Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ricotta Crèpes with Whipped Ricotta, Citrus, Honey, and Mint {gluten-free}

Lacy gluten-free crèpes studded with ricotta are topped with ricotta whipped cream, rounds of Cara Cara and blood orange, tangerine, and kumquat, all finished with a drizzle of honey and fresh mint. 

I'm excited to be guest-posting over at 80twenty today! Kris's site is one of the blogs I most look forward to seeing in my feed each week and her recipes, from soup to bread to drinkles never fail to make me swoon. I'm so honored to have a post up over there. (Also, I'm blushing like crazy from all the nice things Kris said about me!)

I made a batch of crèpes to celebrate the French holiday Chandeleur, which embraces the light returning after a long winter. Also known as Crèpe Day, on February second thin pancakes representing the sun are traditionally eaten together with crocks of hard cider. What's not to love?

To pliant gluten-free ricotta crèpes (adapted from Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain) I add sunny rounds of citrus – cara cara and blood oranges, tangerines, and kumquat – a billow of ricotta whipped cream, a drizzle of honey, and a flutter of mint leaves. All together, it makes for a dish that's as bright visually as it is in flavor. 

We haven't had much of a winter this year in California, nonetheless I'm still thrilled to see the sun stay out an hour later. It gives me more time to procrastinate taking pictures of food in my living room, and to walk around San Francisco by myself not feeling completely freaked out. It's the little things, right? 

Anyway, these bright crèpes satisfy in any sort of weather. Hop on over to 80twenty for the recipe


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Super Citrus:
Black Sesame Kumquat Financiers {Gluten-Free}
Fresh Bergamot Truffles
Grapefruit, Ginger and Lemongrass Sake Cocktails

One year ago:
Lavender Kumquat Shrub {Drinking Vinegar}
Two years ago:
Gluten-Free Chocolate Almond Olive Oil Cake
Three years ago: 
(Gluten-Free) Über Chocolate Cookies
Four years ago: 
White Bean, Kale and Farro Soup with Parsley Pesto
Five years ago: 
Breakfast Bars with Tart Cherries, Chocolate and Pecans
Banana Brown Sugar Pecan Scones 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Black Sesame Kumquat Financiers {Gluten-Free}

Fragrant little tea cakes packed full of vanilla bean brown butter, almond flour, and ground black sesame seeds get a kick in the pants from slices of sweet-tart kumquats.

I seem to have developed a bit of a tea habit. It started innocently enough, a cup of white tea here, an herbal chai there. If you're tired, I reasoned, you need to rest. Why self-medicate with stimulants when you can merely take a nap? Coffee always smelled better than it tasted and left me with unpleasant jitters and headaches, turning me into that person that afficionados roll their eyes at when I dropped the d-bomb on my latte order. An Italian barista actually laughed out loud when I ordered a cup of chamomile, the only non-upper option, one morning in Bologna on my way to class. "What? Are you going to take a pisolino here on the bar?" he hooted, wiping his clearly over-caffeinated eyes. 

Over the years, I began to enjoy the occasional cup of Yorkshire Gold while working at a local bakery with a tea-loving boss. She would spoon leaves into strainers, pour over the hot water, and set a timer for a few minutes. Laced with sugar and cream, I ditched the naps and never looked back. No wonder the Brits are so efficient.

At home, I got hooked on an organic English breakfast blend from Samovar, which is assertive and more complex than coffee wishes it could be. A giant mug sweetened with local honey and whole milk became an intrinsic part of my morning routine, and, on some days, the sole temptation to lure me, zombie-like, from sleep. 

Recently I've discovered the wonders of the afternoon pick-me-up, and I fear there is no turning back. Savoring a cup of something floral, with a hint of bitterness and a touch of smoke, is one of my favorite afternoon pastimes. Jasmine green, Earl Grey, or my current obsession Red Dragon Pearl.

Particularly when a little sweet something is involved.

Enter financiers, wee cakelets packed with big flavor from almonds and vanilla-flecked brown butter. Rumor (or shall I say "rumour"?) has it that financiers were invented at a bakery near the Parisian stock exchange where the madeleine-like cakes were baked in molds shaped like gold bricks. The French have genius ways with eggs, and these cakes are a testament to their ingenuity. They contain no leavening and a plethora of egg whites, which makes them an ideal complement for a culture big on yolk-rich desserts like crème brulée and ice cream. Financiers are vastly superior to egg white omelets, let me tell you. 

This version was inspired by a black sesame financier that I was fortunate enough to enjoy in the company of Princess Tofu at Sweetmue last fall. The flavor of toasty ground black sesame seeds against nutty brown butter pretty much blew my mind, and I'd been fantasizing about making some of my own for months. When a bundle of homegrown kumquats found their way to me from Sarah, and a batch of ice cream (which I'm so excited to share with you soon!) left me with a bunch of egg whites, I took it as a sign. 

Black sesame seeds, a staple in Japanese desserts, are toasted and ground to a powder here and mixed with almond, rice, and oat flours, just enough sugar, a good amount of salt, and a whole mess of butter browned with vanilla bean.  The ratios don't seem like they should work, and I always do a few double takes when weighing things out. But work they do, and beautifully. Baking them in small molds gives them maximum crispy edges, making perfectly sized cakes to enjoy with a spot of tea. Financiers are in a class of their own, and I don't think I'll ever tire of riffing on their brilliance. (And if I do, I'll just make myself another pot.)

I'm really loving the combination of black sesame and kumquat here. Toasting the seeds brings out their earthy, wild flavor. Their scent always makes me feel as though I've just stepped off a plane in Tokyo and loaded up on sweets from a street vendor (something I hope to actually do one of these days!) 

Kumquats seem exotic in their own right, as though they descended from another world in which citrus peels are sweet and their flesh is nearly unbearably tart. When cooked, everything about their little orange selves comes into balance. Here, they become juicy bursts of flavor sinking into tender cake, making a sunshiny treat during the dreary winter months. 

With an unconscionable amount of butter, these are certainly more cake than muffin, though I won't tell if you sneak a few first thing with your morning cup. 

When drizzled with honey and served, still warm, alongside a cup of fragrant jasmine or black tea... well, let's just say I don't anticipate kicking my tea (or financier) habit anytime soon. 


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For Financier Fanciers:

Open Sesame:

One year ago:
Two years ago:

Black Sesame Kumquat Financiers {Gluten-Free}

Feel free to change up the fruit here if kumquats aren't available. I think ripe pear, plum and apricot would all go nicely with black sesame and brown butter. Dark chocolate chunks could also be nice. If gluten isn't an issue for you or your cake-eaters, give these a try with all-purpose and whole wheat flours in place of the rice and oat flours. And if gluten is a serious issue, be sure to use certified GF products, particularly oat flour. Save the egg yolks to use in homemade ice cream (black sesame with milk chocolate, for example!).

Makes 12 standard muffin sized cakes, or 24 mini-muffin sized cakes

For the financiers:
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces / 170 grams) unsalted butter, plus 1-2 tablespoons room temperature butter for greasing the pans
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
6 tablespoons (1.5 ounces / 45 grams) black sesame seeds, plus a teaspoon or two for sprinkling
6 tablespoons (1.25 ounces / 40 grams) blanched almond flour
5 tablespoons (1.75 ounces / 50 grams) sweet white rice flour
5 tablespoons (1.25 ounces / 40 grams) GF oat flour
1/2 cup (3.25 ounces / 95 grams) organic blonde cane sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 large egg whites (6 ounces / 170 grams)
1 generous cup (6 ounces / 170 grams) kumquats 
honey for drizzling (optional)

Let's make financiers!:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. With a pastry brush dipped in the soft butter (it should be the consistency of mayonnaise; melted butter may not work adequately, especially if your muffin pans are nonstick), generously grease 12 standard muffin cups or 24 mini-muffin cups, brushing butter over the top of the pan as well to discourage sticking.

Place the remaining 1 1/2 sticks of butter in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan with the vanilla pod and scrapings. Cook over a medium flame until the butter foams up, turns golden, and smells nutty, 5-10 minutes. Let cool while you prepare the rest, 10-20 minutes. Remove the vanilla pod and discard. 

Meanwhile, in a small, dry skillet, toast the sesame seeds over a medium-low flame, shuffling the pan regularly, until the seeds begin to pop and smell fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Remove the seeds to a plate to cool completely, then grind finely in a clean coffee or spice grinder. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the toasted and ground black sesame seeds, almond flour, rice flour, oat flour, sugar, and salt. Whisk well to eradicate lumps. Whisk in the egg whites vigorously until the batter is smooth, then whisk in the melted, cooled butter little by little until well-combined. 

Using a sharp knife, cut the ends off of the kumquats, reserving the ends, and slice the kumquats thinly into 4-6 slices each. Use the tip of a paring knife to remove any seeds. You'll want 4-5 slices for large cakes or 3 slices for minis. When you have enough slices for the tops, cut the remaining kumquats and the reserved ends into small bits. You should have about half a cup. Stir the kumquat pieces into the batter.

Divide the batter among the greased cups, filling them two-thirds to three-quarters of the way to the top. Top with a fan of kumquat slices and sprinkle the kumquats generously with sugar (this will keep them from drying out as they bake) and a few sesame seeds. Bake the cakes until golden on top and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 35-45 minutes for large cakes, 25-35 minutes for small cakes. Remove from the oven and let cool 10 minutes, then use a small butter knife or offset spatula to loosen the edges and release the cakes from the pans. 

I like these financiers best the day of baking, when still a bit warm from the oven. The edges are crisp and the middles are soft and pillowy, with bits of moist citrus throughout. Extras keep well, airtight at room temperature and layered on parchment paper, for an additional day or two.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Vegetarian Miso Ramen with Rice Noodles, Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Sesame Broccolini

A ramen / pho hybrid, this vegetarian and gluten-free soup recipe starts with a gingery miso broth packed with brown rice pasta, smoky tofu, sesame broccolini, roasted sweet potato, and a softly set egg. 

*Many thanks to Prudy of Butter, Basil and Breadcrumbs for sponsoring The Bojon Gourmet this month! Head over to her site for lovely recipes from a lovely lady.*

Jay and I both got hit with gnarly colds over the holidays. I thought bowls full of deliciousness might help ease the blow of being sick as dogs on both Christmas and New Years. Hence these ginormous bowls of miso broth packed with goodies, which manage to feel decadent while being sneakily healthy at the same time.

Also, much Prosecco and cocktail drinking is in order to make up for our holiday deprivations, don't you think?

I've been a little obsessed with brothy bowls of noodles and veggies as of late, and it seems I'm not alone. This recipe is a variation on a miso soba noodle soup that I made last year, which is currently my second most viewed recipe of all time! The broth is a simple infusion of kombu, dried shiitake mushrooms, and ginger mixed with sweet white or yellow miso and a bit of tamari.

Sarah had the brilliant idea to make a ramen of sorts with rice noodles from Star Anise Foods, a local company that produces chewy brown rice noodles that cook in one minute, aptly called Happy Pho. They come seasoned with either green tea or seaweed. I went the seaweed route here to match the kombu in the broth; both add a briny minerality to the soup that reminds me of authentic ramen. Sarah also coached me in how to soft-boil an egg to perch on top, which I now I consider an essential addition. The way the broth mixes with runny yolk drives me wild.

I've been craving sweet potatoes like nobody's business, and these sliced slabs remind me a little of the pork usually served atop ramen. They add a sweet counterpoint to the savory soup. I add greens in the form of slender broccolini roasted with sesame oil and black sesame seeds. A pile of sliced smoky tofu from another local company, Tofu Yu, adds protein and umami.

A bowl of this is steamy bliss.

By now we're both mostly recovered. And I'm pleased to say that this soup is just as tasty when you are well, preferably preceded by gluten-free scallion pancakes, accompanied by a glass of sake, and chased with matcha ice cream.

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Super soups:

One year ago: 
Two years ago:
Three years ago:
Four years ago:
Five years ago:

Miso + Rice Noodle Soup with Sesame Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Broccolini

I love the combination of chewy rice noodles, smoky tofu, crisp-tender broccolini, and earthy sweet potatoes here, but feel free to play fast and loose with the goodies in this soup. The soft boiled egg is my favorite part, but you can leave it off for a vegan option. For technique on making soft boiled eggs, see this post from The Kitchn. 

Makes 4 meal-sized servings

Miso Broth:
4-6 (4" square) sheets kombu
6 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons coarsely grated fresh ginger root
8 cups boiling water
1/2 cup sweet white or yellow miso
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce (optional, depending on saltiness of miso)

Noodles and Veg:
2 medium garnet or jewel sweet potatoes (1 pound)
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
salt, as needed
2 bunches broccolini (1 pound)
2 tablespoons roasted sesame oil, plus more for finishing the soup
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (black or otherwise), plus more for sprinkling over the soup
6-7 ounces flavored firm tofu (I like Tofu Yu's hickory smoked tofu), in bite-sized pieces
8 ounces dry rice noodles (I use Happy Pho brown rice noodles with seaweed)
4 large soft boiled eggs
2 scallions, sliced thinly on the diagonal and soaked in cool water
ichimi togarashi (or other chile flakes or hot sauce)

Make the miso broth:
In a large, heat-proof bowl or pot, combine the ginger, kombu, dried mushrooms, and boiling water. Cover and let steep while you prepare the rest of the ingredients, 20-30 minutes. Carefully strain the stock, leaving behind any sand that may be hanging out on the bottom of the pan (or pour through a coffee filter if you prefer). In a small bowl, whisk a half-cup of stock into the miso paste and stir it to loosen. Add the miso to the stock, and taste for salt, adding tamari until you like the flavor.

Make the goodies:
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 400ºF. 

Scrub the sweet potatoes and slice them into half-inch thick rounds. Place on a baking sheet, toss with 1 tablespoon of the sunflower oil and a big pinch of salt. 
Roast until tender and bronzed, 25-30 minutes, flipping the slices over when the bottom sides are golden.

Meanwhile, trim the tough ends off of the broccolini, give them a rinse, and lay them on a baking sheet with a bit of water still clinging. Drizzle and toss with the sesame oil and a few pinches of salt, then sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Roast in the oven until turning golden around the edges and crisp tender, 10-15 minutes. Cut each broccolino into 2 or 3 pieces. 

Finish the soup:
Cook the noodles according to the package instructions (I like to salt the water to give them a bit of flavor). Divide the noodles between four large bowls and top with a pile of broccolini, a fan of sweet potato slices, the tofu, and the scallions. Reheat the broth if necessary to just below a simmer and pour it over the bowls. Slice the peeled eggs in half and perch them cut-side up in the soup. Finish the bowls with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and a drizzle of roasted sesame oil. Serve with the ichimi togarashi for those who like a kick.

Leftovers are best with the components kept separate (chilled airtight) and heated together before serving.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Rum-Kissed Banana Butterscotch Cream Tart in a Cocoa-Buckwheat Crust {Gluten-Free}

In this gluten-free riff on banana cream pie, an easy cocoa-buckwheat crust underlines butterscotch custard and whipped cream laced with rum, ripe bananas, and crunchy cacao nibs. 

When Jay caught me muttering disgruntledly about all the "detox" recipes free of dairy, grains, sugar and booze in my feed last week, he made a brilliant suggestion. "You should post a recipe with all those things in it. A 'retox' recipe."


While I'm all for healthy eating, I can't help but think that the dead of winter is the worst time to fast on green juices and smoothies. San Francisco finally had a cold snap this past week and all I want to do is burrow under the covers, drink tea, eat chocolate, and watch Gilmore Girls with a cat on my toes. 

Last weekend I needed a dessert to bring to a family potluck. I had some bananas I'd bought for making smoothies and then promptly ignored in favor of piping hot chilaquiles, so I decided to try a gluten-free version of my favorite banana cream tart

"This is ridiculous," I thought as I whisked butter into custard, added a shot of rum, and spread the whole thing in a chocolatey tart crust. "Everyone's probably on a diet. No one's gonna eat this."

At my brother's house later that evening, I was elated to discover how wrong I'd been. My brother poured me a tall glass of brown sugar mint julep he'd whipped up. My sister had made a vat of sour cream garlic mashed potatoes to go with my sister-in-law's roast and green salad slathered in buttermilk dressing. 

After dinner, I cut the tart into tiny wedges which my family fell upon like hungry bears preparing for hibernation. Everyone went back for seconds. They ate the whole thing in a matter of minutes. I regretted not making two because I thought about it long after it was gone, and I overheard my nephew say later, a wistful look in his eye that echoed my own sentiments, "I wish there was more pie..."

Luckily, this tart is pretty simple to make, as far as tarts go. It starts with a press-in crust made from cocoa, buckwheat and almond flour, a bit of tapioca starch, unrefined muscobado sugar and butter. The crumbly dough gets pressed into a tart pan (no chilling or rolling necessary), quickly frozen, and baked without the need for pie weights. A smear of chocolate in the bottom shields the crust from absorbing moisture from the custard, keeping it buttery crisp like the most flavorful shortbread you've ever had. 

Into the chocolate-lined crust goes a simple butterscotch pudding (adapted from this one) flavored with vanilla bean, black rum, and muscobado sugar from Alter Eco. If we're anything alike, you'll be hard pressed not to suck down all of the warm custard as soon as it's made. But if you resist, let it cool, and spread it in the tart crust with sliced banana, you'll see how gracefully all of these flavors bring out the tropical notes in the fruit. The whole thing gets topped off with billows of whipped cream laced with more vanilla, rum and muscobado. I like to add mascarpone to make the cream a bit thicker and more stable, but you can also nix it in favor of more cream.

When you stick a piece of tart in your mouth, buttery crust gives way to creamy custard and gooey bananas. The buckwheat pops out in a symphony of earth and spice, bouncing off of sweet fruit and mild cream. Buckwheat always reminds me of toasted hazelnuts mixed with chocolate and cinnamon, and this crust makes me think of Nutella. Cacao nibs on top add crunch, and the muscobado sugar gives the dessert subtle caramel notes that make it extra addictive. This is one of my all-time favorite desserts, one that I plan to make over and over again. 

Tomorrow I'm going to Kabuki Springs to marinate in steam and mud masks with my niece, who's visiting from her first year of college on the East Coast. Soaking in a sauna, drinking cucumber water and hot tea while soothing music plays in the background... now that's my idea of a winter detox. 

With pie for dessert, of course.

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Tarted up:

One year ago:
Two years ago:
Three years ago:
Four years ago:

Rum-Kissed Banana Butterscotch Cream Tart in a Cocoa-Buckwheat Crust {Gluten-Free}

Be sure to give yourself a good 4 hours to complete this tart; most of the time is hands-off waiting for things to chill. I used Alter Eco's unrefined muscobado sugar here, but feel free to trade it out for lightly packed muscovado or dark brown sugar, or another unrefined sugar such as coconut, sucanat, maple, or date. I think this could be made vegan by trading the butter in the crust and custard for coconut oil, the dairy in the filling for coconut milk, and topping the pie with coconut whipped cream. Use bananas that are yellow with some brown spots for the best results. If you lack a vanilla bean, add a teaspoon of vanilla to the custard along with the rum. I like the robust molasses flavor of The Kraken Black Rum, but a golden rum would work, too. Or bourbon. Or leave the booze off for a more kid-friendly dessert (though it adds more flavor than it does booze; the alcohol is hardly noticeable). This pie is best the day it's been made, though it keeps well refrigerated for up to a few days.

Makes 1 (9") tart, 10 large or 12 moderate servings

Gluten-Free Cocoa-Buckwheat Press-In Crust:
1/2 cup (2 ounces / 55 grams) almond flour
1/2 cup (2.25 ounces / 65 grams) buckwheat flour
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (1.25 ounces / 40 grams) cocoa powder (preferably dutch-process)
3 T (.75 ounces / 25 grams) tapioca starch
1/4 cup (1.25 ounces / 40 grams) unrefined sugar (such as Alter Eco's Muscobado) or brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces / 85 grams) cold, unsalted butter, in 1/2" dice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup (1.5 ounces / 45 grams) finely chopped bittersweet chocolate

Banana Rum Butterscotch Custard Filling:
1/2 cup + 2 T (3.5 ounces / 100 grams) unrefined muscobado sugar (or 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar)
3.5 tablespoons (1 ounce / 30 grams) cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces / 350 ml) whole milk
1/2 cup (4 ounces / 120 ml) heavy cream
4 tablespoons (2 ounces / 55 grams) unsalted butter, in several pieces
2 tablespoons black rum (I like The Kraken)
3 large ripe but firm bananas (about 1 pound / 450 grams)

Whipped Cream Topping:
1 cup (8 ounces / 240 ml) heavy cream
1/3 cup (5 ounces / 140 grams) mascarpone (or sour cream, or creme fraiche, or more heavy cream)
1 - 2 tablespoons unrefined muscobado sugar, to taste
1 tablespoon black rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

~ 2 tablespoons cacao nibs
a small block of bittersweet chocolate for shavings (optional)

Make the crust:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Place a 9" tart pan with removable bottom on a rimmed baking sheet. 

In the bowl of a food processor or stand mixer, combine the almond flour, buckwheat flour, cocoa powder, tapioca starch, muscobado sugar, salt, butter pieces, and vanilla, and process until the mixture forms large, moist clumps, about 30 seconds. (You can also do this in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a bowl with your fingertips.) Dump the crumbly dough into the tart pan. Press the dough first up the sides, then into the bottom of 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.) Prick the bottom of the dough all over with the tines of a fork. 

Freeze the crust until firm, at least 15 minutes (or wrap and freeze for up to several months). Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until dry, toasty-smelling, and fairly firm to the touch, 20-25 minutes. Scatter the chopped chocolate in the hot shell, let sit for a minute or two to melt, then use the back of a spoon or a small, offset spatula to spread the melted chocolate into a thin layer in the bottom of the tart shell. Let cool to room temperature. 

Make the custard filling:
In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla pod and seeds. Whisk in the half and half. Bring the mixture to a slow boil over medium-high heat, whisking the dickens out of it, making sure to scrape the bottom and corners of the pans with the whisk. You'll have to stop whisking for a few seconds to verify that the pudding is boiling, which you'll know by the big bubbles that pop gloopily. Once the mixture comes to a boil, continue cooking and whisking for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, whisk in the butter, then the rum. It should be the consistency of creamy yogurt.

Strain the pudding through a sieve and into a bowl. Press plastic wrap right on the surface of the pudding, and let cool at room temperature until warm, 30-45 minutes.

Assemble the tart:
When the pudding has cooled, spread half of it into the chocolate-lined shell. Peel and slice the bananas, and spread the slices in circles over the pudding. Cover with the remaining pudding. Cover with plastic wrap pressed to the surface of the pudding. Chill until set, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Whip the cream with the mascarpone and sugar until it billows softly. Add the rum and vanilla and continue whipping until it holds firm peaks. (If you take the cream too far and it begins to look grainy, you can usually rescue it by gently folding in additional heavy cream until it loosens up again.)

Remove the plastic wrap from the tart, and spread the cream evenly over the top, swirling it with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with the cacao nibs, then use a vegetable peeler to shave chocolate over the top as though you were peeling potatoes (optional).

Chill the pie for 30 more minutes to set the cream, if you have the patience. Remove the ring from the pan, place the tart on a cutting board, and use a sharp chef's knife to slice the pie into wedges, wiping the knife clean between each cut.

Store leftover pie airtight in the fridge for up to 3 days.