It is so easy to be intimidated by cookbooks. You know what I mean, those big books that weigh a ton, that insist on special pans, and extra steps involving double-boilers and other culinary paraphernalia. Sometimes you just want to knock out a sumptuous treat in under an hour and call it a day. Consider this post to be a public service announcement. I’m here to provide inspiration and an alternative, and while the result may not look professional or fancy it will make an absolutely fabulous impression on anyone who tastes it, and what with valentine’s day drawing near, well…I do think it will make quite a sweet for your sweety.
The Love Tart is a luscious chocolate, caramel, toffee, tart with 3 very special layers that will absolutely charm the pants off your beloved with its rich, complex flavors and textures. It takes about an hour, from start to assembly, then it needs at least 4 hours to firm up. Once its firm, you bang it out of its pan, put it on a plate and give it at least an hour to warm up.
The equipment you’ll need is a food processor fitted with its blade, a round cake pan (but a square one will do too), a wooden spoon or rubber (silicon) spatula/scraper, a sturdy, medium sized pan with high sides, a heat-proof liquid measuring cup, 2 heat-proof bowls (glass or metal).
1 stick butter, cold
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
Lightly toast the walnuts (or pecans, almonds, or filberts) in a very low temp oven. If you have a toaster oven use it. Once they’re toasty remove them from the oven and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Put the flour, sugar, and salt into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with blade. Pulse 2-3 times to combine. Chop the butter into chunks and add to the work bowl, pulse 4-6 times. Add the egg yolks, pulse 3-4 times. Dump the dough into the cake pan and spread it evenly across the bottom with more towards the sides. Press it down firmly and at the sides press it so that it climbs up the side of the pan as much as possible. Continue this until it is evenly and firmly distributed. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove it from the oven and set it aside.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 tablespoons of butter
pinch of salt
3/4 cup of walnut pieces
Don’t worry, making caramel is just a little scary…mostly it’s just thrilling and fun to transform sugar into caramel…a bit of alchemy. Start by heating the cream up in the microwave on high for 1 minute. Add the sugar to the pan and put it on a burner over medium heat. Stir it until it begins to melt.
Once the sugar melts and begins to bubble it will turn amber and brown…it may begin to smoke so just remove it from the heat for a second or two and then return it. Always stir. Toss in the salt, corn syrup, and butter. It’ll foam up and sputter like crazy, but persevere. Now add the cream, stirring all the time. Continue stirring until it reaches 226° F or about 2 minutes after you add the cream. Pour it into one of the heat-proof bowls and set it aside.
Chocolate Ganache Layer
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup cream
1/2 stick of butter cut into chunks
Break the chocolate up into chunks and put it into one of the bowls. Heat the cream in the microwave for 2 minutes or just until it begins to boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir gently until it’s dissolved and melted. Add the chunks of butter and stir until they melt.
To assemble the tart spread the walnuts across the crust. Pour the caramel over the nuts. You may need to nudge them about a bit to get good caramel coverage. Next pour the ganache over the caramel. Smooth out any air bubbles. Refrigerate for 4 hours. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, place a piece of wax paper over the top of the pan along with a flat surface like a sheet pan and invert the cake pan onto the paper/pan, give it a good knock to get the tart out. Invert it again onto a plate, let it sit at room temperature for an hour or so, then cut and serve.
Doesn’t that look seriously good? The crust, because it’s overloaded with sugar, isn’t tender…it’s crunchy and tastes toffee-ish, the walnuts and caramel are gooey, and the ganache is plush…and really it wasn’t hard to make, was it?