Chocolate Ganache Tartlettes with Pistachio and Goji Berry

I can convince myself of anything.  The power of personal persuasion is really my forte, and leads to such interesting conclusions as:

  • It’s okay that I haven’t stepped on the treadmill in 4 months, because I wear heels all day at work and that totally counts as working out the calves.
  • If I pour a splash of cranberry juice into my vodka sodas it will reduce the risk of bladder infections, so chin chin!
  • Everybody does Google searches on themselves.  This is totally normal.  Google image searches, obviously, are part of the package.
  • Bite sized tarts which are made with dark chocolate, nuts, and antioxidant rich goji berries are practically a health food.

Goji berries are currently being touted as the new big Superfood, which would have a bit more credence with me if I gave a quack and a half about food trends (note: maybe a third of a quack, but that’s about it).  If you haven’t enjoyed dried goji berries before they have a taste that is reminiscent of unsweetened dried Japanese plums – not as tart as cranberry, not as sweet as dried cherries, but they would make a good substitute for either.  For such a wee nub the texture is quite chewy; they’re denser and drier than what North Americans are used to for dried fruits like raisins….unless we’re talking about the open bag of raisins which have apparently been languishing in the back of my pantry for the last 11 months, and which I was lucky enough to find when they tipped over and a shower of brown pebbles came hailing down into my hair.  I really need to organize my cupboard space, but in the mean time if I happen to post a raisin recipe in the next few weeks just avoid eye contact and walk away whistling.

Getting back to the tarts, however, the pate sucré crust is almost cookie like.  Filled with crunchy green nuts, chewy red berries, and smooth, rich chocolate, these are practically begging to be made at Christmas!  And who am I to turn a tart down?  Especially a tart with heart healthy dark chocolate and goji berries.  With each bite I like to imagine the Health Fairy swoops in to brush a couple of years of smoking and drinking off of my personal record.  Well, until the Reality Fairy appears in a puff of smoke and stands there with his arms crossed, staring at me with raised eyebrows and an expression of cold disappointment.  God, the Reality Fairy can be a real jerk sometimes and he always leaves me feeling guilty and a little bit depressed.  Oh well.  You know what always helps ME when I’m feeling depressed?  Eating chocolate ganache tarts.

Chocolate Ganache Tartlettes with Pistachio and Goji Berry

Makes appx 4 dozen tiny little tarts

Pastry:

  • 3.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
  • 2 tbsp orange blossom water *
  • 5 tbsp fresh orange juice (from 1 large navel orange)
  • 6-8 tbsp ice cold water

Tart Filling:

  • 1.75 cups shelled pistachio
  • 1 cup dried goji berries **
  • 8 oz semi-sweet dark chocolate
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream (35%)
  • 2 tbsp cognac, optional

* No orange blossom water?  You can substitute with your favorite orange liqueur, like Grand Marnier or Cointreau.  Or…more orange juice.  I suppose you could do that too, although my push will always be to nudge you towards the liquor cabinet because I am nothing if not an enabler.

** If you cannot find goji berries either a dried cranberry or cherry would be a nice substitute.

Before you start on the pastry make sure that your fats (shortening and butter) are ice cold.  I keep shortening in my freezer, possibly because I don’t use it that often, and it cuts in to the flour easily.  You don’t want the butter to be totally frozen or it’s going to be hard on your food processor, but if you put it in the freezer for 15 minutes before you start baking you will see a great improvement in your pastry….which I can say as someone who spent years scratching her head over chewy pie dough and wondering what kind of a masochist would choose “Pastry Chef” as a career when there were more fulfilling jobs to be had in fields such as Septic Tank Pumping or Bio-hazardous Waste Disposal. Cold fats + light hands = less stress.

Measure the flour, sugar and salt into the bowl of your food processor and pulse it several times.  This is my lazy way of “sifting”, or aerating the flour.

Cut the butter and shortening into small cubes and add them to the bowl of your food processor.

Pulse the mixture in 5-6 intervals of about 1 second each until the mixture looks crumbly but not too fine.

Continue pulsing as you pour in the freshly squeezed orange juice, orange blossom water, and the first 7 tablespoons of ice water.  The  mixture should be starting to come together and clumping.  Add the additional 1-2 tablespoons of ice water if necessary.

Divide the dough into two equal parts.  Press each half into a flat round disc and wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour before rolling it out.

When the dough is chilled you can flour your board or work surface.  Dust flour on top of the pastry as well to prevent sticking when you begin to work it.  Roll the dough out evenly until it is a scarce 1/8″ thick. Use a round cookie cutter to cut circles of dough that are just big enough to fit into your mini muffin or tart pans.  I would give you the size, but “mini” pans can vary so enormously.  In my kitchen alone I have two different sizes.  For the smaller of my mini treat pans I used a 2.5″ round cookie cutter, and for the larger ones I used a 3″.

Gently press the pastry rounds into the bottom of the mold and up along the sides.  Prick the bottom and sides of the dough with a fork. Set the prepared pastry back to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes, or in the freezer for 15.

In the mean time, preheat your oven to 375ºF.

Coarsely chop the shelled pistachios and goji berries.

Bake the tart shells for 11-13 minutes (more if your mini muffin pans aren’t quite so mini) until they’re just starting to turn golden and are pulling slightly away from the pan around the edges. Let the shells cool for about 5 minutes before filling each one with a small spoonful of the chopped goji and pistachio.  You will have used approximately 1/2 of what you chopped.

Finely chop the chocolate until it is in manageable shards.  Heat the cream over medium heat until it is scalding but has not come to a boil.  In a heat proof bowl, pour the cream over the chocolate and swirl it around.

Stir the chocolate gently for about 5 minutes until it has melted into the cream and looks smooth and glossy.  Pour in the cognac, if you’re using it, and mix to combine.

Spoon a small amount of the chocolate over the fruit and nut mixture in each shell, filling the pastry but making sure that it does not overflow and leak out.  While the chocolate is still warm and tacky sprinkle the remaining pistachio and goji berry mixture on top of each tartlette, like Christmas confetti.

Okay, so maybe it’s the cognac (“what do you mean 1/2 cup is too much for the ganache?  Whoops – poured it anyway, hehe.  Okay, 2 tablespoons then, and I suppose that I’ll have to think of *something* to do with the rest….”) which has me feeling slightly more joyous about this Christmas.  Or, maybe it’s the fact that I finally had reason to use a ridiculous Christmas Tree serving platter that I despise for it’s “one festivity” usefulness (a rationale which most certainly does not apply to my Hallowe’en accoutrement, thank you very  much, because I use those year round).  But no, I think it has more to do with chocolate and tiny little treats that are small enough to be quickly stuffed in your mouth without drawing any unwanted attention to your eating habits.

Next stop on the Holiday Baking Train:  honeyed pine nut bars.  Toot toot!!

 

 

  • Umme Kulsum

    Those look great…and I have come to believe now that you have a thing about clicking atleast one picture of sweet treats piled upwards!

  • http://kopiaste.org Ivy

    These tarts look so cute and scrumptious. Love anything with pistachios in it.

  • http://www.aperfectversionofmyself.wordpress.com Tara

    Of course the Reality Fairy would be a man…..why did that never occur to me?

  • Stephanie

    Or the raisins they put in Raisin Bran…

  • http://www.erikorganic.com/dining-room/dining-table-round-pedestal.shtml pedestal tables

    These look great! These are perfect for buffet style parties where they can just pick it up whenever they want and have a nice and full snack to munch!

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Stephanie – I blush to say this, but I like those strange artificially dehydrated raisins with their creepy white coating and inability to soak up milk…..

    Tara – hahaha. Oh jeez, whenever somebody points something like that out it really makes me question exactly what kind of subconscious hold-ups I might have!!!

    Ivy – ME TOO!!!

    Umme Kulsum – girl, this is what happens when you’re someone who likes to cook but is rather devoid of aesthetic creativity. What does one do with cookies? Well, you can spread them on a platter. You can pile them vertically. Oh wait, but I have a great idea! Why not tie a ribbon around a stack because surely nobody has done that before? Sigh. I’ve given up on trying to present sweets with any grace.

  • Umme Kulsum

    Shutup !! those are as graceful as it gets…..piling upwards is just your trademark 😉

  • http://bruleeblog.wordpress.com bruleeblog

    I still have trouble with getting my head around sweet uses for goji berries. Growing up I only ever ate them in Chinese savory soups!

  • http://www.chocolateshavings.ca chocolate shavings

    I agree, wearing heels does count as a workout! Those little treats look delicious!