Moving to a different country and continent with my family was a very big change. You literally leave everything behind, your family and relatives, your friends, your work and your routine and familiar life. My kids were very little and I didn’t know anybody besides my husband and his parents.
I was extremely lucky to have met my friend Sabine while searching for a preschool for my son just 4 month after the move. Sabine is also German, but had been living in Denver for several years and introduced me to a circle of German women that I am very fortunate to still call my friends. I think that without them, getting accustomed to this new country would have been even harder. You could ask Sabine; she still laughs when she remembers me telling her that I didn’t like living in the U.S. and wanted to go back home as soon as possible. Well, that was several years ago and I am still here. Who would have imagined?
Being so far away from home, holding on to German culture was always very important to me. I wanted my kids to experience their German heritage. One tradition is celebrating Nikolaus day on the 6th of December. Here you can see Nikolaus visiting our German kids at my house in 2002. I apologize for the bad quality of the picture.
Children put a clean boot or shoe called Nikolaus-Stiefel (Nikolaus boot) outside their door on the night of December 5th. St. Nicholas and his companion Knecht Ruprecht fill the boots with small gifts and sweets if the children have been good. If they were not, they will put coal or a tree branch (rute) in their boots instead. Really bad kids used to get a spanking by Knecht Ruprecht and were stuffed in his sack. One of my German friends told me that this actually happened to her once and she was carried out of the house in the sack. She remembered being mortified.
The tradition with my kids is to receive a small chocolate Nikolaus and a pair of PJ’s for Nikolaus day. You should see them hopping out of bed in the morning of Nikolaus day to check what Nikolaus left in their boots.
My Nikolaus day gift to you my reader friends is this gorgeous chocolate-cranberry tart. A chocolate wafer crust filled with sweet vanilla mascarpone cream and topped with a ginger flavored cranberry sauce.
Not only does this chocolate-cranberry tart taste just out of this word it is also a visually very impressive dessert your guest won’t forget that easily. No worries, it looks harder to assemble than it really is.
You can bake a crust, right? You can also mix some mascarpone and heavy cream, right? And for the topping, also, easy as pie, just cook some cranberries. Well, to be honest, there are a few more steps, but they are not hard at all. Believe me, you can do it.
So, don’t miss out on preparing this chocolate-cranberry tart for your guests! It is truly spectacular.
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) cranberry juice, divided
- 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
- 12 oz (340 g) fresh or frozen cranberries
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
- 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
- Pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
- 1 1/4 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (made from about 6 1/2 ounces (184 g) cookies, finely ground in processor)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 5 to 6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) chilled whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- thin strips of crystallized ginger (optional garnish)
For the Topping:
In a small bowl mix gelatin and 1/4 cup of cranberry juice. Set aside for about 15 minutes.
In the meantime add 1/4 cup of cranberry juice, cranberries, sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel, ginger and salt into a pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. You don’t want the cranberries to pop open! Strain the mixture into a bowl.
Set the fruit aside and mix the hot juice with the gelatin mixture until the gelatin is dissolved. Mix the juice back into the fruit.
Chill the sauce for at least 8 hours or overnight. Mine was done setting after two hours. I just stuck the covered bowl outside on my deck in the snow.
Mix in the crystallized ginger.
For the crust:
Preheat your oven to 350 F. Put rack in the center. Grease a 9 inch tart pan with removable bottom.
Combine all the crust ingredients in a medium sized bow. You want the crumbs to feel moist when pressed together with your fingertips.
Press the crumb mixture firmly on the bottom and up the sides of your prepared tart pan.
Bake for about 14 minutes. Should the crust puff up during the baking, just press it down with a spoon.
Cool completely on wired rack before filling.
For the mascarpone filling:
Using a handheld mixer, beat mascarpone, cream, sugar and vanilla until well combined and thick enough to spread. Don’t over mix! The filling could curdle.
Spread the filling evenly into the crust and spoon the cranberry sauce on top. Chill for 2 to 6 hours. Decorate with crystallized ginger.
Adapted from my copy of the Bon Appetit magazine, Nov. 2007.