The most time-consuming part of this dish is making the pastry. But if you’re an organised soul, this can be rather soothing. If you’re not, making pastry and cakes is the only time you should be.
This is the classic dish of the post food-processor era. It’s quite possible to do everything involved with this tart without any thought, technical skill, experience or getting the fingernails dirty. Just toss the lot down the chute – pastry and filling (separately) – put it all together just as you did at kindergarten with plasticine and oils, and it’s done. Makes it a pretty good dish for the kids. It’s not, unfortunately, a tart for the moment. It’s best when it has been allowed to cool and set, and then you can attack it with undisciplined gusto.
This tart needs no more than a simple shortcrust pastry, using four-fifths the weight of butter to flour. The more butter you use, the more difficult it is to work. I reckon this is about the maximum relationship between flour and butter, but if you have a favourite foolproof pastry, use it, and vary the amount of butter to suit yourself, and your palate, and your patience. This pastry is delicate, yet safe to roll, and rich and buttery. I think it’s just fine for all desserts, quiches and whatever. If you want a less flaky version, reduce the butter content.
200 g plain flour
160 g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
1 little water
Sift the flour into the whizzer and add the butter. Use the whizzer to cut the butter into the flour, working the machine gently, no more than is needed to bring the mix together.
Add the egg yolk, and process briefly. Finally add just enough water to form the pastry into a ball.
Roll the pastry out flat between two sheets of greaseproof paper, and leave in a cool place to relax for about 15 minutes.
Roll the pastry reasonably thinly, and form it into a rectangular flan dish (27 cm X 20 cm), preferably with a removable base. Put in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Bake the case blind (200°C) filled with aluminium foil, until the edges brown.
Remove from oven, take out the foil, and bake again until well browned and the pastry looks like biscuit.
pecan or walnut nuts (enough to cover the bottom of the tart)
125 g caster sugar
100 g dark chocolate
120 g unsalted butter, melted
Line the bottom of the cooked pastry with a single layer of the pecan nuts. Set aside while you make the filling.
In the food processor whizz the eggs with the sugar until they are light and fluffy.
In a double boiler or its equivalent (or in the microwave), melt the chocolate slowly and gently, and mix in the melted butter. Whisk gently to bring it all together. (Keep in a warm place if you’re to be sidetracked.)
Whizz the egg mix again, and pour in the melted chocolate mix slowly and gently. Whizz until smooth and fluffy.
Spoon the filling into the tart crust, leaving it half a centimetre from the top, and bake in the oven at 180°C for about 15 minutes. It will puff up at the sides, and form something of a ‘plastic’ skin on the top.
Allow to cool, and serve at room temperature or cold from the refrigerator. Before serving, dust the tart with a light coating of icing sugar to give the top a nice speckled white appearance.
Once you’ve perfected ‘your’ pastry, there are plenty of opportunities for great, simple desserts. One of my favourites is a simple pastry, formed into individual tart moulds, baked, and then filled with sliced pears, apples or quinces, which have been cooked in a little sugar – in the microwave – until softened.
The cooked fruit is piled up in the pie moulds in a controlled haphazard way, and then baked again until the sugar hanging about the edges of the fruit starts to caramelise – about 15 minutes at 180°C. These are marvellous hot or at room temperature, and require minimal skills, and no display skills. They are great for passionate dessert makers, with ten thumbs.
WINE: Chocolate tends to knock most sweet wines for six. The best thing here is a good Rutherglen muscat or tokay.