Strips of pate brisee woven in the style of classic chair caning give a new twist to the familiar lattice-topped tart (and the star pattern is easier to make than you might guess). Even the filling is a surprise: a fragrant blend of jewel-like dried fruits, including prunes, apricots, and cranberries, that is poached in a spiced vanilla-Cognac syrup. More of the syrup is brushed onto the pastry top after the tart comes out of the oven, to give it gloss and depth of flavor.
These individual desserts, subtly infused with licorice flavor, are studies in texture. Creamy custard fills crisp, dense chocolate pastry shells, and a topping of lacy sugar crackles with each bite.
For the best results, prepare these tarts no more than one day in advance, and wait to caramelize them until just before serving. This way, the tart shells will remain firm and crumbly, and the sugary topping will keep its crunch.
This recipe for mud pie is from Stone Barns pie-baking contest winner Lauren Amsterdam and her son Ty. Note: This recipe contains raw eggs, which should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, babies, young children, or anyone whose health is compromised.