Blackberry Chocolate Italian Tart with Coffee-infused Creme Fraiche

When I was in New York, I met many unbelievably interesting people, but one in particular has struck me. His name is Sam, and one (or several) particular thing he said, paired with the fact that we share a somewhat similar backstory, triggered these thoughts that I eventually funneled into these scribbles, which I offer here as they are – very random and unabridged.
So this was born as a letter to Sam, but it might very well be a letter to myself. I’ll just read this again whenever I feel like stuff is about to hit the fan – it always helps.

(Also it is the last day to nominate for the Saveur awards! if you like my work, nominate me in the Photography category here.)

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”
~ Carl Gustav Jung

Have you ever fallen in love with yourself?
Sometimes, I feel like I’m elbowing and shouldering my way through the process – like getting into a metro train at peak hour, when only those who shove people with fierce decisiveness will eventually get in.
Getting into our own hearts – getting us to go on a serious date with ourselves, is like getting into the 1-2-3 trains on a New York Monday at 6 PM.
When this happens, I feel like I could be a salmon, stubbornly swimming upstream against the currents. Such is the path of those who learn to love themselves before they can love anyone else again: a strenuous, yet refreshing upward race that brings you further from the sea, but ever closer to the source.

Yet, how tempted we are to give up courting ourselves, and be carried away by the currents.
When I feel that the source is beyond a horizon we keep running to, its end impossible to perceive, like in those dreams when you run and never seem to go anywhere, I raise my eyes to the stars.
And I feel like we are bundled up universes of our own; our frustrations being born from the fact that we can only implode and be sucked into our own negativity like dying stars – hardly can we ever explode and express ourselves. And we all know what a struggle it is when the patchwork of the pieces of life that we so craftily tried to stitch together starts to come loose, its seams ripping, when two pieces that do not match will not stick together, and the loves that we stubbornly tried to stitch to our soul will not stick for the life of us and we dig out nails into our hearts, in the effort to hold those water-like feelings in our cupped hands. Because love moves like tidal waves, under the influence of a force that is beyond our control. But happiness cannot be as fickle, and creates folds and crannies into our own distorted universes, which we can tear asunder and ripple and sew back together as we please, in the light-heartedness of knowing that the shapes we will craft it into do not depend on the horoscope or the alignment of planets.
Depending on how we decide to sew together our lives, we realize that solitude can be a blessing rather than a torture. 

Blackberry Chocolate Italian Tart with Coffee-infused Creme FraicheBlackberry Chocolate Italian Tart with Coffee-infused Creme FraicheBlackberry Chocolate Italian Tart with Coffee-infused Creme FraicheBlackberry Chocolate Italian Tart with Coffee-infused Creme Fraiche

Do not unload your complaints on the world. Complaint is easy. Complaint is modern-day slavery. Complaint is discharging on the world around you the responsibility to make you happy, and isn’t that slavery? And, when you feel like what you are trying to grasp is like water between your fingers, gently rest your arms and let it fall at your feet.
Let me tell you: do not mourn anyone who walked away. What belongs to you is yours forever. And whatever does not is like that water that you try to grasp, and will wash away over you, spilling over your shoes, and it does not matter the time – be it that you held it for one, two, or ten years: what is not meant for you will eventually slip away. What is meant to be a part of your life will always stick. Do not cry over what you think you lost, or over your loose stitches, as there was nothing to lose to begin with: what is no longer yours was never yours from the beginning, and was never yours for a single moment, as much as it hurts to admit it.
Let all that is not yours wash away from yourself, and make the best of what sticks with you, or of what stays with you while you can hold it.

You are not your past, and you are not the future you do not want for yourself. But right now, you are. You are the chance of being a beautiful speckle of life for every second of your existence. Much like whenI travel, and I realize that I can make do with bringing so little of my belongings, including a heart that, often leaden and hard to drag along, finds its own pocket in my chest and somehow resumes its beating again, as if by the hands of a heavenly surgeon.

Blackberry Chocolate Italian Tart with Coffee-infused Creme FraicheBlackberry Chocolate Italian Tart with Coffee-infused Creme FraicheBlackberry Chocolate Italian Tart with Coffee-infused Creme Fraiche

You know, there are times when, even though I recognize that every single drop that rained on me filled the bucket of my experience, I stop and think that maybe I could have covered up a little better.
Still, as disastrous as our previous (or current) present might have seemed, I realize that the silver lining of the future we were and we were *not* choosing was always there, shining brightly upon us. Horizon are so difficult to put into focus, for people like us, who are smart enough to see the challenge but sometimes not brave enough to accept it. We are ever-becoming horizons ourselves, ever lit by the light of some kind of star.

So I wish for you to chase the light, for the sheer pleasure of bathing in it, and not necessarily to reach a goal. And I wish for you to muster up the bravery to swim against the currents towards the peace of getting to know yourself, stubbornly upstream: like salmons that get further from the sea, but closer to the source.

And when you craft your CV and it feels like putting on a perfect face of makeup to whore yourself, and when you wrap your tie around your neck and it feels like someone is holding you hostage as if by a leash, I wish for you to see how it is up to you to make each day, though repetitively mundane, a repetitively mundane miracle. Make each day a little miracle, in its own glorious, spectacular normalcy, that you can craft with your own hands. And I wish for you to realize that each second being both miraculous and perfectly normal is what makes us find solace even in the unknown. Like with recipes, where it is all a matter of chemistry, and of heat, and of perfect science and gut instinct, and of licking the bowl and your fingers at the end.

I wish for you to see how perfect everything is after all – the good and the bad, the way it is going as well as the way it went. Suffering, bitter, ignorant hearts shed a veil upon the soul. But, shall you be able to lift that veil, in retrospect you will understand everything.
And all the pieces of our jigsaw will fall into place.
Be thankful, breathe, fall in love with yourself time and time again, and have faith.

And, in wishing you all of the above, I am making this tart for you.
You said your favorite was strawberry and rhubarb. I must make it with something else, as we do not have rhubarb in Italy (I know, right?).
And even though this might not be the same, I learned that a creative mind can make do with whatever it has on hand, and maybe – just maybe, drop all expectations and come up with something that is possibly even better in its own right.
But if I make it back where you are, and if you’d like me to, I’ll make proper, greasy, unhealthy rhubarb pie for you – one that you can cry your heart out over, then wipe your eyes and mouth, and move on.

Blackberry Chocolate Italian Tart with Coffee-infused Creme FraicheBlackberry Chocolate Italian Tart with Coffee-infused Creme FraicheBlackberry Chocolate Italian Tart with Coffee-infused Creme Fraiche

This tart is loosely adapted by a traditional recipe in my home, a ‘crostata’, which is similar to a tart but has the peculiarity of having baking soda in the dough, which makes it puffy, pillowy and slightly crumbly and delicious. It was mostly inspired by some of the wonderful ingredients I got in Portland – some Hygge coffee from the #secretsupperpdx, and somey Bitterman Salt Co. I got from The Meadow (<3). I saw marion berries all over the place there, but here I am using these plump, incredible blackberries from my own garden. Feel free to swap one for the other.

If I had access to it, I would use Vermont Creamery‘s insanely good vanilla creme fraiche, but because there’s hardly any creme fraiche to be found around here I decided to make my own an steep it with coffee. The combination of flavors might seem weird here, but I can assure you that it is really, really good – dark chocolate is great with coffee, and berries are great with chocolate. Chocolate acts as a pacifier to make everything and everyone coexist, as it always does.
And this is why you should get the best you can find: choose at least 75% chocolate, and up to 85% if it’s not too much for you. If you can, get coffee-flavored dark chocolate – Lindt makes a wonderful one.
The sprinkling of salt at the end makes it extra fancy. Skip it if it’s too fancy, but if you like salts, it is worth the try.

Blackberry Chocolate Italian Tart with Coffee-infused Creme Fraiche
 
For a 10-inch tart pan
Ingredients
FOR THE CREME FRAICHE
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon roughly ground coffee beans
  • Half a vanilla bean, split in half and seeds scraped
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
FOR THE CRUST
  • 200 g whole wheat or spelt flour
  • 50 g coconut flour
  • 80 ml coconut oil
  • 1 egg + one egg white (reserve the yolk for brushing)
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • Splash of milk
  • Vanilla
FOR THE FILLING
  • 2 cups blackberries
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 cup blackberry or mixed berry jam
  • 70 g (about 2/4 of a tablet) dark chocolate, or, even better, coffee flavored dark chocolate (see suggestions above), shaved
TOPPINGS
  • Extra shaved chocolate
  • Vanilla salt
Instructions
FOR THE CREME FRAICHE
  1. Start this a couple days in advance.
  2. Lightly crush the coffee beans, add them to a tea filter, and steep them in the cream together with the seeds and whole vanilla bean for 24 hours. Then, take out the coffee beans and the vanilla, squeezing them well.
  3. When ready, combine the cream and buttermilk, and leave them to sit on the counter for 24 hours. After that time, they should have curdled into thick cream. Add the maple syrup and mix well. Store in the fridge.
FOR THE CRUST
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl until a dough comes together. Add more or less milk as needed for the dough to completely come together, and not feel too dry. It should be soft but not too sticky. Wrap it in clingfilm and store in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
FOR THE FILLING & ASSEMBLY
  1. Combine the blackberries, lemon juice, sugar and starch, and toss to coat well. Set aside.
  2. Grease and flour a tart tin/mold with a detachable bottom.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 F˚.
  4. Take the dough out of the fridge, and cut ¼ of it off to make the decorative strips. Press the rest of the dough into the mold, distributing evenly in the pan. Cover the bottom with half the shaved chocolate, spread on the berry jam, and top with the remaining chocolate. Finally, pour over the blackberries, distributing them evenly.
  5. Make some strips or other decoration with the remaining dough, and brush the crust with the leftover beaten egg yolk.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Let it cool before slicing.
  7. Serve with the creme fraiche, some extra dark chocolate, and a tiny sprinkling of vanilla salt to make things a little fancier.

Trivial disclaimer: you know when you find yourself in front of someone that has a sort of poised, austere aura, and you feel like you can’t get your sh*t together because you feel like you’re not sure if they’re gonna think you’re stupid, and you eventually panic and say something very stupid regardless? There. I just want to say in my defense that I’m not as stupid as I sounded when I asked how the elevator worked. Thanks.

Blackberry Chocolate Italian Tart with Coffee-infused Creme Fraiche

  1. What a beautifully written piece. I completely agree and have saved this as a reminder to myself. Sometimes the process of accepting what is brings the very thing and more that you longed for, just in a different way. Beautiful pie, beautiful words. Thank you for sharing.

  2. The tart is gorgeous and it is beautifully shot! I really appreciate you sharing such a gorgeous recipe. Most of all, I appreciate you sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings. Thank you. Makes me feel like I’m not alone. Have a sunshine filled day!

  3. I saved this as a reminder to myself as well. You so beautifully described my thoughts and feelings. It is so comforting to know I am not the only one feeling the need to press on swimming up stream, finding self. But even more so this post has been wonderfully encouraging to keep on doing such.

  4. Wow! What a phenomenal masterpiece of writing and wisdom ~ this is definitely for keeping, and for re-reading, over and over again. And oh my goodness, what exquisite photographs you’ve taken. Salute!

  5. This has got to be one of THE MOST BEAUTIFUL TARTS I’ve ever seen…!!!!!! And this portion here: “Do not unload your complaints on the world. Complaint is easy. Complaint is modern-day slavery. Complaint is discharging on the world around you the responsibility to make you happy, and isn’t that slavery? And, when you feel like what you are trying to grasp is like water between your fingers, gently rest your arms and let it fall at your feet.” How can such beautiful and thoughtful words exist, Valentina?! I’ve always felt that way about a complaining heart and that’s why I try not to do it too much. The beauty about life is that God cares and hears all my/our complaints that have been verbalized or simply felt in our hearts because every little thing matters to Him, but the way you described it is so beautiful <3333

  6. Pingback: {Things I Love} :: Summer 2016 - The Artful Gourmet :: NYC Food Stylist + Photographer