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A couple weeks ago was apparently National Dark Chocolate day! I've only recently come to realise that every day has been assigned a food item for celebration. There are various very niche holidays and several different lists that attempt to collate all the food loving options together. Honestly, I've rarely found two lists the same, but if someone gives me an excuse to eat dark chocolate, I'll take it! This recipe for a super indulgent chocolate tart developed out of a celebration of dark chocolate and I can confirm that it is perfect for the chocoholic in your life!
The recipe itself is fundamentally four elements: a shortcrust base, a chocolate tart filling, chocolate ganache and a pecan brittle. You could easily just make the chocolate tart, without ganache or brittle, but then where would the fun be in that?
I've found shortcrust to be a very forgiving pastry when it comes to flavour experiments. Adding a bit of citrus zest, spice or flavoured paste can add enough of a subtle hint to really transform the bake. For this recipe I decided that some of my maple pecan praline paste would really complement the chocolate.
What you'll need:
- Flour: I use a combination of plain flour and strong flour for the added gluten. The recipe can be made with plain flour or all-purpose flour only and will turn out fine!
- Praline paste: I used my own maple pecan praline paste but you could use a store bought alternative or even just caster sugar (if you want a plain shortcrust pastry).
- Unsalted butter, chilled: it is important for your butter to be cold and cut into small pieces. I often just slice my cold butter into the my flour when making pastry. Many people will recommend small even cubes, which will help to make for more even distribution.
- Ice water: much like the butter, the colder the better! I've made pastry dough with cold tap water without significant issue. Adding a cube of ice will help to improve the dough coming together without being too sticky.
Making the pastry:
Shortcrust is probably my favourite pastry to make - mainly because it's one of the easiest and quickest to throw together! In a bowl, mix together your flours, praline paste and salt. Then add your pieces of chilled butter and rub together with your fingers until you have a coarse crumb. Slowly start to add your water a tablespoon at a time. You may need more or less water dependent on the moisture and heat of your kitchen, so do be sure only to add enough for your dough to start to come together. You will want this to be a firm dough, not too sticky, but also not so dry that it is crumbling apart.
Once the dough comes together, remove from the bowl and knead a couple of times gently on a counter to smooth out. Wrap the ball of dough in cling film and chill for an hour. When I wrap my dough, I use a large piece of cling film and loosely wrap the ball. Once wrapped, I gently flatten this slightly to a disk. This will make it easier to roll out once chilled.
After an hour of chilling, pre-heat your oven to 350°F (160C) and remove your dough from the fridge. Roll this out on a lightly floured surface until about ¼ inch (½ cm) thick. If you are lining mini tart cases, you may wish to divide your dough before rolling it for ease of handling.
Use your dough to line your tart cases, gently pressing in to the sides and corners. To avoid damaging the crust by pushing too hard or puncturing with a nail, you may find using a small ball of spare dough helpful to act as a press. Once the tart cases are lined, chill again for ten to fifteen minutes.
After giving the tarts time to chill, remove these from the refrigerator and line with a layer of aluminium foil and fill with weights such as ceramic beans or rice for blind baking. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, then remove the foil lining and weights, baking for a further five minutes. Then remove from the oven and set aside while you make the filling.
You can't have a super indulgent chocolate tart without a chocolate filling! The main elements are just cream and chocolate with some sugar and an egg to create a set consistency. I also add a bit of vanilla and a pinch of salt, to help accentuate the chocolate and give a bit more depth.
The filling is basically a one pan recipe - add your cream and vanilla to a saucepan over medium heat. Bring this to a simmer before removing from the heat and adding your chopped chocolate, sugar and salt. Stir until smooth and all chocolate melted. Then carefully add in a lightly whisked egg, stirring to combine.
Pour this mixture into the tart shells and bake for about 15 minutes until set. Be careful as once you start to see cracking, this will quickly become overdone. Remove these from the oven and allow to cool in their tart cases, meanwhile make your ganache.
Dark chocolate ganache is what takes this tart to the next level, making it super indulgent. Chocolate ganache is basically just equal measures of chocolate and cream. You can add some butter to increase the glossy look, but at the end of the day, cream and chocolate are all you need!
This is one element where the difference between American and British baking tendencies is really highlighted. In Britain the recipes are done by weight and volume measures as opposed to generic cups, but the same cup measure of chocolate will not be equal in weight to the cream. For my tartlets I used 50g of chocolate and 50mL of cream. Converted to cup measures this is roughly ⅓ cup of chopped chocolate and ¼ cup of cream. I had a bit leftover too, so if you'd prefer to reduce the measurement, you may find it helpful to weigh out the ganache ingredients.
To make the ganache, simply heat the cream to simmering and then pour over finely chopped chocolate. Leave to sit for a couple of minutes, to allow the chocolate some time to start melting and then stir until smooth. Pour a layer over the baked chocolate filling of your tarts and allow to set.
Pecan Brittle for Decoration
For my tarts, I opted to add some decoration - to make them a bit more glamorous! I also thought another texture might offset some of the decadence from all the chocolate.
A light pecan caramel brittle is a really stunning element, but also surprisingly easy to whip up. First you'll want to ensure you have a silicon mat at the ready, for ease of pouring out your caramel to set. Once you start making the caramel, the process can go quite quickly, so best to have your area ready at the start!
In a small saucepan over a medium low heat, add your sugar and your water. Stir this lightly until the sugar begins to dissolve. Then raise the heat to medium high and continue cooking until the mixture starts to turn a dark golden colour. Then remove from the heat, add your chopped pecans and pour out onto your mat. Allow this to cool and set, then break into shards for decoration. Top off your super indulgent chocolate tart or just have a snack!
Chocolate Tart with Praline Base
Praline Shortcrust Pastry
- ¾ cup plain flour
- ½ cup strong white flour
- 1½ tablespoon praline paste (or caster sugar)
- pinch of salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter, chilled and chopped
- ¼ cup ice water
Chocolate Tart Filling
- ¾ cup heavy (double) cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- ½ cup chopped dark chocolate
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup heavy (double) cream
- ⅓ cup chopped dark chocolate
Pecan Brittle Decoration
- ¼ cup pecans, chopped
- ¼ cup caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
Praline Shortcrust Pastry
- Mix flours, praline paste and salt together in a large bowl. Add chopped butter and blend together with a pastry cutter or your hands. The mixture should be coarse and crumbly.
- Add your ice water a tablespoon at a time and mix until dough comes together. You may not need the whole amount of water, be careful not to over add.
- Form dough into a ball and wrap in cling film. Chill for about an hour.
- When ready, preheat your oven to 350°F (160C) and roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about ¼" (½ cm) thickness. Line your tart bases, taking care to press into the sides and corners. The dough makes enough for one large (9") tart based or multiple mini tarts (I made four 4" tarts). Place in the fridge to chill again for about 15 minutes, then line with a layer of foil and some ceramic beans or rice for blind baking. Bake the tart shells for about half an hour, then remove the foil linings and weights, continuing to bake for another five minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside while preparing your filling (leaving the oven on).
Chocolate Tart Filling
- Place the cream in a small pan with the vanilla bean paste. Stir together and heat over a medium heat until simmering.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add chopped chocolate, sugar and salt. Mix until the chocolate is melted and smooth.
- In a separate small bowl, lightly whisk the egg and then add to the cream mixture, blending until combined.
- Pour filling into the tart shell(s) and bake at 325°F (150C) for about 15 minutes until set.
- Remove from the oven and cool.
- Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Warm the cream in a small pan over a medium-low heat until simmering. Pour over the chopped chocolate and leave for about two minutes, then stir until smooth. Add this to the top of each of your cooled chocolate tarts.
- Prepare your workstation with a silicon sheet for setting your brittle. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan over a medium low heat, cooking and occasionally stirring until the sugar starts to dissolve. Then, raise the heat and continue to cook until the mixture starts to turn a dark golden colour. Remove from the heat, add chopped pecans and pour onto your silicon mat. Allow this to cool and set, then it can be broken into shards for decoration.