Nearly every French bakery offers a version of the tarte au chocolat, or ganache tart. It ranges from the sublime (thin, crisp crust with creamy, deeply chocolaty filling) to the shameful (days-old, soggy crust and dried, cracked ganache). But it’s such an easy dessert to make at home that I see almost no reason to buy one when I can spend my money on more complicated, fussy pastries like the St.-Honoré. Plus, that way I get to use high-quality French chocolate.
Pastry crust can be intimidating, I know. This one is both easy to work with and has great flavor. I like the added depth you get from nuts in the crust, and any Nutella fan will tell you how wonderful the combination of hazelnuts and chocolate is. All the chilling and resting does take some time, but it is largely unattended. The result is so impressive, though, that it’s worth planning ahead.
Rich, elegant and surprisingly simple, a ganache tart is only as good as the ingredients that go into it. So use the best chocolate you can find. Pralus and Valrhona are two of my favorite French chocolates to use. The percentage of cocoa solids in the chocolate is an important factor in this recipe—too low, and the ganache may not set up properly; too high, and it could be stiff and brittle.
The crust recipe is adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini, by Clotilde Dusoulier, and the ganache recipe is adapted from Encyclopédie du chocolat, by Frédéric Bau.
½ cup (65 grams) flour (pastry or all-purpose)
2 tablespoons (15 grams) hazelnut meal, or an equivalent weight of hazelnuts, ground
3 tablespoons (40 grams) sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons (40 grams) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes, plus some for the tart pan
1 tablespoon (15 ml) milk
7 ounces (200 grams) best-quality, high-percentage (70–75 percent) chocolate
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (250 ml) heavy cream
2 teaspoons honey (14 grams)
pinch of sea salt
2 teaspoons unsalted butter (10 grams)
1. Combine the flour, hazelnut meal, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingertips (or a pastry cutter, or pulse in a food processor) until the mixture takes on the consistency of bread crumbs. Add the milk and gently combine. The dough will look crumbly, but it should hold together when you squeeze it in your hand. If not, add more milk, a little at a time, until the desired result is achieved.
2. Butter an eight-inch tart pan (the kind with a removable bottom, preferably) and pour in the dough. Spread it out evenly, and press it into the sides and bottom to form a thin crust. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes.
3. Heat the oven to 355 degrees F (180 degrees C). Take off the plastic wrap and bake the tart shell until it is nicely browned, about 15–20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
4. Next, make the ganache. Chop the chocolate and place it in a heatproof bowl. Combine the cream, honey and salt in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, let sit for a minute, then stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Check the temperature of the ganache—it should be a little warmer than body temperature—and add the butter, stirring to combine.
5. Pour the warm ganache into the cooled tart shell. Chill until firm, at least an hour. Remove the tart from the pan and cut with a sharp knife. Serve alone, or with a little whipped cream and fresh fruit. Strawberries are particularly nice. The tart will keep, refrigerated, for up to three days.
Camille Malmquist is an American pastry chef living and working in Paris. In her spare time, she cooks and bakes at home (believe it or not), as well as tackles the difficult task of trying out as many restaurants and bakeries as possible, then she blogs about her food and travel adventures at Croque-Camille.
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