Simple Chocolate-Walnut Tart

Choc-Walnut TartAnother simple dessert you can make in a matter of minutes!  But one that will get raves whenever it’s served.

Here, the walnut’s natural bitterness is balanced by the chocolate, and the rich combination of the two will make you want to squeeze this tart between your teeth on a regular basis.  It yearns for a good red dessert wine such as port, late-harvest Zinfandel or the one I’ve recommended below – the sweet Tannat from Vinedos de los Vientos.

A note on the crust, while anyone with a food processor can turn out a sweet tart crust in ten or fifteen minutes, I would encourage the use of a frozen crust if it means you’re more likely to try this recipe!

Ingredients
One tart crust (Pate Brisee), recipe of your choice, or a frozen store-bought crust
5 Oz bitter-sweet chocolate
4 Tbsp butter
1 Cup dark corn syrup
1/4 Cup sugar
3 Eggs
2 Tbsp Brandy, rum or cognac
2 Cups toasted walnuts, cooled and chopped, with enough whole walnuts to place on top if you choose
Confectioner’s Sugar for dusting, plus sweetened whipped cream for topping (optional)

Procedure
Preheat your oven to 350.  Using a microwave or double-boiler, melt the chocolate and the butter together.  If using the microwave, use 30-second intervals, stirring in between with a wooden spoon until well melted and all lumps are gone.  If using a double-boiler, bring the water to a boil, turn the heat to very low, then place a large metal bowl on the pot – it should not touch the hot water, and the bowl must be large enough to keep any steam from entering the chocolate (water makes hot chocolate seize, and this is difficult to repair!)

Combine the corn syrup and the sugar and heat in a microwave for 30 seconds (stir and repeat as needed until the sugar dissolves), then add it to the chocolate, stir for a few seconds and turn off heat.

Break the eggs into a bowl, add the alcohol and whisk until foamy.  Temper the eggs by drizzling the melted chocolate into the egg bowl, whisking constantly.  Gradually introducing the hot chocolate to your eggs like this keeps the eggs from scrambling,

Add the toasted walnuts, blend well and pour into your tart crust, distributing walnuts as evenly as possible.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 min or until fork comes out clean.  Allow to cool, then dust w/confectioner’s sugar.  Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Wine Recommendation

You may have heard me say this a million times, but just in case… one of the keys to a successful wine and food pairing is to make sure the sweetness of the wine is at least equal to the sweetness of the food.  So, a sweet dessert such as this one calls for a dessert wine.  And I think  this one goes better with dark chocolate than just about any wine I’ve tried (with the possible exception of some ports).

Vinedo de los Vientos, Alcyone N.V., Sweet Tannat (500ml), $30 – from the unlikely country of Uruguay, this wine has taken San Francisco wine bars by storm.  My initial order was a trial run of just six bottles, which quickly sold out once I poured it during wine classes.  And when I went to order more I was told the importer had sold out and was awaiting another container of it to arrive.  Ugh.  Fortunately, it has arrived, and I was able to get a small allocation for my customers.  Enjoy!

The First S - SeeCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Quote for the Day
“Put “eat chocolate” at the top of your to-do list today.  That way, at least you’ll get one thing done.” ~ Author Unknown

Favorite Holiday Dessert – Marion Cunningham’s Steamed Persimmon Pudding

Click to see Marion Cunningham's cookbooks

The late Marion Cunningham is probably best known as the author of several editions of the Fanny Farmer cookbook.  Or for her years in working with James Beard, who plucked her out of obscurity when he chose her as his assistant.

I once met the preternaturally cheerful Ms. Cunningham in 1997 at a Thanksgiving-themed cooking class at San Francisco’s famed Tante Marie’s cooking school.  She led the class with Chuck Williams (of Williams Sonoma), and each dish they made was delightful, but the highlight of the meal was this dessert.

I’d never heard of steamed puddings outside of a Dickens’ tale, but I went out and bought a mold and made it the next week for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner.  It was so popular, It’s been in demand every year since then, both at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Ingredients
1 Cup pureed persimmons (~ 2 large persimmons, skins removed)
2 tsp. Baking soda
8 Tbs (1 stick) butter at room temperature
1 1/2 Cups sugar
2 Eggs
1 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs+ rum
1 Cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. Cinnamon (I enhance with a pinch of allspice and a whisper of ground clove)
½ tsp. Salt
1 Cup broken walnuts or pecans
1 Cup+ raisins (I like to mix regular and golden) or add any coarsley-chopped dried fruit of your choice

Procedure
This dessert can be started early in the morning and left to steam for as long as you remember to refill the water.  Once lifted from its bath and the top of the mold is removed, it’s not unusual for the top of the pudding to be runny – ten minutes in a hot oven should be enough time to dry it out before un-molding.

Slice the persimmons in half, from bottom to top and lay open to expose the flesh (it’s not necessary to cut through the very tough stem). Use a soup spoon to scrape the flesh from the skin, collecting the contents of both persimmons in a bowl. The flesh can be pureed by hand or using a hand blender of mixer. Then add the baking soda and set aside to stiffen and lighten in color – it’s really a very odd little chemical reaction!

Find a pot large enough to hold a 2 Qt pudding mold (About $30 – $40.  Click here to purchase).  Fill the pot with enough water to rise halfway up the sides of the mold.  (If no mold is available, two metal coffee containers covered tightly with foil will do, but only fill about ¾ full as the pudding expands a bit.)   Let the water come to a boil while you mix the pudding batter.

Grease every nook and cranny of the mold very well.  Butter is best, though cooking spray is faster.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar.

Add the eggs, lemon juice, and rum and beat well.  Set the mixer to its slowest speed and add the flour, cinnamon, and salt.  When well blended, add the persimmon mixture and beat until well mixed.  Remove the bowl from mixer and stir in raisins and nuts just until well distributed.

Spoon the batter into the mold, cover, and steam for at least two hours (it’s nearly impossible to over-steam!)  Remove the mold from the pot and let rest for 5 minutes (see opening note about drying in a warm oven).  Use a long, narrow blade or skewer to make sure the pudding is separate from the sides of the mold, then top the mold with the serving plate of your choosing and invert both, turning the mold upside down onto the plate. If the pudding doesn’t separate from the mold immediately, let it sit for a few minutes. Even then, some may stick to the bottom of the mold – carefully remove them whole and patch back together (the pudding is very moist).

Presentation
The traditional service for this dish is with a sprig of holly stuck into the top, then flamed with more of the rum.

To flame your rum, pour a generous ounce of it into a sauce pot, and THEN put the pot over medium heat.  Swirl the rum to warm it for thirty seconds or so, then carefully light it and immediately pour the flaming rum over the pudding.  It may be difficult to see the flame in strong light, so dim the lights for the 20 seconds or so before the alcohol burns off.

Serve warm with unsweetened whipped cream, or better yet, a crème anglais.

Wine Pairing
This dessert requires a very sweet wine – look for a late-harvest or ice wine or a port (shop here for dessert wines).

Cheers!

Dave the Wine Merchant

Quote for the Day
Once again we come to the Holiday season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes in his or her own way, by going to the mall of their choice”
Dave Barry, American Humorist (1947 – )