Chocolate Fruit and Nut Tarts

Is it spring yet where you live?  It’s finally starting here and I can hardly wait to spend more time outdoors.  It feels almost like crawling out of a cave, this end of a long, dark, cold winter.  But now the grass is green and the birds are singing and little shoots of flowers and leaves are appearing everywhere.  I felt a need for a very special treat (for no particular reason) and these tarts are the result.  They are fashioned after my husband’s favorite candy bar, the Fruit and Nut bar from Cadbury.  I have taken buttery pastry and made individual tarts, filled them with whisky-soaked raisins and toasted almonds, then covered the fruit and nuts with decadent chocolate ganache.  These are actually a result of some leftover ingredients from the Easter weekend.  I always have pastry in the freezer and there was just enough from my pie-making project to make these four little tarts.  If you have good-quality chocolate and some heavy cream, you are only minutes away from a perfect ganache filling.  As for the fruit and nuts, use whatever you have on hand.  Pecans and dried cherries, hazelnuts and currants, or walnuts and dried plums would all make terrific fruit-nut tarts.

Chocolate Fruit and Nut Tarts
(makes four 4-inch tarts)
Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Chop coarsely:
A heaping 1/4 cup unblanched almonds
Toast the almonds in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes.  Set aside to cool.  In a small bowl toss together:
A heaping 1/4 cup dark raisins
1 tablespoon whisky (or liqueur of your choice)
Allow the raisins to soak while you prepare the tart shells and ganache.  Roll out thinly:
Tart or pie pastry, sufficient for a small, single crust shell.
Line four 4-inch, loose -bottom tarts shells with the pastry and place in the freezer to chill for 10 minutes.  When the tart shells are chilled, cover each with a parchment circle and fill with pie weights or dried beans.  Place in the oven and bake, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the edges are set and beginning to brown.  Remove from the oven and carefully lift out the parchment papers.  Return the tart shells to the oven for an additional 5 to 8 minutes to finish baking.  The pastry needs to be completely cooked before the filling is added to the tarts.  Set aside to cool.  Place in a medium, heatproof bowl:
6 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Heat to boiling, in a small saucepan, or in a microwavable measuring cup:
4 ounces heavy cream.
Pour the cream over the chopped chocolate and tap the bowl gently on the counter top to settle the ingredients.  Let stand for a few minutes; then start stirring the mixture, slowly, in a circular fashion from the center of the bowl, until the chocolate and cream are combined and smooth.  Add to the bowl:
1 tablespoon softened, unsalted butter
1 tablespoon whisky (or liqueur of your choice)
Stir gently to combine the ingredients, and let cool just a little.  To assemble the tarts:  Sprinkle each baked tart shell with about a tablespoon each of the chopped almonds and raisins.  Carefully pour the ganache over the fruit and nuts to fill each tart.  Tap the shells gently to settle the ganache, then make a decorative swirl on the surface of each tart.  (You may have a spoonful or two of ganache leftover, make a few truffles for a cook’s treat).  Let the tarts stand, at room temperature, until the ganache filling has firmed somewhat, then serve, with a little ice cream, if you like.



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