Saturday, February 2, 2008

Molten Milk Chocolate and Sticky Apricot Tart

I have a bit of an aversion to pastry. I don't much like regular shortcrust, so I rarely bother to make it at home. But I got some adorable tartelette tins for Christmas, so I decided to have another try.

I'm glad I did. Such a lip-smacking combination. Crisp, biscuity, chocolatey pastry; sticky, brandied apricots; and molten milk chocolate. I took the pastry recipe from the well-known food blog,, and was very happy with the results. The rest is my own invention.

for the pastry:
1 1/4 cup plain flour
3 tbsp cocoa powder
6 tbsp butter
3/8th cup sugar
splash milk

for the apricots:
6 oz dried apricots (not too dry, mind. Some squishiness is good here.)
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 orange, zested and squeezed
3 fluid oz brandy

for the molten chocolate:
6oz high quality milk chocolate (I used valrhona)
2 tbsp vegetable shortening

Other equipment: 6 tartelette tins with removable bottoms

Preheat oven to 430F.

For the pastry:
In a food processor, combine the flour, cocoa powder and sugar.
Add the butter, cut up in small pieces.
Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
Add a small splash of milk and mix again; it should still look quite sandy.
Divide the dough among the tartelette tins, and press firmly into the base and sides. It may help to dust your hands with cocoa powder in order to handle the dough without it sticking.
Prick the base of the tart shells with a fork (this prevents them from puffing up too much in the oven).
Place the tins on a cookie sheet (for ease of handling), and put them into the oven. They should take about 15 minutes to cook, but keep an eye on them.


For the apricots:
First, make some flavoured sugar. Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds.
Combine the vanilla seeds, orange zest and sugar. Mix well.
(You'll only need half of it, but making a smaller batch doesn't work well given the ingredients. And it lasts forever in the pantry.)
Now, place the apricots, half the sugar, the orange juice and the brandy in a medium saucepan over highish heat.
Boil for about 10 minutes (keeping a close eye on it, and adding more liquid if necessary), until the cooking liquid is sticky and reduced.
It's probably a good idea to taste one of the apricots to make sure the flavours are to your liking (the sweetness of dried apricots varies considerably). You can adjust it by adding more sugar or more orange juice (for greater acidity), if necessary.

For the molten chocolate:
microwave the chocolate and shortening together until melted. Mix well.

To assemble:
Remove the tart shells from the tins, by placing the tartelette tin over a can, and slipping the ring down it. The bottom of the tartelette tin should be fairly easy to remove after this.
Take a slightly cooled tart shell. Fill with several brandied apricots, and then drizzle the molten chocolate over the top and around the sides, until the tart shell is full. Let it firm up slightly, and then serve it with a flourish.

- One of my tart shells leaked, and the molten chocolate ran out the bottom. I salvaged it by filling it with chocolate-covered cocoa nibs, which I had on hand. I liked this variation, although it didn't look quite as nice.
- To reheat the tarts (if you want to make them ahead of time), pop them in the microwave for about 30 seconds. This will leave the center firm, but the edges molten. Yummy!
- Try other (fresh or dry) fruits in place of the apricots. Pears (fresh or dried), prunes and cherries (fresh, dried or bottled) all have a wonderful affinity with chocolate, and would respond well to the same treatment given to the apricots here.

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