Now of course you all know that chocolat = chocolate, but it’s Easter and I’m running out of words!
So, chocolat, masculine noun (le chocolat, un chocolat, des chocolats) = chocolate, and I don’t think I even have to tell you how to pronounce it.
The name of a famous film, Chocolat; chocolat noir = dark chocolate; chocolat blanc = white chocolate; chocolat amer = bitter chocolate; chocolat chaud = hot chocolate; chocolat à cuire = cooking chocolate; chocolat au lait = milk chocolate; it’s also a colour of course, as it is in English.
Also a couple of expressions: être chocolat = to just miss something, or to have been “had” (cheated).
Pas de bras, pas de chocolat = literally no arms, no chocolate. Originally a silly joke, it has found its way into everyday French, when one wants nicely to make fun of a physical impossibility (if someone can’t reach something, for instance) or to highlight a ridiculous or absurd rule forbidding one to do something. It was taken up in very literal fashion in the recent film Intouchables (which you must see if you haven’t already).
My recipe for Easter (a little late you may say, but you can actually enjoy this at any time of year) is a chocolate coated tarte aux noix (walnut tart), which is a speciality of Sarlat in the Dordogne region of south-western France. This is my version, which, I have to say, cannot really be compared with the fantastic ones to be bought in that lovely town, but when you are nowhere near Sarlat, you have to do your own.
For 6 people you will need :
- One quantity of shortcrust pastry, see method below.
- 200gr of shelled walnuts
- 90gr sugar
- 3 eggs
- 20cl liquid cream
- 130gr of dark cooking chocolate
- 30gr butter
First make your shortcrust pastry (pâte brisée) - you can buy it of course, but it is easy to make, better, and cheaper than any bought version. These quantities make enough for a 20cm tart dish. Increase everything (including filling) if yours is bigger. (You can make a sweeter pâte sablée if you prefer.)
Put 125gr plain flour into the food processor bowl, add 100gr of cold butter cut into small pieces, salted or unsalted, makes no difference, plus a pinch of salt. Pulse till you can see no large pieces of butter. Add very cold water gradually, a tablespoonful at a time, pulsing very briefly, until your pastry forms a ball. The less you pulse at this stage, the lighter your pastry will be. Remove from the bowl and flour the outside of the ball. Leave to rest for 30mns or so (this will make it easier to roll out, less elastic).
Then pulse 150gr of your walnut halves in the food processor (no need to wash out the bowl between operations). Keep the remaining 50gr for the garnish at the end. They should not be powdered, the texture should be crunchy, but neither should there be very large pieces left.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°.
Butter the tart dish.
In another fairly large bowl, beat the eggs and the sugar till they become pale yellow. Add the cream and the walnuts. Stir.
Roll out the pastry, and place the tart dish on top of it to see if you’ve rolled big enough. Lift one side of the pastry over the rolling pin to make it easier to place the pastry into the dish. Press the sides down well and trim the edges with a knife. Fill with the walnut/egg mixture and put into a hot oven for 25-30 minutes.
Meanwhile break the chocolate into squares, and put in a non stick saucepan (or double boiler if you wish) with the butter and a tbs liquid cream if you have any left over (if you don’t, doesn’t matter). Stir to melt over low heat. This mixture MUST NOT boil. If you are not sure of yourself, use a double boiler. Remove from the heat when there are no more lumps in the chocolate.
Remove the tart from the oven, and spread a thin layer of the chocolate mixture (ganache) over the top of your tart with a palette knife or similar. It should be smooth and about 2mm thick. More and it will be very rich. Garnish with half a dozen walnut halves around the edges and four in the middle, taken from the remaining 50gr. Leave to cool (this will take an hour or so) and then pop it in the fridge to set properly.
A word of warning: as you can see from the photos above, I put too much filling into the tart dish and it rose nicely above the level of the pastry. And for once, it didn’t sink when out of the oven. So when I came to spread the chocolate on top, it ran down the edges a bit, which is not very aesthetic, nor is it practical when cutting portions later. The tart should in fact be flat and slightly below the level of the pastry edging. Oh well, nobody’s perfect…
Happy Easter – Joyeuses Pâques - and bon appétit!