This week’s Project Pastry Queen recipe was chosen by Joelen of What’s Cookin’ Chicago. I liked this recipe because it was easy to adjust to make smaller or larger portions. I halved the recipe and prepared it in a 6 inch springform pan because I didn’t need more than one tart. This was a great exercise in “using what you have” for me, because I made a lot of changes based on what was in my pantry. I used almonds instead of hazlenuts, almond extract instead of Frangelico, vanilla extract instead of vanilla bean, and I had to make my own powdered sugar, because I was out. (To make powdered sugar, place 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cornstarch in a blender, and blend until the sugar is powdered. So easy!)
This tart is very, very rich. I think it would be fun to experiment with different types of chocolate, because the bittersweet was a bit bitter. The marshmallow flavor in the meringue was a good balance for the bittersweet chocolate, though. Cut yourself a tiny sliver, and it will be plenty to satisfy a craving for something sweet. I posted my version of the full recipe below. for the original recipe, visit Joelen’s site.
Texas Big Hairs Almond Tarts
1/3 c. almonds
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature + more for greasing pans
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. flour
1 c. whipping cream
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 c. sugar
To make the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. With your fingers, butter four 4 3/8-inch, 1-cup capacity tartlet pans, using about 1 generous tablespoon softened unsalted butter total.
Arrange the almonds on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast them in the oven for 7-9 minutes, until golden brown and aromatic. (Alternatively, you can place them in a dry nonstick skillet and toast the hazelnuts on the stovetop.) Chop the almonds and set aside.
Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the almond extract and salt. Gradually add the flour and combine on low speed until just incorporated. Add the almonds and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator, divide into 4 equal portions, and press into the prepared pans, making sure the dough comes up to the top edge of the pans. Bake 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes. (Don’t worry if the tart bottoms look wrinkly.) At this point, the crusts can be cooled and stored in airtight containers for up to 2 days.
To make the ganache:
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the cream, butter, salt and vanilla extract. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Put the chopped chocolate in a large bowl and pour the hot cream over it. Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Spoon the ganache into the tart shells, dividing it evenly among them. Refrigerate the tarts at least 30 minutes, or until the ganache is set.
To make the meringue:
Set a the perfectly clean bowl of your mixer over a pot of simmering water. Pour in the egg whites and sugar. (Note: if there is a trace of fat in the bowl, the eggs won’t reach their proper volume.) Heat the egg whites and sugar while whisking constantly until the sugar melts and there are no visible grains in the meringue. Take a little meringue mixture and rub it between your fingers to make sure all the sugar grains have melted and dissolved. Remove the meringue from over the simmering water and whip it with a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment on low speed for 5 minutes; then increase the speed to high and whisk for 5 more minutes, until the meringue is stiff and shiny.
Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the broiler. Pile the meringue on top of the cooled tarts, being sure to seal each tart by spreading the meringue to the edge of the pan. Style the meringe with your fingers by plucking at it to tease the meringue into jagged spikes. (For those who don’t like the hands on approach, shape the meringue with the back of a spoon.)
Broil the tarts until the meringue turns golden brown. Watch the tarts carefully, as they can turn from browned to burned in a matter of seconds. (If you are using a kitchen torch, hold it 2-3 inches away from the meringue until it is browned all over.) The tarts should be served the day they are assembled.
*I halved the recipe and prepared one tart, using a 6-inch springform pan.