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Chocolate Ganache Tart with Fresh Strawberries
Use this recipe to make a versatile sweet tart dough or pull the whole thing together with chocolate ganache and fresh strawberries.


All photos courtesy of Kristina Johnson
Am amazing dessert to look at and eat.


Tart pastry is rich and delicate, not flaky like pie pastry, but short and crumbly, like a good sugar cookie.”
We have a tradition of Sunday dinners in our family. I don’t have a particularly large, related-by-blood family, but I do have a wonderful group of friends who have become our extended family and are as much my sisters and brothers as if we shared the same DNA.The dinners don’t happen every Sunday, but we try at least once a month. Occasionally, they are at my house, but usually my mother is the one to host these meals, inviting a changing cast of characters—some new, some spanning decades. Over the years it has evolved; first my mom’s friends and "strays," then my friends (and later, my husband’s friends) came into the mix. Once our generation got married, our friend’s kids now come to Sunday dinner.

This past Sunday, my mom made an amazing rolled pork loin filled with arugula and caramelized onions and a few fantastic vegetable dishes. She asked me to make dessert. No problem, I thought. When we visited the Pasadena Farmer’s market, we bought some strawberries and I figured I’d make something with them, but I was craving something chocolate and the strawberries were so beautiful I really wanted to showcase them whole. I decided to make a tart combining the best of both.

It’s been a while since I made tart dough, so I broke out my trusted 20-year-old dog-eared copy of the Fanny Farmer Baking Book to check out a couple of the recipes. In case you’re wondering what the difference between tart dough and pie dough is, the book says, " Tart pastry is rich and delicate, not flaky like pie pastry, but short and crumbly, like a good sugar cookie." It goes on to say that unlike pie dough, tart pastry is not harmed by over-working and can be made in the food processor.

I decided to follow the easiest and most basic recipe which was basically butter, flour and salt. It was a disaster! Honestly, it was embarrassing considering my first professional cooking job was as a pastry chef and I used to be able to make pie dough in my sleep (literally, at 5 o’clock in the morning). But this was horrible; it was too salty and the crust crumbled into a million pieces when I took it out of the pan. The second attempt was much more successful. I used a different recipe in the book, the one for Sweet Tart Dough, and modified it a bit for my purposes and it turned out beautiful.

Chocolate Ganache Tart with Fresh Strawberries


Ingredients:
1 Sweet Tart Dough (adapted from Fanny Farmer-recipe below)
8 oz good dark chocolate
8 oz heavy cream
2 baskets fresh strawberries, rinsed, stem end cut flat.

Directions:
Once the tart shell is cooked and cooled, heat the cream in a heavy bottomed pot, just until it gets very hot; do not boil. Put the chocolate in a bowl and pour the hot cream over it. Whisk until all the chocolate is melted. Yield is approximately 2 cups.

Pour the chocolate into the baked tart shell and chill in the refrigerator for about half an hour until it is almost firm. Place the strawberries across the top of the tart. Cover with glaze if you want, especially if you are making a day in advance. I did not use glaze because I knew we’d be eating it within a few hours. The glaze keeps the fruit looking fresh and moist and keeps it from drying out in the refrigerator. An easy glaze can be made out of melted and strained apricot jam.

Sweet Tart Dough—baked shell (large enough for a 10" tart pan with removeable bottom)


Ingredients:
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
12 tbsp butter (1 1/2 sticks, cut into 1" pieces)
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp cold water
1/4 tsp. salt (only use if you are using unsalted butter)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

For making in food processor (this is how I did it). Fit bowl with metal blade. Add flour, sugar and butter to bowl (add salt if butter is unsalted). Put on the lid and process in short bursts, about 10 times to break up the butter into the flour. Mix the egg yolk and water in a small bowl and with the processor on, pour the egg/water mix through the tube in the lid into the bowl. Keep mixing until the dough forms into a ball inside the bowl. Remove and form into a small cake.

Making it by hand (that works too). Just follow the same steps you would for pie dough; cut the butter into the flour and sugar, working it through by hand until it becomes like coarse meal or breadcrumbs. Mix in the egg/water mixture with a fork until it’s incorporated and the dough comes together in a soft ball.


At this point you can press the dough into the tart pan, or do what I did which is roll it out on a lightly floured surface. Once it was rolled out, I put it in the pan and pressed the dough into the edges, pulling off any excess—because the filling for this recipe is not cooked in the tart shell, the crust needs to be fully baked by itself. To keep the center of the crust from puffing up and cracking during baking, you’ll want to weigh it down.

Cut a piece of parchment paper or foil to fit the bottom of the tart pan.
Tip: fold a square in half and then half again to make a smaller square. Cut from edge to edge in a semi-circle equal to half the diameter of your pan. Unfold and voila! You have a perfect circle to fit.

Pierce the bottom of the dough with a fork and put the paper on top. Weigh down with pie weights or beans. Bake for 8 minutes or until the edges of the crust begin to color. Remove from oven and carefully remove the paper and beans. Put the tart back in the oven and bake until crisp and golden—about another 8 minutes. Remove and let cool. Fill.

Kristina Johnson's friends and family always introduce her saying, "This is Kristina, she’s a chef." Inevitably, the next question is "Really? Where do you work?" to which Kristina replies, "Well, I’m a former chef who still works in the restaurant business…" It's complicated. Today, Kristina still loves to cook and share that passion with others and does so with her blog FormerChef (http://formerchef.com). Kristina is equally as passionate about travel and shares her experiences at www.wired2theworld.com. Kristina is equally as talented in photography and shoots all her own photos for both websites.


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