Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Absolutely Chocolate (and Peanut Butter)

I've been a fan of Fine Cooking magazine since their first issue fifteen years ago. It's come along way since then--it's a lot slicker-looking now, with better photos and glossier paper. But it still has the same great tips and high level of detail in each recipe. Now they've released an excellent chocolate book, Absolutely Chocolate: Irresistible Excuses to Indulge (The Taunton Press, 2009). The book includes info on how chocolate is made, how to choose the right chocolate for baking, when to use cocoa vs. chocolate, how to decipher labels, and much more. There are 125 recipes, which include layer cakes, tarts, pies, muffins, cookies, brownies, candies, sauces and even hot chocolate. The recipe I picked out to test-bake combines two of my favorite flavors: dark chocolate and peanut butter, a culinary match made in heaven. The tart turned out to be pretty heavenly, too.

Chocolate-Glazed Peanut Butter Tart

Adapted from Absolutely Chocolate by the editors of Fine Cooking magazine

1 cup finely ground chocolate wafers
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 ½ cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon table salt
3 large egg yolks
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
½ cup creamy natural peanut butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Make the crust:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Have ready an ungreased 9 ½-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.
2. In a medium bowl, mix the cookie crumbs and sugar until blended. Add the melted butter and mix with a fork until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Put the crumbs in the tart pan and use your hands to spread the crumbs so that they coat the bottom of the pan and start to climb up the sides. Use your fingers to pinch and press some of the crumbs around the inside edge of the pan to cover the sides evenly and create a wall about a scant ¼-inch thick. Bake the crust for 8-10 minutes, until fragrant. Cool completely.

Make the filling:
3. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and salt to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, brown sugar and flour until well blended. Slowly add the hot milk, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens and comes to a full boil, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and add the peanut butter and vanilla; whisk until well blended.
4. Pour the hot peanut butter mixture into the crust and spread evenly with a spatula. Gently press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the filling’s surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate the tart until cold, about 2 hours.

Make the glaze:
5. Melt the chocolate with the butter and corn syrup in a medium metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water) and whisk until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute. Carefully remove the plastic wrap from the top of the filling. Drizzle the glaze over the filling and spread it evenly to cover the tart completely. Refrigerate the tart in the pan until the glaze sets, about 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.