Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sea-Salted Chocolate and Pecan Tart

Last week I met an extremely talented London chocolatier named Paul Young at the New York Chocolate Show. Paul has two chocolate shops in London and recently released a book, Adventures in Chocolate, in Britain. After tasting three varieties of his chocolates, I was so impressed, I just had to know more about this young Brit. With a thick Yorkshire accent, ebullient 

personality, and somewhat unusual taste in clothing, he was a breath of fresh air at the Franco-centric Chocolate Show. The most memorable of Young’s chocolates that I tried was a Port & Stilton truffle. Generally I hate these gimmicky flavor combinations, but this one was different, because it was perfectly balanced and extremely subtle. Not too bleu-cheesy at all. He originally created it 

because it was a flavor that epitomized Christmas for him—Stilton and Port were mandatory luxuries at the Young household around the holidays. The first batch he made was a Stilton truffle enrobed in chocolate, but unfortunately the truffles literally exploded sometime during the night. The spores in the cheese expanded, you see. So he added some Taylor Tawny Port and, aside from calming 

the spores down, it gave the truffles a slightly fruity flavor which worked beautifully with the Stilton. The other truffle that blew me away was his Sea Salted Caramel Truffle. Yes, we’ve all had this a million times, but this one was amaaaaaaaazing! Made with Muscovado sugar, French butter, double cream and a generous pinch of flaky Maldon sea salt, the silky smooth filling just flowed 

over my mouth, a tight-rope balance between salty and sweet that hit the mark just perfectly. I wanted to buy Paul’s cookbook right then and there, but it wasn’t available at the show. I did, however, find the most popular recipe from his book on the Internet, and it seemed ideal for Thanksgiving. It’s a Sea-Salted Chocolate and Pecan Tart, and it’s quite delicious. By the way, Paul will be opening up a chocolate shop in New York next year, so you won’t have to hop across the pond to enjoy his incredible chocolates.

Sea-Salted Chocolate and Pecan Tart 

Note: the dough for the crust really makes just enough for two 9 ½-inch tart shells, with no scraps left over. So cut the recipe in half if you like, or make a full recipe and freeze the remaining half (it’ll be good for up to 3 months).

12 ½ tablespoons (175 g) unsalted butter
6 tablespoons (75 g) light Muscovado sugar (Paul called for golden caster sugar)
2 large egg yolks
2 cups plus 1 ½ tablespoons (250 g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (20 g) cocoa powder

Chocolate Filling:
7 oz (200 g) Madagascan 64% dark chocolate, broken into pieces
¾ cup plus 1 ½ tablespoons (200 ml) heavy cream
7 oz (200 g) light Muscovado sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Maldon sea salt (Paul called for 10 grams, which is just over 1 Tbs, but I felt that was too much, so I cut it down)

Caramel Pecan Topping:
½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt
1 cup (100 g) pecan halves

Make the crust:
1. Cream together the butter and sugar in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and creamy. Add the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons water and mix well until all the liquid has been incorporated. Gradually add the flour and cocoa powder until a paste is formed.
2. Wrap the pastry in foil or clingfilm, flatten it with your hand and refrigerate for 1 hour. The pastry can be made 2 days ahead, or even longer since it freezes well, though in this case you may want to knead the pastry to soften it before rolling.
3. Sprinkle your surface with flour and roll out the pastry until it is about 2 inches (5 cm) bigger than your tart ring or tin. I recommend using a ring that is 9 ½ inches (24 cm) in diameter and 1 inch ( 2.5 cm) deep.
4. Carefully line the ring or tin, pushing the pastry well into the bottom edges and folding the excess over the top. Trim off the excess. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to relax the pastry and to help prevent it from shrinking during cooking.
5. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the tart with a sheet of parchment paper – scrunch it up first to soften it,  then tip in baking beans, rice or lentils and bake blind for 20 minutes. Lift out the beans and bake for a further 5 to 8 minutes, until the base is dry. Allow to cool. Leave the oven on.

Make the filling:
6.  Put all the ingredients in a glass or stainless steel mixing bowl, place it over a pan of very hot water and allow them to melt together until glossy and thick. Pour into your cool, baked crust and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Make the topping:
7. Spread the pecans onto a baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until fragrant. Heat a saucepan until warm and add the sugar, gradually mixing until you have a golden liquid caramel. Add the salt and mix well. Pour in the pecans and, mixing thoroughly, quickly pour the mixture on to a parchment sheet and spread out with a spatula. Allow to cool thoroughly, then break or chop up into shards or chunky pieces to sprinkle over the ganache. Cut the tart with a hot, wet knife for perfect, restaurant-quality slices. Serve alone with a glass of Banyuls or Maury wine.