When I was traveling, people were always asking me where I was from, and whenever I said "I'm from Texas," there was always some spark of recognition and excitement.
Saying you are from Texas is not like saying you are from North Dakota.
It's just not.
It was the best when someone who happened to be French asked, because their eyes would light up and they'd say something like, "OH! TEXAZZZ!" Before making finger guns and asking me about horses and cowboys and Chuck Norris.
So while I was so far away from home, I fell in love with the with the pie-making, porch-sitting, beer-drinking, no bullshit, music-loving, Tex-Mex-eating, lonestar, cowgirl, wildflower piece of myself.
A piece of me I didn't even know I had.
I fell in love with the vastness and vulgarity of Texas from a thousand miles away.
The poet Charles Bukowski wrote:
“Texas women are always
healthy, and besides that she’s
cleaned my refrigerator, my sink,
the bathroom, and she cooks and
feeds me healthy foods
and washes the dishes
And I know and love this now as well.
I am home now.
I've been lying in the hammock some, drinking pots of coffee, walking the dog.
And then, on Tuesday, suddenly, I was ready to be in the kitchen again.
The first time I actually felt like being in the kitchen in over a year.
So I baked a chocolate tart. Which was not Texan at all, but French--because the world is topsy turvy like that sometimes, and it is possible to crave Tex-Mex when in France and French food when back in Texas.
And while I pressed the tart dough into the pan, I thought about Paris.
I thought about Paris, and how the only real way to understand a city, is to walk through it.
But mostly I thought about all the people, who made the past few months a sort of miracle.
Roberto told me, that if you want to cook, you have to cook with "the love."
And that it's cooking with "the love" that gives food the real flavor.
So I thought about Paris. And I thought about Texas.
But mostly, I thought about you.
This tart is one of the best I've ever, ever made.
Tarte Noire (chocolate tart)
from Dorie Greenspan's From My Home to Yours
Another thing, is that this tart is stupidly simple, and very, very sexy. Even if you can barely bake, this tart is unbelievably doable, if a bit time consuming. Additionally, for the chocolate ganache, it is imperative that you use the highest quality baking chocolate.
For the Filling
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough (recipe below)
Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and have a whisk or a rubber spatula at hand.
Bring the cream to a boil, then pour half of it over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seonds. Working with the whisk or spatula, very gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles, starting at the center of teh bowl and working your way out in increasingly larger concentric circles. Pour in the remainder of the cream and blend it into the chocolate, using the same circular motion. When the ganache is smooth and shiny, stir in the butter piece by piece. Don't stir the ganache any more than you must to blend the ingredients-- the less you work it, the darker, smoother and shinier it will be. (The ganache can be used now, refrigerated or even frozen for later.)
Pour the ganache into the crust and, holding the pan with both hands, gently turn the pan from side to side to even the ganache.
Refrigerate the tart for 30 minutes to set the ganache, then remove the tart from the fridge and keep it at room temperature until serving time.
Sweet Tart Dough
NB: Don't roll the tart dough out, simply press it into the pan and save yourself much time and angst.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confections' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in-- you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses-- about 10 seconds each-- until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change-- heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press teh dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don't be too heavy handed, press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
To fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 F.
Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (Watch it though, to make sure it doesn't get too golden brown.)