Monday, November 28, 2011

Bittersweet Chocolate Tart with Salted Caramelized Pistachios

Fine Cooking is a magazine that frequently offers some of the finest foods in the kitchen.  While the photography alone is visually stunning, well scened and well... a true inspiration, their recipes many times become the star of the meal.  Having been a subscriber for years, my Fine Cooking stack if ever growing and the issues are usually splattered and well worn from use over the years.

Looking for an over the top, visually beautiful and extraordinary dessert for our 2nd full Thanksgiving dinner in the last 4 days (my husband spent the first one in a hotel), I turned to the Fine Cooking Party issue on the top of my stack.  Thumbing through the pages Liv's and my eye stopped at the same time on the photo of the Bittersweet Chocolate Tart with Caramelized Pistachios.  Both staring for a moment, she broke the silence by saying, "I want that."  And she got it.

Dense chocolate (flourless) cream is lovingly poured into a baked buttery shortbread crust and topped with a dazzling display of salted caramelized pistachios.  Broken into pieces, the pistachios almost appear to be set into broken amber over the luscious chocolate tart.

Sometimes such a visually appealing dessert doesn't live up to its beauty, not so with with this treat.  Served at room temperature, the chocolate creamy confection pairs delightfully with the crunchy, flavorful topping sending different textures, tastes and sensations bouncing around your mouth.

Mom has already put in a request for the dessert for her next Couples Bunco party.  She wanted a showstopper... we can do that.

Bittersweet Chocolate Tart with Salted Caramelized Pistachios
It's not often that I make a recipe as written, but I did with this one.  Perfect as it is, I just may tweak it a tad next time with a splash of Grand Marnier in the chocolate mixture... just another layer of lusciousness.

Easy to put together, this is a recipe that will stay on the top of my recipe list.

Edited 12/21/11
My mom requested this tart for her Bunco Christmas Party and I made a few adjustments, as such I decided to copy the recipe here with my adaptations.  In the crust we upped the orange peel and (my favorite part) in the tart filling we added a splash of Grand Marnier.  Mom said the tart was better the second time with the adaptations.  An absolute showstopper, and a hit with the San Marcos Couples Bunco Group!!

adapted from Fine Cooking

For the Tart Shell:
8 TBS unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 to 2 tsp finely grated organic orange zest (original recipe called for 1 tsp)
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the Filling:
1 cup half and half (Didn't have half and half on hand, we used 2/3 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup skim milk)
2 Tbs granulated sugar
pinch salt
7 oz. dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (Original recipe calls for semi-sweet)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2-3 Tbs Grand Marnier (My addition!)

Salted Caramelized Pistachios:
1/2 cup salted whole roasted shelled pistachios
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp fine sea salt

Make the tart shell: In a medium bowl, combine the butter, sugar, zest, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and mix just until well blended. If the dough seems too soft to work with, let it sit for a few minutes to firm up. Press the dough into a 9-1/2-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Start with the sides, making them about 1/4 inch thick, and then press the remaining dough evenly over the bottom, pressing well into the corners. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes or chill until ready to bake (you can make the crust up to 3 days ahead).

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Put the pan on a cookie sheet and bake until the crust is a deep golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, checking after about 15 minutes to see if the dough has puffed. Press the dough down with the back of a fork and prick a few times if necessary.

Meanwhile, make the filling: In a small saucepan bring the half-and-half, sugar, and salt to a simmer. Off the heat, add the chocolate and stir with a whisk until completely melted and smooth. Cover to keep warm.

Just before the crust is ready, whisk the egg thoroughly into the chocolate mixture. When the crust is done, lower the oven temperature to 300°F. Pour the filling into the hot crust. Return the tart (still on the baking sheet) to the oven and bake until the filling is set around the edges but still jiggles a little in the center when you nudge the pan, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Make the Salted Caramelized Pistachios:  Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or foil.

Microwave nuts on high for 1 minute so they will be warm when you add them to the caramel.  Alternatively, heat them in a 200ºF oven while you make the caramel.

Pour 1/4 cup water into a heavy large saucepan.  pour the sugar and salt into the center of the pan and pat it down just until evenly moistened (there should be clear water all around the sugar).  Cover teh pan and cook over medium high heat until the sugar dissolves, 2 to 4 minutes.  Uncover and cook without stirring until the syrup begins to color slightly, about 1 minutes (this step too me far longer, more like 6 minutes, watch closely, time may vary).  Reduce heat to medium and cook swirling the pot gently if the syrup colors unevenly.

When the caramel is a pale to medium yellow, less than 1 minute more, add the warm nuts.  With a heatproof silicone spatula, stir gently and slowly to coat the nuts with the caramel.  Continue to cook until a bead of caramel dribbled onto a white plate is reddish amber, about 1 1/2 minutes more.  Immediately scrape the mixture onto the baking sheet and spread it as thin as you can before it hardens.  When the caramel is slightly cooled, but still warm, slide the foil with the caramelized nuts into a zip top bag and seal the bag.  Cool completely.  Chop or crush.

Serve: Serve tart at room temperature or slightly cool. Garnish each slice with crushed Salted Caramelized Pistachios and a light sprinkling of fleur de sel.

The tart is best on the day it's made but may be refrigerated for 2 to 3 days. Once the tart is completely chilled, cover it, but make sure no plastic wrap touches the surface by first putting the tart pan in a larger cake pan. Or cover the tart with an overturned plate.

Liv Life Notes:  The caramel took many minutes longer than the recipe stated to turn to an amber color.  Be sure to watch closely!  When the caramel starts to turn, it turns fast. 
The original recipe states that the tart is best served the day it is made, we frankly preferred it the 2nd day just a tad more.  In my opinion... you can't go wrong either way!


  1. I love Fine Cooking for the pictures too. I don't think I have ever attempted a recipe though. Your photos are beautiful!

  2. WHAT??? You're going to tease me with this and then not print the recipe!?!?!? Sure, go all ethical on me, whatever! ;)

  3. Wowza...this is GORGEOUS! And the fact that it tastes amazing? Even better! I'm making my first-ever pie this week: a pecan pie for my Daddy. No time to fool with a homemade crust, but the rest will be from scratch!

  4. This is so rich and sinful looking! The pistachios are so pretty on top too! I get the fine cooking e-mails and everything always looks wonderful.

  5. I bought a tart pan to make stuff like this and I have not made anything yet. This looks sooooo good, I am motivated again!

  6. This dessert is gorgeous beyond words, as are your pics. I want to make this soon. First, I need a tart pan, and then I can make it.

    Hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving #2.

  7. Kim, this tart looks so festive, I love it! Fine Cooking does publish some good recipes. In fact, I just picked up their Pies issue. I'm enamored with this tart already, though.

    Glad Thanksgiving #2 was a delicious one!

  8. OMG! What an irresistible tart! I can see why you had to make it. Looks like I'm going to have to give it a go as well. You sold me!

  9. Oh dear Kim..this looks so beautiful! You did such an incredible job with this tart!!! Thank you for sharing and have a wonderful week!!!

  10. This tart looks wonderful. Those salted caramel pistachios really take it to the next level!

  11. Its looking wonderful and truly a show-stopper. The variety of textures in this dish is amazing...the creamy smoothness of the chocolate paired with the crunchy caramalised pistachio. Yummm! Thanks for sharing

  12. Well, you've certainly stopped my show. Droooool.

    That is amazing! Those pistachios are the absolutely coolest. So yummy, I'm sure :)

  13. Just stunning! A show stopper for sure! Love the tart, love the garnish, love it all~

  14. I'm a huge Fine Cooking fan also, Kim. Their recipes never seem to disappoint and this one is certainly no exception! It is gorgeous and looks like it's a piece of fine art. I can only imagine how delicious it must be............. a chocolate lovers dream come true!

  15. Kim this is indeed a showstopper. Your photography is gorgeous and the tart looks phenomenal.

  16. Looks superb....the carmelised pistachios look like a precious stone. :-)


  17. This pie is absolutely stunning!!!

  18. I love that pistachio brittle--this looks awesome!

  19. Looks delicious. I am loving those salted caramelized pistachios!

  20. Honestly, I'm not a huge tart/pie fan usually... but this chocolate tart looks absolutely divine. I love the idea of a shortbread crust, too.

    It also looks super sophisticated, which is something Christmas baked-goods sometimes lack. Not that I don't love cutely decorated gingerbread or sugar cookies, but sometimes you need something a bit more adult!

  21. By the way, your pic looks better than their's ;)

  22. mmm, that looks amazing!!! i like the name of your blog too =)

  23. Oh man...this tart looks incredible! I love pistachios...I can't wait to try this! :)

  24. Had the words salted caramel and I 'm here, looks delicious !

  25. "When the caramel starts to turn, it turns fast." Boy, isn't that the truth! Biggest failure I ever had was making a croquembouche. I ended up with this blackened glob in the bottom of the pan.

    Anyhow, you guys obviously have the process down. The whole thing, from crust to caramel, is gorgeous.

    (If you think I'm going to comment on the chocolate, you're so sadly mistaken.) :)

  26. Absolutely stunning! I want that, too!

  27. Your posts are always tempting and the visuals stunning! Thanks for sharing.

  28. Liv,
    Love that your Mom plays Bunco! So do I, but not couples bunco. We have tried to get our guys to play, but it didn't work:( Maybe if we served this chocolate Tart, they would change their minds.

  29. This tart sounds so rich a luscious! Perfect for an indulgence =)

  30. Such a beautiful dessert! I love those caramelized pistachios..Yum!


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