Chocolate Shortcakes with Armagnac Prunes

Begin making the Armagnac prunes 48 hours before serving to allow time for soaking. And, while you’re at it, make extra, as these delicious, boozy prunes will keep in the refrigerator for a year or more. They’re great to pull out last-minute and serve with a pitcher of heavy cream to pour over.
Photo by Tempest R.
Adapted from wsj.com

PREP TIME

--

minutes

TOTAL TIME

--

minutes

SERVINGS

12

Servings

PREP TIME

--

minutes

TOTAL TIME

--

minutes

SERVINGS

12

servings

Adapted from wsj.com

Ingredients

  • ARMAGNAC PRUNES:

  • 40

    large pitted prunes

  • 2

    cups Armagnac, brandy or cognac

  • 1 1/2

    cups sugar

  • 1

    vanilla bean, cut lengthwise

  • SHORTCAKES:

  • 1

    cup blanched almonds

  • 1/2

    cup sifted cake flour

  • 10

    tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • 9

    ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

  • 4

    egg yolks

  • 3/4

    cup sugar

  • 1

    teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/3

    cup Armagnac

  • 1/2

    cup hot water

  • 4

    room-temperature egg whites

  • 1

    large pinch of salt

  • 1/2

    teaspoon cream of tartar

  • VANILLA CREME FRAICHE:

  • 2

    cups crème fraîche

  • 2

    teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

Armagnac Prunes: Place prunes, Armagnac, and sugar in a large, non-reactive bowl. From split vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into bowl and drop in bean. Stir until sugar dissolves. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at least 24 hours at room temperature. After 24 hours, transfer contents of bowl to a large, non-reactive saucepan. Set saucepan over high heat. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low. Continue to simmer until prunes are soft and a few just begin to fall apart, 6 to 7 minutes. Cool and then refrigerate at least 24 hours and up to a year. Shortcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread blanched almonds out on a baking sheet and toast in oven until lightly colored, 5 to 10 minutes. Let cool then pulverize half the toasted almonds with a mortar and pestle or in a food processor. Very coarsely chop remaining almonds and set aside. Mix flour and pulverized almonds in a small bowl until well combined. Cook melted butter until lightly browned. Off heat, stir chocolate into butter until melted. Set aside to cool to lukewarm. Use an electric mixer to beat egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick and sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Beat in vanilla extract, Armagnac and hot water. Add tepid chocolate mixture and beat until well-blended. Add flour-almond mixture and beat only until just combined. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to whisk room-temperature egg whites with 1 large pinch of salt and cream of tartar until egg whites hold soft peaks but are not stiff. Stir a quarter of the whites into cake batter and then fold batter into remaining egg whites. Generously grease a 12-cup muffin tin with softened unsalted butter. Divide batter among buttered muffin tin cups. Rap pan once on countertop to level cake batter and eliminate air bubbles. Bake on middle rack of oven until cakes puff, edges are firm but centers are still a bit creamy, and small cracks appear on top, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack. Decrease oven temperature to 350°F. Let cakes cool in tin 10 minutes, then invert onto wire rack, using a small knife to loosen if sticking to pan. Let cool to room temperature. Vanilla Crème Fraîche: In a small bowl, mix crème fraîche with vanilla extract. To serve, halve each cake and warm slightly in oven. Place bottom half of each cake on a dessert plate. Top with macerated prunes and soaking juices and a dollop of vanilla crème fraîche. Scatter reserved toasted almonds over tops of cakes. Top with remaining cake halves.

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