Spicy candied walnuts add to the allure of this tart created by Chef Anne Quatrano. Smoldering chipotle spice in smooth dark chocolate ganache create a surprisingly welcome flavor combination in this elegant dessert.
For the spicy candied walnuts:
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 egg white
- 1 cup (4 ounces) California walnut pieces
For the tart dough and tart shell:
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
For the chipotle chocolate ganache:
- 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
- 2 dried chipotle peppers
- 1 1/4 pounds semisweet chocolate, chopped, or broken into small pieces
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Pinch of salt
For serving (optional):
- Powdered sugar in a sieve
- Avocado ice cream
- Pinch of sea salt
- To make the spicy candied walnuts, preheat the oven to 325ºF. Line a large shallow baking pan with parchment paper. In a medium bowl combine the brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, chili powder and cayenne. With your clean, dry fingers, stir together until the ingredients are evenly blended, breaking up any lumps of brown sugar. Set aside.
- Put the egg white in another medium bowl and whisk just until it is foamy. Add the walnuts and toss to coat them thoroughly and evenly with egg white. With a slotted spoon, transfer the walnuts to the sugar mixture. Again using your hands, toss to coat the walnuts evenly with sugar and spices. Spread the walnuts on the parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving some space between the pieces. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes, or until the sugar coating looks puffy and brown. Cool completely, then break the nuts apart. Chop them coarsely, and store in an airtight container until serving.
- To make the tart dough, in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the powdered sugar, salt and butter and beat until blended and smooth. Add the egg yolk and flour, and mix on low speed until the mixture has a dry, crumbly consistency. Add the heavy cream and mix just until the dough masses together. Scrape the dough onto your work surface and pat it into a round disk about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. (The dough is easier to handle if it is cool, but not thoroughly chilled. If you have refrigerated it over night, let sit at room temperature until it softens slightly before rolling.) The dough may also be made in a food processor, but take care not to over blend it.
- Preheat the oven to 425ºF. To make the tart shell, on a floured surface, roll out the dough to a circle about 11 inches across. Fit the dough in a 9-inch tart pan (preferably one with a removable bottom), pressing it firmly over the bottom and sides. Trim off any overhanging dough. Prick the surface of the dough several times with a fork, then press a large square of heavy-duty foil snugly into the tart shell, directly onto the bottom and sides of the dough; this helps the tart shell keep its shape during the first part of baking. Bake for about 8 minutes, then remove the foil (if the dough puffs up, prick it gently with a fork) and continue baking about 6 - 8 minutes more, or until the tart shell looks dry, crisp and lightly browned. Cool completely before filling.
- To make the chipotle chocolate ganache, put the cream and peppers in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring just to a boil over moderate heat, then cover and set aside off heat for 5 - 10 minutes. Pour the hot cream through a strainer into a bowl, pressing gently on the chilies to extract any cream. Discard the chilies, and return the cream to the saucepan. Add the chocolate, sugar and salt to the cream and place over low heat. Stir gently and almost constantly until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. This will only take a few minutes, and take care not to let the chocolate get too hot; it should only feel warm to your finger. Set aside, off heat, for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Pour the chocolate mixture into the cooled tart shell. (If you have slightly more filling than the shell will hold, pour the extra into a small cup; it makes a nice treat for the cook.) Refrigerate the tart briefly – about a half hour should do it – just until the chocolate has cooled and set slightly. The filling will still be soft, not firm.
- To check, tilt the tart pan; the filling should stay in place. Remove from the refrigerator, and keep at room temperature until serving. If you have made the tart a day ahead and it is thoroughly chilled, let it come to room temperature before serving. Before serving, sprinkle the spiced walnuts generously over the top of the tart. Cut the tart into wedges, like a pie, and transfer to dessert plates. Dust lightly with powdered sugar and accompany with avocado ice cream and a pinch of sea salt.