating cranberries in chocolate a go. They are wonderful – the sweet rich chocolate coating breaks over a burst of tart juice in your mouth. Like any perfect union, these two flavors compliment each other flawlessly.
The wonderful thing about both the tart and the chocolate covering for cranberries is that the frozen ones work just as well as fresh, proving yet again that it’s only in your best interest to buy up pints and pints of the little red jewels when you see them at the market, even if you notice everyone around you starting to point and stare. Not that that’s ever happened to me. No, never. Although I think a few people might have noticed when I push, er, nudged that older woman to the side in order to reach the last pint on the back of the table…perhaps that was going just a bit too far.
But in all seriousness, buying up loads of cranberries to freeze for later use during the cold dark days of winter is perfectly commendable. Just bring them home, wash and sort them (toss out the squishy ones), dry them and then lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet to freeze for an hour or so before bagging them up in sturdy bags to stash in the freezer until you need them. Frozen cranberries will store for up to a year and are best used frozen, not thawed, when you put them in a recipe.
Cranberry Heart Tarts
Adapted from Eat Feed Autumn Winter
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry (1/2 a package)
2 C. fresh or frozen cranberries
1 T. cornstarch
3/4 C. plus 2 T. sugar
1 whole star anise
3/4 C. heavy whipping cream
Preheat the oven to 400 F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Using a large heart-shaped cookie cutter (or you can free-hand it with a sharp knife), cut out 6 hearts. Use a sharp knife to score the pastry to create a heart within the heart, about a half inch from the outside edge. Place on the cookie sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the hearts are puffed up and golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Turn the oven temperature down to 275 F. In a shallow baking dish, toss together the cranberries, cornstarch, and 3/4 cup of sugar. Bake for 35 minutes, stirring half way through to get the juice mixed with the sugar. Remove from oven and used a slotted spoon to seperate the cranberries from the juice.
Place the juice and the star anise in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil for one minute and then remove from heat. Allow the juice to sit for about 10 minutes so the star anise can impart its flavor. Then remove the star and mix the cranberries and juice together again. Allow to cool completely. If you are preparing this recipe ahead of time, this is where you will stop for now.
When ready to serve, combine the cream and remaining sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until it forms medium stiff peaks. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut around the inner heart of the pastry shells and lift it out, revealing a cavity within. Divide the cream among the hearts and top wtih the cranberries. If desired, garnish with chocolate covered cranberries (see below).
To make chocolate covered cranberries, simply melt a few squares of high quality chocolate in the microwave on high for 1 minutes. Stir and microwave for another 15 seconds. Chocolate should be smooth and fluid. Be careful not to overcook it as it will become coarse and dry.
Using a fork, quickly dip frozen or fresh cranberries in the chocolate. Place on a sheet of wax paper and allow the chocolate to harden. Store in the fridge in an airtight container.