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Have your berries and chocolate, too

More than sunshine, in my mind, strawberries signify the start of summer.

I’m in complete sympathy with food writer Daniel Neman about celebrating strawberries with a spread in this week’s food section (see the e-edition). This month indeed marks the beginning of more fruit-forward desserts in restaurants, bakeries and home kitchens, replacing winter’s heavier ingredients and heady spices.

But there are plenty among us who want their strawberries — and their chocolate, too. For all those so inclined, here’s a recipe that puts strawberry puree into a luscious almond-chocolate tart shell and tops the whole thing with more sliced berries. The filling would be a great use for strawberries that have mushy spots to remove, marring their shape for slicing.

Tribune News Service photo

Strawberry Chocolate Tart

2 tablespoons whole almonds

2 tablespoons confectioners sugar

1 pinch salt

1/2 stick plus 2 tablespoons (6 tablespoons total) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces, divided

3 eggs, divided

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

3 pounds fresh strawberries, washed and trimmed, divided

1/2 cup granulated sugar

7 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1/2 cup heavy cream

Place the almonds in a heat-proof bowl. Bring a cup or two of water to a boil in a small pot and pour over almonds. Allow to sit for 45 seconds to 1 minute, but no more. Drain almonds. Remove peels by rubbing them.

Place almonds and the confectioners sugar in a food processor and pulse on and off until finely ground. Add the salt and 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) of the butter and process until smooth. Beat 1 of the eggs in a small bowl and add half of it to mixture (you can discard remaining 1/2 egg).

Mix together the flour and cocoa powder and add 1/3 of this combination to almond-butter mixture; mix just until incorporated. Mix in second portion of flour until incorporated. Add remaining third of flour in short pulses, just barely mixing it. Do not overmix.

Place dough on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten it out into a 1-inch-thick disc. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before baking.

Preheat oven to 325 F.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough into a 12-inch circle, about 1/4 inch thick. With a fork, poke holes in dough. Smear remaining 2 tablespoons room-temperature butter all around inside of a 9-inch pie plate. Carefully lay dough into pie plate and press it into place. Using a knife, trim extra dough from top edge, if any. Place shell in freezer for 10 minutes.

Cover cold shell with a piece of parchment paper and fill it with dry beans or pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes.

While tart dough bakes, make filling: Puree 2 pounds of the strawberries with the granulated sugar in a blender until smooth and pour mixture through a fine-mesh strainer. Microwave the chocolate on high, at 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until melted.

Pour strawberry puree into chocolate and mix with a whisk. Stir in the heavy cream, whisking continuously. Beat remaining 2 eggs in a small bowl and add to chocolate mixture; whisk until combined.

After tart shell has baked, remove weights and parchment and let cool for a few minutes. Leave oven on.

Pour chocolate mixture into shell and bake tart for 30 minutes, or until filling is set in center but not solid. Test for doneness by shaking pie plate gently; tart should still jiggle slightly. Allow tart to cool.

Finish tart by arranging remaining fresh strawberries on top.

Makes 8 servings.

Recipe from “Sweet Magic” by Michel Richard and Peter Kaminsky.