I subscribe to love.
I subscribe to love with all its swiftness, fleet-of-foot, deep roots, finely feathered wings, quiet gentle tenderness, wild abandon, respectful, transcendent and humble persistence. I suppose I would say that what I really subscribe to is not love but more the spirit of love, its genuineness and possibility. When I stop to think about it, I am gobsmacked at the very many ways love is able to manifest and delighted by the differences in the kinds of loves we encounter. So I think its a wonderful idea to pause for a moment and celebrate the loves, in all their vast and varied qualities in your life.
And together with millions of other couples, this Tuesday we will be celebrating valentine’s day. I will be the first to admit that I am not all that fanatical about this day or particularly charmed by ideas of little confectionary hearts, but I am more than happy to be celebrating a tenth Valentines days together. And there is something about the solidarity of the day, celebrating with all those others who are celebrating love that appeals to me. It is a moment in the year I have come to look forward to, not because of the materiality of it all, but because, in the last decade we have made this day something special to us. We have imbued it with our own couple customs and out of that has developed a little something of a tradition. Our traditions and customs have grown out of time spent together, they are not wrapped up in packages or petals or extravagance but rather born out of love and enjoying our time together. We spend Valentine’s day in a nearly similar manner in the same place every year – our kitchen, where ever that may be. We start simply, by planning a menu. In the week or so leading up to it, we will be casually chatting in the between moments, over morning coffee and the like, brainstorming plotting and planning not the perfect meal, but the most lovely meal we can conceive (and accomplish) in that moment in time, in that specific kitchen with the ingredients available to us. Over the last ten years this had involved bouillabaisse because we lived near the sea, a simple fresh salad, selection of cheeses and the bread from the bakery across that street because ( it made the most heavenly apricot walnut bread ) because both of us had worked late that particular year. This year, we will be spending Valentines day at our little cottage in the city. We will be making pizzas on the grill, in the back yard surrounded buy a few feet of snow , wrapped up in woolly jumpers and mittens, changing in and out of boots as we pop in and out to check on pizzas. I am sure there will be a few cheeky sips of red wine in between and I have a feeling we are very likely to eat standing around a makeshift island in our still floor-less little kitchen, dish towels for napkins, tucked into apron strings, and the formality of plates replaced by a few wooden boards. We have been chatting through a million flavor combinations these past evenings. Talking through everything from potato, egg and pesto to bok choy, tofu and mushrooms. Certainly one of the batches of frozen pesto we have in the freezer from our garden harvest this summer is likely to make it in there somewhere. As I am not sure that any cheese will actually be making it onto pizzas I wanted to ensure that cheese made it onto our valentines menu somewhere. Somehow a Valentine’s without cheese seems incomplete. So I’ve incorporated it into the deserts. Making these caramelized goats cheese cheesecake tarts in the beautiful little crocks saved from the many St. Alban’s cheese we consumed over the holidays, they are sure to be a lovely addition to whatever pizzas we end up making.
I suppose these could be considered little cheesecakes of sorts. They have a crumbly crust and are of course made mostly of cheese but they are also richly textured, more so than a traditional cheesecake would be, and lighter in consistency. They are sweetened slightly with maple syrup and cinnamon to enhance the subtly caramelized fresh goats cheese and I think they end up resting somewhere between cheesecake and tartlets territory. Make sure that when you start, all the ingredients are at room temperature, cheeses and eggs alike. When caramelizing the
goats cheese be sure that the pan is hot but not excessively so. You don’t want the cheese to caramelize too quickly or blacken. It should move from a golden brown to a deeper almost redish-brown. Also be sure to let it cool some before you mix in the egg as you don’t want it to cook the egg when you mix the two together.
I love topping them with a little dollop of Vermont Creamery’s vanilla Creme Fraiche some freshly grated cinnamon and a few berries but it would be fun to experiment with other ideas too. Just be sure the tarts are cool enough before topping or it will just run right off the top. They keep very well in the fridge over night as well so they could be made a day ahead and served cold as cheese cake traditionally is.
Caramelized Goats Cheese Cheesecake Tarts
makes 4 individual tarts
For the Crust
- 1 cup / 110g slivered almonds
- 2 tbsp / 20g flour (can easily use a gluten-free flour here)
- 2 tbsp sugar / 25g sugar
- 1oz/ 30grams Vermont Creamery Cultured butter, melted
- pinch of salt
For the Filling
- 8oz Vermont Creamery Fresh Goats Cheese
- 1/4 cup / 50g sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp Mascarpone Cream
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
- vanilla Crème fraîche
- raspberries or other berries of your choice
- cinnamon sticks for fresh grated garnish
pre-heat the oven to 325F
For the Crust
- place almonds, flour, sugar & salt in a food processor and pulse until a corse meal texture
- Scrape down the sides of the food processor, then drizzle melted butter over the mixture and continue to pulse a few more times until the butter is incorporated
- press mixture evenly into the bottoms of 4 clean, reused and lightly greased St. Albans cheese crocks or any other low 3oz ramekins. About 3 tbsp per crock.
- place crocks on a baking sheet and blind bake in the preheated oven for about 12 minutes. The mixture may not brown excessively, don’t worry.
For the Filling
- in a large bowl mix together the maple syrup and the goats cheese. The mixture should have a creamy texture but be sure not to over beat.
- Place the mixture in a large non-stick skillet over medium low heat, press it as into a flat pancake like shape and let is set about 3 minutes. Being very careful not to burn the cheese, it should be medium brown in color. Carefully section the pancake into quarters with the tip of a rubber spatula. Flip each section over as completely as possible. Don’t worry if it breaks apart some, just press the newly flipped side down with the spatula. Cook on the remaining side about another 3 minutes or until that beautiful light brown caramel color appears.
- Remove from heat and let the mixture cool approximately 15 minutes.
- Place cheese mixture, sugar & marscapone cheese into the food processor. Blend until very smooth and well aerated. About 4 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Then add the egg and blend into the mixture. aprox 45 seconds
- Scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Then add the cinnamon and vanilla. Blend completely about 45 seconds more.
- Then pour mixture slowly between the four crocks. Allowing it to seep into the crust a bit before topping off the ramekins. They should be full right to the top.
- Carefully transfer crocks to the oven and bake 10-12 minutes. The top should still have a bit of wobble to the top and there may not be any browning to the edges.
- Turn off oven and open the door. Let the tartlets sit on the rack about 2 minutes more before removing completely from the oven.
- Transfer to a rack and allow to cool completely before topping with a swirl of vanilla creme fraiche, a few grates of fresh cinnamon and a few berries