Published November 1, 2004.
This holiday tart is a winner, as long as the star ingredients sing in harmony, not discord.
Considering the natural affinity of its main ingredients, a chocolate caramel walnut tart would seem a hard recipe to botch. Forced to share space in a slim tart shell, however, this trio doesn't always live in harmony. Some tart recipes relegate the walnuts to a mere garnish and sprinkle them over chilled chocolate fillings with textures that run the gamut from soft pudding to cold butter. Other recipes place the nuts at the fore, but these are simply uptown knockoffs of pecan pie; any real walnut flavor is buried beneath a gooey flow of corn syrup-based filling, and the chocolate seems an afterthought.
Starting with a prebaked shell, we wanted a layer of walnuts draped with soft caramel topped with a smooth layer of rich, dark chocolate--firm enough to slice neatly but neither dense nor overpowering.
A modified pâte sucrée was the launch pad. Adding ground nuts to boost the flavor necessitated a reduction in the amount of butter (to account for the lesser quantity of flour and the extra fat from the ground walnuts). Form-fitting the dough into the tart pan by hand helped the shape, and substituting half an egg white for cream produced a crisp crust with sharp, sturdy edges. The other half of the egg white went to brushing the crust for extra crispness. A soft and gooey caramel-walnut filling, with an egg-lightened layer of chocolate ganache baked (rather than chilled) on top, made for a rich pie. After baking, a three-hour chill firms the caramel layer. Caramel-coated walnuts garnish triumphantly.list of recipes