Lover's Tarts

Special Sweets for Your Sweetie on Valentine's Day



Strawberry Tart

photograph by John Anderson

By now, it just might be too late to make dinner reservations for this Valentine's Day. With the annual holiday that weds love and conspicuous consumption falling on a Saturday this year, hotels have offered tempting packages and many restaurants have designed fixed price menus to encourage advance planning. Consider these: At Bertram's, chef Miguel Ravago is preparing the aphrodisiac Quails in Rose Sauce from Like Water for Chocolate; Granite Cafe pastry chef Michele Haram has created a dessert for two called Double Happiness Dacquiose; diners at The Bitter End can eat Kathryn Mathis' Heart Beet Salad with hearts of palm and roasted baby beets before the lamb chop entrée. Just about every eatery in town has something special planned, and business will undoubtedly be brisk, with an endless succession of two-tops all evening long. Assuming that you've forgotten to make those all-important dinner reservations and still have amorous expectations this weekend, perhaps it's time you got into the kitchen and rattled dem pots and pans!

The meal doesn't have to be elaborate. Just some flowers, a simple dinner complemented by a nice bottle of wine topped off with a very special dessert. You're on your own where the entrée is concerned, but I'm here to help with that dessert selection. I've designed a basic tart recipe with variations to accommodate the particular tastes of many beloveds. The nine-inch size will provide large dessert servings and leftovers for a midnight snack or a leisurely late breakfast. While it's a little time-consuming, the master recipe isn't too difficult, and the equipment requirements aren't extensive. I found a 9"x 2" heart-shaped pan at Breed & Co. for under $10, but a 9" x 2" round cake or springform pan will do. A tinfoil heart pan from the grocery store will work, too. Besides the pan, you'll need a blender or food processor, either a hand or stand mixer, saucepans, a whisk, spoons, and spatulas. Choose the variation which is most likely to melt your loved one's heart and get to work.


Master Recipe for Lover's Tarts

Crumb Crust

1 1/2 cups cookie crumbs (Famous Chocolate
Wafers, Cinnamon Graham Crackers, or
Gingersnaps)

1/2 cup ground toasted nuts (almonds, pecans,
hazelnuts, walnuts)

1/3 cup sugar

4-5 Tbs melted butter

Use a blender or food processor to make cookie crumbs. Grind nuts with sugar, being careful not to overdo it and make nut butter. Combine nuts and crumbs, then add butter to moisten. Press the crumb crust into the bottom and up the sides of a 9" x 2" heart or round pan, then bake for 10 minutes in a pre-heated 350deg. oven. Cool on a rack and refrigerate until ready to use.

Chocolate Whipped Cream

4 oz chocolate, chopped (bittersweet, semi-sweet,
milk, or white chocolate)

1 1/3 cups heavy cream

2 Tbs liqueur, e.g., Tia Maria, Frangelico, Grand
Marnier, dark rum (optional)

Heat cream to the boiling point in a small, heavy saucepan, pour over chopped chocolate, and let stand for 2-3 minutes. Whisk chocolate and cream together until well blended, cool to room temperature, whisk in liqueur if using, cover with plastic wrap, and chill completely. When ready to assemble tart, whip cream in a chilled bowl with chilled beaters until soft peaks form and cream holds a soft shape. Spoon into prepared tart shell or pipe in with a pastry bag and star tip.



Caramel Banana Tart

photograph by John Anderson

Caramel Sauce

3/4 cup heavy cream

4 Tbs butter

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 Tbs rum or Frangelico liqueur (optional)

Heat cream and butter in a small, heavy saucepan and set aside on top of stove. In a larger heavy saucepan, heat sugar over medium heat until sugar melts and becomes a rich, golden color. Very carefully whisk the hot cream/butter into the caramelized sugar; it is likely to bubble up and splatter. Add vanilla and whisk until well blended. Set aside to come to room temperature. When sauce is room temperature, whisk in rum or liqueur. Pour into prepared tart pan and chill.

To Toast Nuts

Preheat oven to 350deg.. Spread nuts (hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, walnuts) on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and toast for about 10 minutes, taking care not to burn. Remove from oven, cool to room temperature before using.

To Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Carefully wipe one pint of strawberries with a damp paper towel to remove dirt or grit, then set aside on a pan lined with parchment paper or tinfoil. In a small bowl over simmering water, melt 1/2lb semi-sweet chocolate and stir until smooth. Be careful not to get any water in the chocolate or it will seize. Dip the berries in the melted chocolate, let the excess drip off, then place on the lined pan to dry. When chocolate has dried, remove strawberries from paper and arrange on top of tart. Chill.

Miscellaneous

apricot or raspberry preserves or Solo brand fillings (available at Central Market or Randall's)

bittersweet, semi-sweet, milk, or white chocolate (several brands available at Central Market)

bananas, strawberries, raspberries

chocolate coffee beans (available at The Coffee Exchange, candy stores, coffee shops)

Medallia del Oro instant espresso (available at Central Market, Randall's)

Tart Assembly

Banana Tart - Prepare crust with graham crackers or gingersnaps, bake, and chill. Prepare cream with semi-sweet chocolate, chill. Slice two bananas. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the banana slices with two tablespoons of brown sugar. Stir gently until the sugar dissolves. Transfer the bananas to the prepared crust with a spatula and set aside while you whip the chilled semi-sweet chocolate cream. Spoon or pipe the whipped chocolate cream over the fruit and chill until ready to serve.

Raspberry Tart - Prepare crust with chocolate wafers, bake, and chill. Prepare bittersweet chocolate cream with Chambord raspberry liqueur and chill. Spread a layer of raspberry filling or preserves in the bottom of the tart crust. Whip chilled chocolate cream and spoon or pipe into the crust. Top with fresh raspberries, chill until ready to serve.

Apricot Tart - Prepare crust with graham crackers or gingersnaps, bake, and chill. Prepare white chocolate cream with Grand Marnier liqueur and chill. Toast 1/2 cup sliced almonds and set aside. Spread a layer of apricot filling or preserves in the bottom of the tart crust. Whip chilled chocolate cream, spoon or pipe into prepared crust. Sprinkle toasted almonds over the white chocolate cream, chill until ready to serve.

Rum-Caramel Tart - Prepare crust with chocolate cookies, bake, and chill. Prepare caramel sauce with rum and chill. Toast 1/2 cup pecan halves and set aside. Prepare milk chocolate cream and chill. Spread caramel sauce in the prepared crust and top with toasted pecans. Spoon or pipe the chocolate cream over the nuts and chill until ready to serve.

Strawberry Tart - Prepare crust with chocolate cookies, bake, and chill. Prepare chocolate-covered strawberries and set aside to dry. Prepare semi-sweet chocolate or white chocolate cream and chill. When component parts are ready, whip chilled cream, spoon or pipe into prepared crust, and top with chocolate-covered strawberries. Chill until ready to serve.

Espresso Tart - Prepare crust with chocolate cookies, bake, and chill. Add 2 Tbs instant espresso coffee to cream and prepare bittersweet chocolate cream with Tia Maria and chill. Whip chilled cream, spoon or pipe into crust, and decorate the rim with chocolate coffee beans. Chill.

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