Back in late November, I was thanking a handful of people who had expended a great deal of effort on my behalf, when I heard my own voice say something like, "For this, I will bake each of you a dessert during the holidays. Anyone not like chocolate?"
It's time to make good on the promise.
I found the perfect recipe for a chocolaty and reasonably easy yet interesting truffle tart in a Julia Child cookbook. Only thing was, the recipe called for making six 4 1/2-inch tarts rather than a 9- or 10-inch tart. The individual tarts would be a nice idea for a dinner party but really weren't practical for my purposes.
After a bit of trial and error, I think I've got the recipe adapted for the single pie, as well as some vagueness and other kinks worked out of the instructions.
As a result of this experimentation, my whole house smells like the Ghirardellis live here. I'm not sure there's an aroma quite as deep and sexy as good chocolate baking at low heat. Moreover, the crust recipe calls for blending the dough by hand. Between that and the chocolate hanging in the air, this recipe is about as close to total immersion as you can get without diving into a vat.
I can certainly think of worse ways to start the new year.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk, lightly whisked
1 tablespoon ice water
Place the flour, cocoa, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl and toss together lightly until blended. Scatter the pieces of butter across the flour mixture, then use your hands to work the butter thoroughly into the dry ingredients until it achieves a slightly coarse but uniform consistency.
Scoop the mixture into a mound; make a well in the center; and pour in the egg yolk and ice water. Work the wet ingredients into the dry with your fingers, then press the mixture between your palms. The dough will remain slightly crumbly even when thoroughly combined in this way.
Gather it together, and pat it into a square. Wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.
On a floured surface and with a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to a thickness of no less than 1/4 inch. The dough will be difficult to work with and will break up as you roll it out, but it can be patched back together.
Press the dough into a 9-inch tart ring, cover it in plastic and refrigerate it for at least 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork and bake it on the center rack for 12 to 15 minutes. Let the lined tart pan cool on a rack while you make the filling.
Reduce the oven setting to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Chocolate Truffle Tart
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
2 ounces white chocolate, cut into small dice
2 ounces milk chocolate, cut into small dice
4 chocolate biscotti, chopped to a small dice
Simmer an inch of water in the bottom chamber of a double boiler. Place the butter and bittersweet chocolate in the top, allowing them to melt slowly. Stir occasionally. When melted, remove the chocolate from the heat and allow it to cool until it is slightly warmer than room temperature.
Put the yolks and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large mixing bowl. Using the whisk or a hand-held mixer, beat the yolks at medium speed until they are broken up. Reduce the speed to low, and gradually add the sugar. Increase the speed to medium high and beat the mixture until it thickens and forms a slowly dissolving ribbon when the beater is lifted.
Spoon about one-third of the yolk mixture into the cooled chocolate, and fold lightly with a spatula. Then pour the melted chocolate into the remaining beaten yolks and gently fold the two together until they are almost completely blended. Add the diced chocolate and biscotti, folding to incorporate the chunky pieces.
Pour the mixture into the cooled tart and use a spatula to push it into the fluted edges of the crust.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the top begins to look dry and the filling is just set. Remove to a rack to cool.
-- When she's not writing about foods and gardening, Gwyn Mellinger is teaching journalism at Baker University. Her phone number is (785) 594-4554.