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Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Fancy or messy, chocolate tart is a masterpiece

I had this vision: What if I layered my world-famous chocolate truffle sauce over a rich and buttery hazelnut crust, then smeared on an extra chocolate glaze, followed by a blanket of darkly roasted chunks of hazelnut?
How would that turn out, I wondered?
Well, the answer came at the end of a very long day. And even though by the time I finished making this masterpiece -- it was 11 p.m. on a week night -- my husband and I dove in.
"Wowie!" we said.
Sure, there would be some tweaking involved with the construction concept. My first run-through had involved an 8-inch square pan, because I thought that I was aiming for a bar-cookie sort of creation.
Negotiating those servings out of the pan turned out to be too messy, but, boy, could I tell this baby had promise.
Ultimately, it came down to the use of a spring-form pan, which made cutting far more graceful -- if you're into elegance, like at a dinner party or something.
Of course, if you're strictly gunning for the incredible taste experience it provides (Damn the mess, full speed ahead!), and don't have access to a spring-form pan (that's a two-piece arrangement involving a round pan with a removable side), then by all means, stick with the 8-inch square pan and just hack away at this awesome confection.
When it came time to serving my tart, I asked myself what sort of beverage would be perfect. I decided that there are so many choices, it's fairly impossible to go wrong.
For instance, for such a rich, chocolatey confection, Grand Marnier is always a winner, because the orange essence within this heavenly liqueur really sings in tune with the chocolate.
But a tawny-style port is a lovely side kick as well. Two Oregon favorites are Eola Hills LBV Cabernet Sauvignon Port Style wine and David Hill's Pinot Noir Port.
There's also Abacela's port, from southern Oregon, which is another special offering. Made from five Portuguese varietals grown on their property specifically to produce their estate port, it's a fruity and rich ruby-style port, with an extra level of richness that makes it a special wine that thrives in a chocolate environment.
Of course, because of the flavor bridge of hazelnuts in the crust, this dessert gets along very fine with a big full-bodied Oregon Pinot Noir. So keep that in mind.
Double trouble chocolate truffle tart
1 hazelnut butter crust (recipe follows), baked and cooled
For the chocolate truffle filling:
16 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup whipping cream
5 tablespoons butter, cut into about 20 piece
For the chocolate glaze:
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons milk or half and half
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
11/4 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
About 1/3 cup darkly toasted coarsely chopped hazelnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare the hazelnut crust, as described in the hazelnut butter crust bar recipe, pressing the crumbly mixture into the bottom of a 10-inch spring form pan. Bake in the preheated oven until the crust turns golden and appears cooked (it will still be very soft, however), about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Once the crust has cooled, prepare the chocolate truffle filling. Slowly melt the chocolate, without stirring, in a double-boiler arrangement. This will take about 20 minutes.
When the chocolate has melted, place the cream in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, and warm just until the cream is steaming and small bubbles have formed around the edges (if it actually boils, it's not a tragedy, but remove it from the burner immediately).
Remove from heat and immediately pour it over the melted chocolate chips. Don't be alarmed when the chocolate seizes up. Just keep stirring gently with a flat wire whisk or a wooden spoon, until the chocolate relaxes, softens up and ultimately blends into the warm cream. Keep the vessel positioned over the hot water because this will help keep the temperature at the melting point.
Once the chocolate is smooth and creamy, stir in the butter, 2 or 3 pieces at a time and continue stirring until each piece of butter is melted and the mixture is well blended and smooth. When all of the butter has been added, there may be a few little chunks of chocolate that don't completely melt, but that's OK.
Lift the vessel of truffle sauce away from the hot water and wipe its outer sides with a towel so that no water will drop into the sauce when you tip the pot to pour the sauce onto the crust. Pour the sauce onto the surface of the cooled crust, scraping out every last drop with a rubber spatula. Smooth it out evenly, then set aside to cool for about 30 minutes. Place the pan in the refrigerator to cool completely and set firmly.
Once the truffle sauce has set firmly, prepare the chocolate glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter and the cocoa powder. Add the milk and vanilla extract and continue whisking. Finally, whisk in the confectioner's sugar. If the mixture seems too thick (it should be thin enough to drizzle from a spoon), whisk in a little more milk or half and half.
Spread the chocolate glaze over the surface of the tart, spreading it evenly out to the edge. Sprinkle the surface of the tart with the chopped hazelnuts in a random pattern. Return the tart to the refrigerator to set the glaze. The tart may be served chilled or at room temperature. It's up to you. It will be softer if stored at room temperature, but it isn't a food safety issue. To serve, run a slender-bladed knife around the inside edge of the springform pan, then remove the ring.
Makes servings for 12 to 16.
Hazelnut butter crust
11/2 cups flour
1/3 cup ground raw hazelnuts (see note below)
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a food processor, or in a bowl using an electric mixer, combine the flour, hazelnuts, brown sugar and butter. Blend just until crumbly and beginning to hold together. Scrape the mixture from the bowl or food processor into an ungreased 10-inch springform pan. Press the mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake until the crust turns golden and appears cooked (it will still be very soft, however), about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
To grind raw hazelnuts: Place 1/2 cup of raw (unroasted) hazelnut kernels in a food processor and grind, using the pulse button, until the nuts are ground into a fine, flour-like consistency.
Makes 1 10-inch crust.

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist, and author of "Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit," and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at janrd@proaxis.com, or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.
Story tags » Cooking

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