a chocolate tart with slices of pear on top
(Photo/Flickr user Red Moon Sanctuary)

Say ‘I love you’ with this chocolate tart

It’s almost become a tradition of mine to suggest a new sweet you can whip up for your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day. And for me, chocolate is the flavor of love.

This chocolate-almond tart features not only chocolate but a choice of seasonal fruit, and the crust is inspired by one I learned in Paris from Paule Caillat at Promenades Gourmandes. It requires European unsalted butter; look for it in gourmet and speciality markets. Some brands are made in the United States., so check for “European-style” or “cultured” on the packaging.

Cacao nibs are roasted bits of the cacao bean and have a fruity, lightly chocolate taste and a crunchy texture. Add pears or peaches or top with fresh berries … and let the love flow.

Chocolate Almond Tart with Fruit

Serves 6 to 8

1 Chocolate Crust, baked and cooled
1 recipe Almond Filling (see below)
1 recipe Poached Fruit, drained (see below)
⅓ cup bittersweet chocolate shavings

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread filling in crust. Place tart pan on baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes until filling forms and sets. Cool on rack 30 minutes. Spoon fruit across top. Sprinkle with shavings. Remove tart sides. Serve warm or room temperature.

Chocolate Crust

3 oz. unsalted European-style butter, room temperature
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, broken in pieces
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
3 Tbs. water
1 Tbs. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
About 1½ cups unbleached white flour

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine butter, chocolate, oil, water, sugar and salt. Cover with waxed paper. Heat on high in microwave until chocolate is melted and liquid is at a low boil, about 4 minutes (timing will vary). Add time or stop as needed. Carefully remove hot bowl. Stir in flour by the tablespoonful with a fork. Keep adding and stirring in flour until a rough ball forms. Gradually knead in flour with until dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl and no longer absorbs flour. It should not look wet or greasy. It should stick together without being dry or crumbly. When pinched, the dough should offer some resistance (similar to the firmness of an earlobe when it is squeezed.)

Pat the dough evenly over bottom and sides of an ungreased 9-inch round metal tart pan (with removable sides and bottom). Prick bottom and sides all with fork. Place on baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes. Crust should be firm and might have some fine cracks. Cool in tart pan.

Almond Filling

½ cup sugar
½ cup finely ground blanched almonds
4 oz. European-style unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Tbs. flour
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. almond extract
⅓ cup cacao nibs or ¼-inch chunks of bittersweet chocolate

Mix sugar with almonds. Blend in butter with fork or pastry blender until evenly combined. Mix in flour, egg, extract and nibs until nibs are evenly distributed.

Poached Fruit

4 to 5 ripe, firm peaches or pears
½ cup sugar
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Water to cover

If using peaches, drop in boiling water for a minute. Remove to a bowl of cold water. Cool. Peel, remove pit and slice each peach in half. If using pears, peel, core and slice into halves.

Place sugar, ginger and vanilla extract in a pot. Add enough water to cover fruit. Simmer uncovered over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Add fruit and poach at simmer until softened but not falling apart (about 10 minutes for peaches, 20 minutes for pears). Remove fruit. Let cool and slice each half into fourths. Discard ginger and liquid.

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Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. She blogs about her food at clickblogappetit.com. Contact Faith at clickblogappetit@gmail.com.