KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 18 — Christmas can be a time of frenzy, not only in the malls as everyone rushes for their last-minute Yuletide shopping but also in the kitchen.
Little wonder more and more people are opting to dine out rather than endure the madness of cooking for so many.
Dishing up a multi-course dinner from scratch for the entire family (and any distant relatives and friends) would drive anyone to overdose on eggnog.
But there is nothing quite like having something homemade for the holiday season, if only to show your loved ones how much they mean to you.
Where does convenience and affection intersect? Well, there is much to be said for dishes that can be prepared well in advance.
Here’s where a chocolate tart may bring smiles to everyone at the table – for the guests gathered in your home (because, let’s face it, who doesn’t like chocolate?) and for the cook, who no longer has to slave over the stove on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
For a good (yet simple) chocolate tart can be prepared a couple days in advance and keep for a couple days more, easily (if it’s kept chilled in the refrigerator).
That means you get to indulge in this decadent treat on the eve and have seconds the next day, when it’s Christmas proper.
Now that’s a reason to celebrate, don’t you agree?
CHRISTMAS CHOCOLATE TART
This recipe is simple enough that you don’t even need a food mixer or processor. No beating of egg whites (in fact, no eggs at all!) or melting chocolate over a bain-marie (pot of simmering water).
You get to use your hands a lot here, whether it’s crumbling to biscuits or breaking up pieces of chocolate. Have fun.
For the crust, I’ve chosen shortbread biscuits as they are sinfully buttery, as befitting the holiday season.
However, you can use whatever biscuits strike your fancy, from chocolate digestives to oatmeal cookies.
The cinnamon and nutmeg add a touch of Yuletide spirit; their spicy aroma after the crust has been baked is the very scent of Christmas.
A chocolate tart isn’t complete without a decadent filling and I have decided on a straightforward but very rich ganache here, made of equal parts dark and milk chocolate. To make it a bit more adult, increase the dark chocolate quotient to two thirds or more, if you prefer it more complex.
300g shortbread biscuits
80g butter, melted
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
150g coarsely chopped dark chocolate (at least 70 per cent)
150g coarsely chopped milk chocolate
Sea salt to taste
250ml heavy cream
60g butter, cut into small pieces
Fresh strawberries, for serving
First, preheat the oven to 200°C. Prepare the crust for the tart by crumbling the biscuits by hand into a mixing bowl. Add melted butter, cinnamon and nutmeg to the biscuit crumbs and mix until well combined.
Transfer this mixture to a 24cm non-stick tart pan, pressing it down to form a thin base. Press the excess mixture up the sides of the pan to create the crust to hold the ganache filling. Bake the tart base in the preheated oven for 15 minutes until it has set. Remove and let it cool completely before adding the filling.
To make the chocolate ganache filling, put the dark chocolate, milk chocolate and sea salt in a large heatproof bowl and set aside. Using a non-stick pan, bring the heavy cream and butter to a simmer over medium heat. Make sure it’s not a rolling boil else the dairy solids may separate.
Pour this cream-butter liquid over the chocolate and let it sit for about a minute before stirring the mixture. Keep stirring until all the chocolate pieces have melted and the ganache is smooth. Pour the ganache over tart base and keep chilled in the refrigerator for about six hours until set.
Slice and serve with fresh strawberries. As this tart is very rich, it will serve eight people or more easily.
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