Chocolate-Ginger Tartlets for Valentine's Day. (See recipe below)
When it comes to Valentine's Day, the human population seems to divide in two camps: the advocates of the all-out ritual of flowers, gift and restaurant, and the fierce opponents, who feel it's all consumerist hogwash.
Clotilde Dusoulier is the 25-year-old Parisienne behind the popular food blog Chocolate & Zucchini, where she writes about all things edible. She is now working on a cookbook.
In Paris, while we are copiously showered with red hearts, special offers and not-so-subtle nudges to go out and buy stuff, most people I know -- boy or girl -- seem to adopt a certain smirky attitude towards the occasion ("Romantique, who, me? Sheesh!"). Chances are you'll find those very same people waiting in line at the florist's or looking suitably smitten at the restaurant table next to yours.
I like to celebrate Valentine's Day simply because I believe there can’t be too many occasions to say sweet things to those we love -- or too many occasions to eat chocolate.
The way I mark the occasion changes from year to year depending on my general mood and how insistently life decides to get in the way, but I think the most romantic thing you can do is cook for your darling. Or better yet with your darling, provided you two can actually breathe the same kitchen air without wanting to throttle each other with an oven mitt.
The menu doesn’t have to be anything fancy (the candles and the little black dress will take care of that), just something a little different, to show you've put some thought in it. This year I'm going to cook a Thai dish, probably a green curry, because it's a path I seldom explore and one that my favorite dining companion will particularly enjoy.
And I'll end this Valentine's dinner on an indulgent note with these Chocolate and Candied Ginger Tartlets, a recipe I was inspired to create this year. It features a chocolate ganache filling, lying voluptuously in a shell of shortcrust pastry. Little pieces of candied ginger are hiding underneath this luscious blanket, ready to deliver the heat of their passion as you bite in.
Chocolate and ginger make for an exotic and surprising pairing. It is a favorite of mine, a taste I am happy to share with a few illustrious chocolate makers and pastry chefs -- Pierre Hermé has a delicious recipe for chocolate cake with apricots and ginger, and a signature dessert at Parisian restaurant La Table de Lucullus is a velvety chocolate cream, served with a scoop of fiery ginger ice cream.
Chocolate and ginger, a match made in heaven. Need I mention that both are reputed aphrodisiacs?
Tartelettes au Chocolat et Gingembre Confit
(Chocolate and Candied Ginger Tartlets for Two)
· 2 Tbsp. salted butter, room temperature
· 2 Tbsp. sugar
· 2/3 C. all-purpose flour
· a dash of milk
· 1/2 C. whipping-cream
· 2½ oz. dark chocolate
· 2 Tbsp. butter, room temperature, diced
· 3 Tbsp. candied ginger, finely diced -- a little more if you adore ginger, a little less if you want to keep it subtle (see notes at the end of the recipe)
Preheat the oven at 350°F. Butter two 4-inch individual tart tins.
Start by making the dough for the crust: In a medium mixing-bowl, combine the butter and sugar with a fork until well blended. Add the flour and keep beating with the fork. When the dough forms even dry crumbs, add in a dash of milk and quickly knead the dough with your hands to form a ball.
If the dough does not come together after about a minute, add in a tad more milk and knead again. The idea is to add the milk little by little so you can stop at as soon as the dough holds together. Try not to overwork the dough. If you have enough time, wrap in plastic-wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Divide the dough in two equal pieces, roll them out into circles (make it as thin as you can) and gently line the tart tins. You should have some dough left over -- you can refrigerate or freeze it and bake crisp little cookies some other time.
Prick the bottoms of the tart shells with a fork to prevent the dough from rising. Bake for ten to fifteen minutes or until golden brown. Keep a close eye on them. Turn out on a rack to cool completely.
Cut the ginger in small dice, and reserve two pretty pieces for garnish. Arrange the rest evenly on the bottom of the tart shells.
Prepare the ganache: Grate the chocolate finely and set aside in a medium mixing-bowl, along with the diced butter. In a small saucepan, bring the whipping-cream to a simmer. Pour half of it on the chocolate and butter, and whisk until completely melted with no lumps. Whisk in the rest of the cream little by little just until the ganache turns shiny and smooth (you may not need all of the cream).
Pour the ganache into the tart shells carefully and even out the surface with the back of a spoon. Top each tart with a reserved piece of ginger. Refrigerate for at least one hour, until completely set.
Take out of the fridge 15 minutes before serving. Ganache is very rich so I recommend serving these tartlets on their own, but you can also serve them with a dollop of yogurt.
Note 1: Candied ginger also goes by the name of crystallized ginger. It can be found in gourmet stores, in Oriental or Asian grocery stores, or in your supermarket's produce section.
Note 2: Not everyone loves ginger. If you think this may be the case for you or the person you will be sharing these with, or if you're unable to locate candied ginger, you will also have great results using candied orange peel, dried apricots or candied cherries.