Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Honey of a Tart

Theoretically, this post is about baking with lavender.  In reality, it's about a chocolate honey tart.  How did that happen?  Well, it all started at the Ithaca Farmer's Market...

Surrounded by beautiful plants and planning my first real garden (with help!), I got a bit carried away by the herbs.  Not just thyme, but lemon thyme as well.  Basil and curly purple basil.  And lavender.  I've never tried to grow lavender, but the thought of it made me feel very French.  I picked out a pretty one, with visions of lavender shortbread dancing in my head.

Immediately, I began trolling for lavender recipes.  The Chocolate-Honey Tart at Epicurious caught my fancy.  There was only one problem.  My little lavender plant was no where near flowering.  Undeterred, and with a dinner party on the horizon, I decided to try the tart anyway, upping the honey and adding some honey roasted almonds in lieu of the lavender blossoms.

I don't know if it's the fact that I've been on a honey kick lately or what, but this tart was killer.  So rich, so chocolatey.  Silky smooth, but with the crunch of both crust and nuts.  Oh, and I doubled the crust.  Because double the chocolate graham crackers is always a good idea.  It was so good, I don't think I'll even attempt the original version when I have blossoms to bake.

Here's my (minor) adaptation:

18 whole chocolate graham crackers
9 tablespoons room, divided and at room temperature
3 tablespoons honey, divided
1 cup whipping cream
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 c. honey almonds (see below)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 10-inch diameter tart pan (you could use a springform pan, too) with removable bottom with nonstick spray. Grind graham crackers with 6 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons honey in processor until fine crumbs form. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom and up sides of prepared tart pan. Bake until set, about 12 minutes. Cool. Sprinkle all but a few of the almonds on the bottom of the crust.

Bring cream and remaining tablespoon of honey just to boil in small saucepan. Add chocolate and stir over low heat just until melted and smooth. Add cocoa powder and remaining 1 tablespoon butter; stir until melted and smooth. Pour chocolate mixture into crust, making sure to keep nuts evenly distributed.  Sprinkle remaining nuts over the top.

Chill at least one hour before serving.  Serve cold or allow to sit at room temperature up to 30 minutes to soften.

Honey Almonds:  Combine 1/2 cup sliced almonds, 1 tablespoon butter, 2 tablespoons honey, and a pinch of salt in a small skillet.  Cooke over medium-high heat until almonds smell toasty and honey is a fairly thick coating, about 8 minutes.  Spread on parchment paper to cool.

Making the honeyed almonds is a little bit of a hassle, I know.  But, really, they make the whole tart.  In addition to enhancing the honey notes in the chocolate and crust, they provide crunch and a hint of salt.  The result is like a super sophisticated candy bar.  This recipe is definitely a keeper.  When my lavender finally comes in, I'll have to find a new way to...

Keep it sweet.

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