Michael and I went to a dinner party on New Year’s and our hosts really know how to cook. The pressure was on to come up with a good dessert to bring, knowing they’d be serving prime rib, popovers, string beans with garlic and a Caesar’s salad. I was driving around the other day, listening to NPR’s “Here and Now,” and the subject was what to serve for New Year’s. I turned up the volume. When Robin Young and her guests started talking about a rich chocolate tart, I knew I had to go on their web site as soon as I got home and find the recipe.
1 cup ground Amaretti cookies*
5 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar**
The Chocolate and Sea Salt Filling:
1 ½ cups heavy cream
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate (65% cocoa), well chopped, or 1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon good sea salt, see head note, plus some for sprinkling on top
2 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes, optional***
*You’ll need about 20 cookies, depending on the brand and the size. Place the cookies in a food processor or blender and blend until finely ground. You can also place them in a tightly sealed plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin until finely ground. You could also substitute with ginger snaps graham crackers, vanilla wafers, or chocolate graham crackers; 20 gingersnaps= 1/1 2 cups ground cookies. And you can 1 to 2 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes (unsweetened) instead of, or in addition to, the sugar.
**I don’t like the pie too sweet. If you like a sweeter crust you can add another tablespoon or two of sugar, but the cookies are awfully sweet.
***Toasted coconut flakes are found in specialty food shops. But you can easily make them: place unsweetened coconut flakes on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees until the flakes just begin to turn a golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Make the crust: in a bowl mix the crushed cookies, the melted butter, and the sugar. Press the crust into a 9-inch round fluted tart pan. You can also make this in a regular pie plate but it’s never quite as good! Press the crust into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
Place the tart pan on cookie sheet and bake on the middle shelf for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool for 10 minutes.
Make the chocolate filling: place the cream in a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
Place the chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Pour the hot cream on top and stir steadily, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.
In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt until frothy. Add the whisked egg mixture to the chocolate mixture. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake on the middle shelf for about 25 to 28 minutes. To test for doneness: gently shake the tart and if the middle wobbles a little (and still appears undercooked) but the sides seems solid it is perfect. The tart will continue to cook when it’s removed from the oven and will firm up while cooling.
Remove from the oven and, while the tart is still warm, sprinkle with about ½ teaspoon of the salt, and the coconut flakes, if using, very gently pressing into the chocolate if it doesn’t seem adhere. Let the tart cool for 1 hour. Some claim the tart is best served after an hour of cooling, but I like it best after it’s been covered and placed in the refrigerator for several hours, or overnight. Serves 6.
The recipe is very easy to make. Michael’s not a fan of Amaretto cookies so I substituted ginger snaps. The tart was done in no time and I served it on a beautiful Tiffany plate (thanks to my sister Susan for giving it to me many years ago), along with a sweetened vanilla creme fraiche and vanilla ice cream. (I abandoned my plan to make whipped cream when I realized it would flop if we didn’t eat for several hours.)
The good news is that everybody seemed to enjoy it. The bad news is that I didn’t. I guess I’m just not into bittersweet chocolate because the tart was way too bitter for me. Next time I’ll use semi-sweet chocolate or add sugar to the filling.