I gave in. I made heart shaped baked goods.
I got these little heart shaped tart tins from my housemate Sarah for Christmas and this seemed like the perfect time to whip them out. I halved the original recipe but if you don't happen to have two smaller tins (or a tin about 15 cm diameter) then double the recipe and use a 24 cm one.
I don't celebrate Valentines with my boyfriend (who, incidentally, doesn't ever really get mentioned on here despite having been with me nearly as long as this blog has. I suppose I'm quite a private person about such things.) and so I wasn't intending to post anything about it. But somehow those tins came out of the cupboard and here I am.
So instead of celebrating Valentines as a massive romantic couple-only event I'm going to think of it as just a day to reflect on all the people you love. Friends and family as well as partners. To this end I took these tarts to a dinner with a group of friends last night. I showed my mum on skype and made her really quite jealous. I saved a piece for a certain someone too.
But also, dear reader, these tarts are for you. (Don't get me wrong, not in a creepy way. No stalkers please - except if you are Rachel or Rosie of Dream Team fame, of course).
Seriously, though. Every sweet comment or wish for my future warms my heart. I'm not always the most confident of people and your support has made it so much easier to come out with something so delicate as a dream for the future. My nerves don't jangle when I now tell someone I'm heading to pastry school. I just get a buzz of excitement.
This recipe comes from my favourite chocolate book, 'Adventures with Chocolate' by Paul A. Young. Another time I'll reduce the salt as it's a bit overpowering for my taste. Otherwise, these are gorgeous. The praline is addictive and so much fun to make. The filling is silky smooth and intense. The pastry is a bit of a pain to deal with but the way it crumbles works in contrast to the creamy insides.
Sea-Salted Chocolate and Pecan Praline Heart Tarts
(barely adapted from Paul A. Young's Adventures with Chocolate)
For the pastry:
38g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
125g plain flour
17 ml cold water
Cream the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon or in a food processor. Add the egg yolk and water and mix until all the liquid is incorporated. Add the flour and cocoa powder a tbsp at a time until it forms a thick uniform paste. Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 1 hour (I chilled mine overnight).
Sprinkle a work surface with flour and start rolling the pastry out as one if you're doing one big tart or in halves for two smaller ones. Roll it out until it's bigger than your tin then transfer and press into the tin. Slice off any excess bits and put in the fridge to firm up for about 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Scrunch up pieces of parchment and use them to line each tin then fill with baking beans. Bake for 8 minutes (12 for one tin, 20 for the doubled recipe) then remove the parchment and beans and bake for a further 5. Leave to cool.
For the filling:
100g best quality dark chocolate (Paul recommends 65% Madagascan)
100 ml double or whipping cream
100g light brown sugar
2.5g Maldon sea salt (I'm going to use 1g next time)
Put all the ingredients into a mixing bowl then set over a pan of boiling water. Turn the heat down as low as it will go and then stir until smooth and melted. Pour into the cold baked tart cases and put into the fridge to set for 2 hours.
For the topping:
50g white caster or granulated sugar
1/2 tsp Maldon sea salt
50g pecan halves
Cut a square of parchment and put it near your hobs on a safe surface. Heat the sugar in a small saucepan until it melts and caramelises (have a look at this if you're unsure about making caramel). When it gets to a deep gold, add the salt and stir well. Pour in the pecans and stir quickly making sure they're evenly coated. Pour onto the parchment and spread out. Leave to cool totally then break or chop into shards and top the tarts with it.
(Makes two 12cm tarts - serves about 6)