Today I want to talk about the view. Specifically, the view from my new office rather than any kind of metaphorical view. I'm not having a deep moment here - it is a Friday after all.
I've instagram'd a couple of the pictures of the view from where I'm sitting. Straight ahead, I look out over the river to the North bank of the Thames where the skyline is dominated by the Gherkin. To the left, I can follow the course of the river past St Paul's Cathedral and all the way to where my parents live on the South Bank. If I look right, I can see HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge. My favourite time of day is about 4pm in the afternoon, just on the border between day and night. As the sun sinks, the lights in all the buildings come on. Windows which used to just reflect the grey swirling mass of the river now spring to life as their inhabitants are illuminated.
I love having a view.
My flat now has no view. It has lots of windows and a fair amount of light but the view in all directions is of a brick wall unless I crane my neck. Then I can just see a glimpse of a tree and the stagnant water of the canal I live opposite. Don't get me wrong, I love my flat but sometimes I feel almost claustrophobic, like there's no outside world beyond these four walls.
But the first thing I do now when I get in the office isn't to turn on my laptop. Or to change out of the ballet flats I wear to work into my grown up shoes. Or get a coffee. It's stand at the window for a moment and just admire the view.
There isn't perhaps a natural link to this recipe other than the fact that every time I look at that glossy black chocolate and cointreau ganache, I think of a night sky. I have promised to make gluten free mince pies for my father at Christmas but as I've never made gluten free pastry before, I thought it was probably worthwhile having a dry run. The little pastry cups were made by simply pressing chilled pastry into a mini-muffin tin. After baking for 15 minutes, I let the tart cool before adding a silky smooth mixture of heavy cream, chocolate and cointreau.
Cointreau is another of those spirits that only really seems to make an appearance at Christmas in my family but the subtle orange flavour works perfectly with the dark chocolate. You can add any other spirit that takes your fancy but you may want to increase/decrease the quantity based on your taste. I felt there was a little too much booze in my recipe but my tasters felt they were just perfect. The gluten free pastry had a slightly strange after taste by itself but with the ganache, it was almost impossible to tell the difference.
I should say that the ganache doesn't stay as glossy as it sets, I just had to take my pictures pretty quickly. To serve, I decorated with a sprinkling of icing sugar for a festive touch.
Gluten free chocolate and cointreau mini tarts
Yield: Makes 30Pastry recipe adapted from Doves Farm
- 200g gluten free plain flour
- 100g cold butter, diced
- 1 egg yolk
- 5 tbsps cold water
- 200ml heavy/double cream
- 200g dark chocolate, chopped
- 50ml cointreau
- To make the pastry, rub the flour and butter together until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add the egg yolk and water and bring the mixture together into a ball of dough. It should be quite sticky as the flour will absorb more water than regular flour.
- Wrap the ball in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
- When chilled, remove the pastry from the fridge and place a small ball of dougn in each hole of a mini-muffin tin. With your fingers, press the dough into a the hole until you have a cup shape.
- Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the filling, heat the cream until it's just about the boil. Pour it over the chocolate and stir until melted. Add the alcohol to taste and stir until combined. Place a teaspoon of mixture in each tart shell and chill until set.