Friday, October 21, 2005

Hereee's Chocolate!

Today is Sugar High Friday #13 -- The Dark Side. The challenge, as proposed by host is to find something new and different to do with dark chocolate.

I think we here at Blog Appetit have met the challenge. Behold our creation:

Chocolate and Cacao Nibs Tart with Almonds (and Peaches or Pears)
This is a very adult tasting tart, not too sweet, with lots of flavor. It features a dark chocolate crust, cocoa nibs in the filling and dark chocolate shavings for garnish.

For 6-8 servings

Chocolate Crust

Please note: your butter must be French or European style and unsalted. Regular American butters such as Land of Lakes or Challenge (although I haven’t tried Challenge’s European style) have too high a water content and the crust shrinks and cracks too much when baked.

Three ounces unsalted European-style butter
Two ounces of bittersweet chocolate broken into a few pieces (I used Schaffen Berger Bittersweet, one fifth, or one section, of a 275 gram bar, just under two ounces. A semisweet chocolate would work, too.)
1 tablespoon of a neutral tasting oil (I use grapeseed, but any bland oil will work)
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
Good quality white flour, preferably unbleached, unsifted.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large, microwave-safe bowl combine the butter, chocolate, oil, water, sugar and salt. Melt together in a microwave until the ingredients are well melted and mixture is close to a boil. (Stir after a minute or two to help the chocolate melt more evenly.) I recommend covering the bowl with waxed paper or a vented top to avoid splatter. I found the mixture using softened butter took about four minutes on high.

Remove bowl from microwave. Be very careful, the ingredients will be very hot.

Add flour by tablespoons to the butter and chocolate mixture and stir with a fork. Keep adding and stirring until the mixture forms a ball. Keep adding flour until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. It should not look wet or slick or greasy and have some resistance to your touch, almost like squeezing your earlobe, but still keep together and not crumble. It will have stopped absorbing additional flour.

Press the dough into the ungreased 9-inch tart pan. Make sure you cover the bottom and sides evenly. Pierce the bottom all over with a fork and press the back of the fork tines against the sides of the tart. Place the tart pan on a baking tray.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. The crust should look “set” and firm and have some fine cracks. Remove from oven.

Almond Cream Filling with Cacao Nibs
Half cup of unsalted butter, softened.
Half cup sugar
Half cup finely ground blanched almonds (almond meal)
1 tablespoon flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
¼ to 1/3 cup of Scharffen Berger’s Cacao Nibs. (Cacao nibs are leftover bits of roasted, shelled cacao beans and add texture and a distinctive flavor. Nibs are available at many gourmet style markets. Check for more information.)

In a bowl, mix the sugar with the ground almonds. Add the butter and thoroughly blend using fork, pastry blender or fingers until the mixture is evenly combined.
Add the egg, flour and the extract.
Mix well and add the nibs. Combine until the nibs are evenly distributed throughout.

The Fruit
4-5 medium size, firm, fresh peaches or ripe but not soft pears
½ cup sugar
Fresh ginger, about the size of your thumb, peeled (the ginger, not your thumb)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Plunge the peaches in a large pot of boiling water for a minute, remove to a bowl of cool water. Peel, half and remove pit. If using pears, peel, core and half.

In a saucepan, combine sugar, ginger and vanilla with enough water to just more than cover fruit. Allow to cook over a medium high heat until the mixture reduces a bit and becomes a bit syrupy. Add the fruit halves and lower heat to medium. Add more water to cover if the syrup mixture does not cover the fruit. Poach peaches for 10 minutes or so, or until the peaches are soft, but not falling apart. The pears will need to be poached for another 10 minutes or so until they are soft.
Remove fruit from poaching liquid and let cool a bit. Slice each half into thirds. Discard ginger and poaching liquid.

Assembling the Tart
Pre-baked crust
One recipe of almond-nibs cream
One recipe of poached fruit
¼ cup to 1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate shavings

Preheat to 350 degrees if starting fresh.

Spread the almond nib cream evenly in the pre-baked tart shell. Arrange poached fruit slices on top.
Bake in the oven on baking tray for 20 minutes. The filling should be set and have risen up a bit. Cool a bit on a rack. Sprinkle liberally with chocolate shavings before serving. (Note: use a spoon, the shavings will melt on your fingers if you try to do it by hand and you will be forced to continually lick your fingers.) Remove outer tart ring and serve.

(The technique for this crust and almond cream are variations based on ones taught by Paule Caillat at at her cooking school in Paris. Merci, Paule!)

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