Research tells us that 14 out of every 10 individuals like chocolate, according to Sandra Boynton. I wholeheartedly agree with the celebrated cartoonist, illustrator and writer.
Who doesn't like chocolate? In my cooking classes I've watched as students who claim to be dieting daintily pick their way through several courses, then abruptly abandon their regimes the minute a chocolate dessert appears. I've also noticed when dining out with others that more than half of each group always seems to order a chocolate finale.
An unabashed fan of chocolate, I naturally look forward to Valentine's Day, the favorite holiday of chocoholics everywhere.
For the past week, my mind has been teeming with thoughts of creations to serve. I finally decided to reproduce a scrumptious chocolate walnut tart that I had sampled during a fall visit to France. The original tart consisted of three parts: a golden and flaky crust, a filling of chopped walnuts baked in a rich chocolate-scented custard, and a silky smooth chocolate ganache glaze that covered the filling. I was seduced by this double-chocolate invention and wanted to sample it on this side of the Atlantic. But I had to bake quite a few tarts before a close facsimile emerged.
The Chocolate Walnut Tart that follows would make a seductive ending for a small, intimate dinner for two, or you could invite friends for a Valentine dessert celebration and offer slices with glasses of champagne.
Whatever your plans for Valentine's Day, make sure that chocolate plays a starring role.
Chocolate Walnut Tart
Serves 6 to 8
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons ice water plus an extra 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ice water, if needed
FILLING AND TOPPING:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, divided
1 cup whipping or heavy whipping cream, divided
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped, divided (To toast, spread on rimmed sheet and bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned and fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Cool and chop.)
To make crust place flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with metal blade. Add butter and shortening, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Pour in 3 tablespoons water and process several seconds more.
Stop machine and check to see if dough is moist and holds together when a small amount is pinched between your fingers. If not, add another 1/2 to 1 teaspoon water and repeat until mixture is moist and holds together when pinched.
Pour onto lightly floured work surface, and knead dough to form a ball. Flatten into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and chill 30 minutes or until firm.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough into a circle 12 inches in diameter, about 1/4 inch thick. Place dough in 9-inch tart pan. Fold overhanging dough in to make a high standing border, then flute edges and prick the bottom with the tines of a fork. Freeze 15 minutes.
Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove tart shell from refrigerator and line it with a sheet of aluminum foil that extends over the sides of the tart pan. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake 15 minutes, then remove foil and beans. Continue to bake until crust is light golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes more. Remove from oven to a cooling rack for 5 minutes.
To make filling, chop 2 ounces of chocolate finely and set aside. Heat 1/2 cup cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until hot. Remove and stir in chopped chocolate; whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool 5 minutes.
Place egg, egg yolk and sugar in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Whisk in chocolate mixture. Spread 1 cup nuts in tart shell. Pour egg mixture over nuts. Bake until filling is set and a tester comes out almost clean, about 20 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature.
Chop remaining chocolate and set aside. Heat remaining cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. When hot, remove and stir in chocolate. Whisk until smooth. Using a metal spatula or a table knife, spread melted chocolate over baked tart filling. Sprinkle remaining walnuts in a 1-inch border around top edge of tart. Refrigerate tart until chocolate is set, an hour or longer. (Tart can be prepared 6 hours ahead; bring to room temperature 15 to 30 minutes before serving.)