Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chocolate part one -- the tarts

Unless otherwise noted, all materials on this blog are (c) 2009 by Madeleine Vedel

Shall I begin with one of my favorite recipes? Why not, best to whet the appetite. Here is my recipe for spiced chocolate ganâche tarts with hazelnut sablet crust (if allergic to nuts, by all means, just remove the nut meal from the recipe and replace with flour, or a bit of cocoa and flour, or a bit of coffee powder and flour... as preferred.

So, this is a recipe that in its original is sinful, decadent and full of things people are becoming more and more allergic to. However, should you need to alter it for non-gluten, or non-dairy or non-nut folk, it is quite doable, and will still come out delectable. With good chocolate and a little technique, it is fool-proof.

Hazelnut tart with Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients :

For the crust : (makes enough for a dozen little tarts or a large single tart)
2 cups flour (can be replaced with rice flour)
1 cup toasted and ground nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts or pecans) (can be replaced by normal flour, or a 1/3 good quality espresso and normal flour).
1/4 lb plus 3 table-spoons sweet butter
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon of water (only if necessary to get the dough to come together, and particularly if you're using all flour)

For the Ganache:

300 grams (12 oz) superior quality dark chocolate (like Lindt 70%, Valrohna 64%))
225 grams (9 oz) tablespoons heavy cream (can be replaced by soy milk if you must)
90 grams (4 oz) butter in small pieces (can be replaced by a high quality substitute, or even a simple palm oil)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated or powdered ginger (whatever you have on hand)

For the tart shells:

Many are now making their sablée tart crusts with a food processor. Here in Avignon, in my alternative existence I find it satisfying to make this tart by hand. After all, the word "sablée" in French means "sandy" and this crust must become sandy in your fingers before it is just right. You need to work it much more than a standard American pie crust, and not be afraid to.

In a large mixing bowl or on a smooth pastry surface, put in the flour and toasted, ground nuts, the sugar, the salt, and the butter cut in small pieces. Push up your sleeves, wash your hands, take off your rings, and with your fingers and opposable thumbs, work the butter into the dry ingredients until you get to a sandy texture that, if you squeeze a hand-full, will hold together. Into this mixture, break your whole egg and work in the egg with your hands lightly, then, as needed, add a tablespoon of water, work the dough quickly together and pat it into a ball, then put it into your refrigerator to chill.

At a minimum 2 hours later, remove the dough from the fridge and put it onto a work surface. (At this point you can preheat your oven to 350F/160C). I highly recommend working on a marble pastry surface (or polished granite). Sprinkle some flour on the work surface and start to knead your dough. Press it down and fold it over, press it and fold it, for about 1-2 minutes. You want it to start to hold together and no longer crumble too easily apart. I like to make tartelets with this dough as it is not easy to cut once cool after cooking and the presentation is more elegant and individual. But, should you wish to make one big tart, cut the tart crust into portions just out of the oven.

When making tartlets, I take a small amount of dough, roll them out, place them in the greased tart pans and then snip off the extra dough around the edges. Or, I take a small amount of the dough, and simply press it into my tart pans.

To pre-cook the crust: poke the crust with a fork multiple times, place into your pre-heated oven and bake till it just begins to take some color, about 5-10 minutes in a convection oven, double that in a normal oven. If you've a stash of beans for baking tarts, do use them here. If not, you may need to keep an eye on the tarts that they do not rise, and tap them down with a wooden spoon.

For the Ganache:

Chop the chocolate into very small pieces. I use a large knife, shaving off the corners till I'm down to very small pieces, but you can also use a sturdy food processor. Put your chocolate into a large mixing bowl.

In a saucepan, heat the heavy cream with the spices till just the boiling point. Remove the cream from the heat and pour slowly over the chocolate – you can pour it on the whisk to limit splattering. Stir gently till the chocolate melts into the cream, adding little by little the bits of butter, stirring gently and continually till there are no more lumps.

Pour your ganache into the tart shells while it is still hot and relatively runny. Shake each shell to even out the surface, and let cool in a cool room temperature space.

If so desired, serve these tarts with a red grenache vin doux naturel (fortified wine) from Rasteau -- devine! or, perhaps you prefer a rich and smoky extra proof aged whiskey? Both marry beautifully with this dessert. However, if you're making it with 12 year olds for a birthday party, then a glass of milk is perfectly ok too, but don't be tempted to top it with whipped cream. It would be a shame to mask the rich and dense chocolate texture.


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