Monday, September 04, 2006

Sucumbing to temptation: Harissa, Almond and Chocolate Tart

from Boulettes Larder, Mise En Place for your Home Pantry

photograph picture of the harissa, almond and chocolate tart from boulettes larder in the ferry building plaza san francisco
Every Saturday morning without fail, unless I am out of town, I go to the Farmer's Market at the San Francisco Ferry Building. Yawn. I am sure people all over the world are sick about reading about that darned Farmers Market and Food Plaza. But that's tough, I'm afraid. Since there is enough eating material available in that space to keep my soul and my stomach occupied for years, I'm certain I'll be returning there for as long as I am physically able to.

Boulettes Larder is a food lovers dream store: Dream in the sense that this is the kitchen that anyone who truly enjoys to cook would love to have for themselves. Those same obsessed home cooks may not actually like to shop at Boulette's larder since the delectables the Boulette team produce are just the kind of thing any self-respecting fanatical home cook would hope to be able to create for themselves, right? Stock? I'll make it myself, Pepperonata? I can do that, easy, peasy. Lard? I'll render a block of that, no problem. Gravadlax? I'll cure my own, thank you very much. Fancy chocolate tart? It's not out of my realm either.

As much as I aspire to make absolutely everything for myself from scratch all the time, sometimes it just ain't going to happen. Not least because it is dangerous if you make up a batch of several desserts and end up eating them all yourself. This is when a place like Boulette's larder, with its beautiful array of homemade cakes, pastries, cookies and desserts can save the day, by providing a little sweet something to statisfy any desires.

Sometimes I just dash through the store and (after paying) quickly pop a thumbprint cookie in my mouth like I did a few weeks ago with Julie. More often than not, I stand in the middle of the beautiful, bustling room a minute it or two, gaze at all the wonderful things on offer and then move on from my day dream without purchasing a thing.

For weeks and weeks now, the Harissa, Almond and Chocolate Tart has been the object of my attention. On Saturday I finally caved in and bought one. It cost $6.50 and was beautifully packaged for me in a little box with delicate folds of pale yellow tissue paper. I carefully transported it home as a treat for my lunch.

The tart's ability to make it home in one piece, despite being jostled along with bags of tomatoes, warm loaves, large, perfectly ripe avocados, milk and cheese is a testament to its thick crust. The rigid walls of the perfect-looking pate sucree helps keep the tart intact and is delciously buttery and rich. But the thickness of the pastry that guarantees the structure of this dessert also overwhelms the ethereal, smooth, mysterious chocolate ganache that it holds. The ratio of filling to crust is off kilter resulting in a tart that is heavy to chew on instead of being a more delicate balance of crunchy casing to smooth filling.

I am not too worried, my Boulettes chocolate tart obsession has run its course and I can move on. Now, tell me, should I try their canelle, their Gateau Basque or one of their fruit tarts with the rose petal pastry cream next time I feel the itch..?

PS Talking of CAKE - it is the September challenge for Foodography hosted on Flickr. Check Andrew's post for more details.

Archives | 2004: The Coffee Table, Silverlake, LA

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Sucumbing to temptation: Harissa, Almond and Chocolate Tart


  • At 4/9/06 10:46, Blogger Andreea said…

    i very very much love the new look! great.

  • At 4/9/06 12:03, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Rose-petal it! Please post on that if you ever try it... :) Whenever I go to India, I always have to have my rose petal ice cream.

  • At 4/9/06 12:05, Blogger wheresmymind said…

    I always love your stories from the farmers market! :D

  • At 4/9/06 16:27, Blogger Dagny said…

    I tihnk I can pass on the tart as I am not a fan of almonds. However, your mention of avocadoes has inspired me to hit the Berkeley Farmers' Market this week as that vendor apparently also shows up on this side of the Bay.

  • At 4/9/06 17:14, Blogger Erin S. said…

    harissa? did that marry with the chocolate? I've been on a harissa kick lately, but hadn't thought of it in a dessert context. Wonder how it might do in a flourless chocolate cake or something similar??

  • At 4/9/06 18:46, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    How well I remember that thumbprint cookie; the perfect mouthful. Funny how we do think alike -- hop on over and you'll see that I too was thinking about our lovely day at Ferry Plaza.

    How disappointing that such a gorgeous tart would be out of balance -- especially as the bar has been set so high at a place like Boulette's Larder. Next time you're in NYC, let's have a tart or two at City Bakery and see what you think...but should we do that before or after we've had a full tea at Payard Patisserie, do you think?

    Oh, and BTW -- your blog makeover is gorgeous!

  • At 4/9/06 20:58, Blogger Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said…

    You can get fresh lard in San Francisco? Ooooh, I am so jealous! I just don't have the time to render it myself (and God forbid I purchase Hormel), hence I am lardless.

    As for the chocolate tart, I am drooling. I need to go West!

  • At 5/9/06 00:50, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I vote for the fruit tart! What a wonderful story, and a lovely picture of the tart, pity it wasn't completely up to scratch. Ah well, the search for the perfect pastry continues...need any assistance? ;)

  • At 5/9/06 02:32, Blogger Cerebrum said…

    Julie, nooooooooo! Don't make Sam go to City Bakery - someone might steal something from her!;-) (Although, hm, I never got to try any of their cakes - rats, I will have to go back! The hard life of a cake-oholic...)

    Sam - I think I have to come back to San Francisco and go to the Farmer's Market with you - when you write about it, it all sounds so fantastic! (I was a wee bit disappointed when I was there - but that wasn't on a Saturday, so that might explain it...) Heh, and what a great reason to have to go!

    Oh yes - and fruit tart - sounds divine!

  • At 5/9/06 08:50, Blogger L Vanel said…

    I vote for the Gateau Basque!

  • At 5/9/06 12:10, Blogger Dive said…


    (forgive me in advance for venting here, but..)

    Often, I also have stood in that room for a minute or two, observing all that's for sale and others dining. Everytime I've been in the joint, those minutes have passed and not one person has offered to assist me or asked how I was doing. (this should have been a red flag of things to come)

    Last Thursday, I was looking to throw down some serious (for me) moolah for lunch, which I haven't done very often as of late. Normally, I forego an expensive lunch (anything approaching $20 or over), instead opting for a $4-5 salad or plate of cheap Chinese food.

    However, last week I felt good and decided to go spend money at Boulettes Larder for lunch. I know it's the Ferry Building and all, but this place wasn't slammed and it wasn't a Saturday (or even the height of the lunch hour).

    I saw a young woman who I had seen in there before. I had been standing around looking at the menu on the tables in the hallway for a while, uninterrupted by anyone attempting to actually do business with a customer. I then walked into the restaurant and walked up to the young woman to get her attention.

    I asked her, politely, if I should seat myself. She gave me the most dumbfounded look, didn't answer my question (or say anything), and then walked away from me and said something to another young woman who looked like she was waiting tables. I stood there for a minute longer while continuing to be ignored.

    I then approached the other young woman and asked if I should have a seat (there were 3 open tables).

    I kid you not, she said with the utmost insincerity and barely even acknowledging me, "If you want".

    Wait a second. Why am I so hot to spend my hard earned cash here?

    Oh hell no. I left immediately.

    As of now, I won't be going back, and I'll be buying my long peppers somewhere else. In fact, that pissed me off so much, I promptly let other people, including a random stranger on the bus, know about my experience.

    Sorry for venting on your site, Sam, and I'm sure you've had much better service at BL. But when I saw BL mentioned, I felt that your readers should know that if they get the treatment I got, they're not crazy, invisible, or alone.


  • At 5/9/06 13:39, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I would also love to know more about the harissa and chocolate marriage. Happy? Ho hum? Just staying together for the kids? I can't quite imagine it.

  • At 6/9/06 19:41, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    thanks andreea - I am very pleased with it myself

    payal - i have a soft sport for rose flavoured things too. I have some great rose petal essence from star kay white.

    wmm - that's so sweet of you!

    dagny - if you can get a Gwen avocado - you should - they are incredible at this time of year.

    erin - it was lovely - very very subtle so you wouldnt really have noticed had you not known, but there was definitely a little je ne sais qui in there. I think it would have been even better if the ratio of ganache to crust was higher.

    julie - i noticed your post just after i wrote this - so maybe you are going to be a neighbour soon, eh?

    homesick texan - there must be somewhere in NYC you can get some, surely? I think you can buy it online otherwise. maybe?

    ellie - all assistance appreciated!

    zarah mariah - i remember the terrible story of your purse snatch, drats, sorry you were reminded.
    A late summer saturday is definitely the best time to go to the market - especially if you go early, let me know when you are next in SF and if I am here I would love to be your guidette.

    david - thanks for alerting me to your blog. I used to shop at farmers markets in the UK from about 15 years ago - I am glad there are more springing up.

    l vanel - I think I might be with you - i love the idea of a gateau basque.

    bacon press - thank you for balancing my post with your own experiences. I think it is valuable for people to be able to see different views of the same picture.

    christine - it wasnt ho humm - it was sublime, but it was subtle and a little too much overpowered by the crust.

  • At 4/11/08 11:33, Blogger Tovie said…

    Interesting that your post is the only one I've come up with on google dealing with chocolate and harissa. I was hoping to turn up more, but at least I know it's been done and the result was good.

    There's a Moroccan restaurant here that makes an awesome honey harissa sauce that I keep thinking would pair nicely with chocolate a la all the chili-infused chocolates that are in right now. I guess I'll have to boldly strike out on my own and try something.


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