I start planning all of my gifts the day after Thanksgiving. Of course, this also includes making a plan of what to bake when I'm back from my crappy college kitchen. This year, it's especially important for me to get back into the kitchen after finals, as I will be traveling abroad at the beginning of January. So check back in January some travel content, starting in Cape Town, South Africa.

For this week, I wanted to work on my recipe development skills, play with flavor, and get back to chocolate instead of pumpkin spice. I've been wanting to try the chocolate-cherry combination for a while, but cherries aren't in season here in Minnesota. So I've adopted an amazing recipe for a tart using frozen cherries, high-quality chocolate, and a little bit of whiskey. 

Besides the tart, I experimented with a new no-churn ice cream process that exceeded my expectations. It's super simple and the flavor possibilities are endless. 

Here the recipe:

Winter Cherry Tart with Whiskey Candied Ginger Ice Cream

Serves 8

For the ice cream: 
500 ml whipping cream
400g sweetened condensed milk (1 can)
2 1/2 Tbsp whiskey or bourbon
1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger

In a large bowl, whip the cream to medium peaks. Slowly drizzle in the sweetened condensed milk and continue beating to just combine. Fold through the whiskey and chopped crystallized ginger.  Pour into a loaf tin or ice cream container. Cover and freeze for six hours. 

For the cherries:
350g frozen cherries
100ml whiskey
30g sugar
A strip of lemon zest

Put the cherries in a pan with the alcohol, sugar and lemon zest. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Pour cooked cherry mixture into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours. Once infused drain the cherries, reserving the liquor and the fruit in separate bowls. 

For the chocolate pastry:
170g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
100g butter, chilled
2 Tbsp sugar
1 egg yolk
About 4-5 Tbsp cold milk

Sift the flour and cocoa into a bowl. Add the butter and cut in until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar. Add the egg yolk and just enough milk one Tbsp at a time to bring the mix together in large clumps. Firm into a ball in the bowl, then flatten dough into a disc. Wrap the pastry in saran wrap and chill for 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a little flour, roll out the pastry quite thinly to line a tart tin. Tim and fold edges of dough. Prick the base with a fork. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool fully.

For the chocolate filling:
250ml whipping cream
200g dark chocolate, chopped
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten 

Place chocolate in a glass bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan to a simmer. Slowly pour the cream over the chocolate and let the mixture stand for 3 min. Stir the cream an d melted chocolate together.
Stir in vanilla. Whisk a little chocolate mixture into the eggs, then whisk eggs back into the chocolate cream. Add 1 Tbsp of the cherry poaching liquor. 

For Assembly:
1 recipe cherries and cherry juice
--> 1 recipe whiskey ginger ice cream
1 cooled tart shell

Brush the cherry juice over the base of the tart shell. Scatter the drained, infused cherries in the shell and pour over the chocolate custard. Bake for 20 minutes. The center should still wobble slightly when you take it out of the oven. Leave to cool completely in the tin on a wire rack.

Servce with a scoop of ice cream, some cherry liquor juice, and extra cherries. 

I ended up having extra tart shell when rolling out the dough, so I threw a bit of dough into a mini cupcake pan for some mini tarts.

Just the whiskey ginger ice cream. It was an amazing consistency and only took about five minutes to make. I will be trying this again as it is a quick and delicious alternative to an expensive ice cream machine. 

Enjoy, until next week. (...or after finals season.)