The tart base is French pie pastry, a pie crust enriched with egg yolks that bakes to a delectable, deep golden brown. It's filled with a combination of peanut butter mousse and chocolate, evoking the flavors of a certain familiar candy. Cream cheese transforms the mousselike filling into an absolutely sublime confection that is perfectly counterbalanced with a layer of silky-smooth bittersweet chocolate ganache.
You'll need an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
Make Ahead: The disk of tart dough needs to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes; the rolled-out dough in the pan needs to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. The tart can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Yield: Makes one 11-inch tart
- For the crust
- 2 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 large egg yolks
- 5 to 6 tablespoons ice water
- For the filling
- 8 ounces chilled regular or low-fat cream cheese (do not use nonfat)
- 1 cup smooth peanut butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- Pinch fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- For the ganache
- 6 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch fine sea salt
For the crust: Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the butter. Process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the egg yolks and pulse to incorporate.
With the processor on pulse, add the ice water a tablespoon at a time. Pulse until the mixture holds together as a soft, but not crumbly or sticky, dough; you might not need all of the water. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm and evenly moist, about 30 minutes.
Lightly flour a clean work surface and rolling pin. Starting in the center of the dough, roll out to, but not over, the upper edge of the dough. Return to the center, and roll down to, but not over, the edge closest to you. Lift the dough, giving it a quarter turn, and lay it on the work surface. Continue rolling, repeating the quarter turns, until you have a dough round that's about 12 inches wide.
Drape the dough over the rolling pin for transfer to the tart pan. Use one hand to lift the pastry, supporting it with the other hand so the dough does not stretch. Let it settle into the bottom of the tartlet pan. Run the rolling pin over the top edges of the pan, which will trim away any excess dough. Shape a small piece of that excess dough into a ball; use this ball to press and shape the tart dough in the pan. Use the tines of a fork to prick the bottom of the dough all over. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
To blind bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Crumple a piece of parchment paper, then lay it out flat over the bottom of the pastry. Weight the paper with pie weights, dried beans or uncooked rice; this will keep the unfilled pastry from puffing up in the oven.
Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the parchment paper and weights. (You can reuse the rice or beans for blind-baking a number of times.) Return the tart crust to the oven and bake for 5 to 10 minutes or until a deep golden brown. Transfer it (in the tart pan) to a wire rack to cool. Then, as an added measure, place it in the freezer while you prepare the filling. (The tart shell must be quite cold, or the filling will melt.)
While the crust is cooling, make the filling: Beat the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer for 1 to 2 minutes on medium speed, until smooth. Stop to scrape down the bowl, then add the peanut butter, sugar and sea salt. Beat on medium-high speed for about 30 seconds, until lightened and fluffy. Stop to scrape down the bowl, then add the vanilla extract and heavy cream. Beat on medium speed until well incorporated.
Spoon into the chilled, baked crust, using an offset spatula to make sure the filling is spread as evenly as possible. Freeze until quite firm, about 30 minutes.
This next step is optional and a bit fussy, but it will result in a perfectly even layer of ganache. Lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the well-chilled, filled tart. Use the flat bottom of a dry measuring cup or glass to smooth and press the mousse until it is as flat and even as possible. Return to the freezer while you make the ganache.
For the ganache: Place the chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, then pour it over the chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute, then use a rubber spatula to stir, forming a smooth and creamy ganache. (Do not stir vigorously; you don't want to incorporate air bubbles.) Stir in the vanilla extract and sea salt.
Pour the ganache on top of the chilled filling. Tilt the tart, allowing the chocolate to flow over the surface to the edge of the crust until the filling is evenly and completely covered. (Try not to use a spatula so that the ganache will be shiny and smooth.) Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.
When ready to serve, run the blade of a chef's knife under hot water, then wipe it dry; this will help you cut clean slices. As you cut the tart, wipe the knife on a clean kitchen towel between making each cut, reheating and drying your knife as needed.
Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
From French-trained Southern cookbook author and cooking instructor Virginia Willis.
Tested by Jeffrey Donald.
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