Pecan & Walnut Tart with Chocolate Icing
By Wolfgang Puck
I get nostalgic sometimes around the holidays.
And many of my fondest memories, not surprisingly, center on food and restaurants.
This holiday season, I've been thinking about the first Spago I opened back in 1982 above the Sunset Strip in Hollywood.
I guess those early days have been on my mind ever since I heard Spago mentioned as part of the humorous monologue delivered in mid-October at the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner in New York by Barack Obama, just a few weeks before he became our president-elect.
Nothing makes me pause like having one of my restaurants' names connected to a historical moment!
Back in the early '80s, critics raved not just about our unusual wood-fired gourmet pizzas but also about the fact that our celebrity guests sat on garden furniture in a room where the floor was covered with green artificial turf.
Today, the dining room at Spago Beverly Hills is so much more sophisticated and comfortable, and the menu our culinary team creates even more ambitious -- though you can still get amazing pizzas.
One of my favorite desserts from the early days at Spago was our Pecan and Walnut Tart.
Cut into thin wedges, it's as close as a dessert pastry can come to resembling a great piece of candy, with its filling of crunchy nuts bound by a rich, chewy caramel, all held together by a sweet, buttery crust and a layer of smooth, creamy chocolate.
I can't think of a better dessert for a sit-down holiday meal; and you can also cut it into smaller bite-sized pieces and offer it on a seasonal dessert buffet.
But I don't necessarily wait for the holidays to enjoy this tart.
Though nowadays it's only occasionally on Spago's menu, whenever pastry chef Sherry Yard makes it, I always ask her to put aside a few pieces just for me.
Though there are several stages involved in making the tart, and quite a few hours including mixing and chilling the dough, baking and cooling, each stage is accomplished easily, and you can make the tart in advance on a weekend. Once the tart has come out of the oven and cooled, you can even freeze it, wrapped airtight, for a week or two; then, let it come to room temperature before coating it with the chocolate, slicing, and serving.
In fact, I suggest that you make a second tart using the extra batch of Sugar Dough you'll get from the following recipe.
Then, you'll have one to serve at your Christmas or Hanukkah party, another for New Year's Eve. A glass of Port or other good sweet dessert wine makes an ideal accompaniment to cap off either holiday meal.
Serves 8 to 12
Ingredients - Walnut Tart with Chocolate Icing Recipe
1/2 recipe Sugar Dough (recipe follows)
2-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup whipping cream
6 ounces walnut halves
6 ounces pecan halves
7 ounces unsalted butter
1 cage-free egg, lightly beaten
Preparation - Walnut Tart with Chocolate Icing Recipe
Chocolate Ganache (recipe follows)
Prepare the Sugar Dough (recipe follows)
On a floured surface, roll out one of the dough disks to a 12-inch circle and press it into a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom.
Roll out the other disk into a 10-inch circle. Place it on a baking sheet and refrigerate.
In a heavy saucepan, stir together the sugar, water, and lemon juice. Secure a candy thermometer to the side. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until caramel brown, 334 degrees F. on the thermometer.
Remove from heat, carefully pour in the cream, and swirl gently until the bubbles subside.
Reserve 5 walnut halves and 4 pecan halves. Gently stir in the remaining nuts. Add the butter; when it has melted, stir gently.
Transfer the mixture to a large metal bowl. Leave to cool until lukewarm.
Pour the cooled filling into the lined tart pan.
Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg. Top with the chilled pastry, pinch the edges together to seal, and trim away excess dough with a sharp knife. Cut 3 small slashes in the top dough to let steam escape during baking. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Set an oven rack in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the tart until golden brown, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.
Prepare the Chocolate Ganache.
To ice the tart, invert it onto a wire rack and remove the pan's side and bottom. Place waxed paper underneath to catch drips.
Pour the warm ganache evenly over the tart, smoothing the top and side with an icing spatula. Arrange the reserved nuts decoratively on top. Leave at cool room temperature to set, at least 1 hour.
To serve, cut with a very sharp knife into wedges.
Makes enough for 2 double-crust tarts or pies
1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1-2/3 cups cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 cage-free egg yolks
1 tablespoon whipping cream
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
Combine the flours, sugar, and salt in a food processor with the metal blade. Pulse to combine.
Add butter and pulse 10 to 15 times, until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the egg yolks and cream; pulse twice. While pulsing, slowly add the ice water until the dough forms.
Gather the dough into a ball and divide into 2 pieces. Flatten one into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze or refrigerate for another recipe.
Divide the remaining piece in half, flatten into 2 disks and wrap individually. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Makes about 2 cups
1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Put the chocolate in a metal mixing bowl. In a saucepan, bring the cream to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted. Add the butter and stir until smooth.
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