This recipe was developed for Slow Food Santa Cruz.
We are flush with berries here on the Central Coast, and it’s been strawberry season for well over a month now. If you’re a local, you’ve eaten them fresh, out of hand. You’ve had them over yogurt, and in salads. Now, it’s time to get indulgent. With our local strawberries still at the peak of ripeness, make a Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Shortbread Tart. In this formulation, you will crown crisp, buttery shortbread with glistening strawberries, nestling them into a rich, dark chocolate ganache.
The strawberries used in developing this recipe are from Alba Organics. Alba stands for “Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association,” and the purpose of the association is to generate “opportunities for farm workers and limited-resource, aspiring farmers to grow and sell crops from two organic farms in Monterey County,” according to their website. They’re based in Watsonville, and their strawberries are fresh, deeply red, and sweet.
Now, for the tart. For the base, you’ll make a classic shortbread crust. Shortbread is so named because the butter (fat) coats the flour, preventing long gluten strands from forming. (Hence the “short” in “shortbread.”) The result is a crumbly, crispy, tender crust. To up the crispiness factor even further, see if you can find a good European butter. European butters have a higher fat content, (and correspondingly lower water content), than American butters.
Next, you’ll make a dark chocolate ganache, easily whisked together in the kitchen from just two ingredients, (dark chocolate and heavy cream). It adds a richly satisfying layer and colorful contrast above the shortbread crust.
You’ll arrange your strawberries within the tart, with their wide ends “dipped” into the ganache, and use warmed, thinned apricot jam to glaze your berries. The French term for this technique, common in pastry kitchens, is “nappage.” Not only will it add an attractive sheen to the fruit, the coating will help protect the fruit from oxidizing.
As with most recipes, especially those consisting of only a few simple ingredients, the quality of those ingredients will have a noticeable impact on your finished pastry. Seek out European butter, a good-quality dark chocolate of at least 70% cacao, and local strawberries at the peak of ripeness, and you will be rewarded with a rich and flavorful tart much greater than the sum of its parts.
- 8 ounces chilled, unsweetened butter (preferably European)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 ounces heavy cream
- 6 ounces dark chocolate
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh strawberries
- 1/2 cup apricot jam
- Juice of one Meyer lemon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Dice chilled butter.
- Work flour, sugar, salt, and butter together in a bowl with your hands until a large ball of dough forms, and no clumps of butter remain.
- Press chilled dough evenly into 11 in. tart pan, (patch any holes or tears with extra dough), to a thickness of ¼ inch. Press edges into an even rim with your fingers, so that the dough does not spill over the top of the tart pan.
- Dock the dough by pressing through it with the tines of a fork in several spots in the middle of the tart. (This helps prevent the unfilled crust from rising or bubbling in the middle while it bakes.)
- Bake at 350 degrees F until a light golden brown (approximately 30 minutes.)
- Leave tart shell to cool.
- Dice your dark chocolate into small pieces, no bigger than 1/2 inch square each.
- Place the diced chocolate in a bowl with room for whisking.
- Pour the heavy cream into a small pot and bring to a simmer.
- Once bubbling, pour over the chocolate pieces, and let sit for one minute.
- After a minute has passed, whisk vigorously. A smooth ganache will come together before your eyes.
- If chocolate chunks remain despite your best whisking efforts, set your bowl of ganache aside for a moment.
- Add some water to the pot you've just emptied of cream and bring the water to a boil.
- Set your bowl of ganache above it, completely sealing the pot with the bowl, to create a double boiler.
- Give it a minute for the steam from the boiling water underneath it to heat the bowl, and then whisk again, until your ganache is smooth.
- Pour the ganache evenly into the baked tart shell; spread flat if necessary.
- Wash and hull the strawberries; cut flat bottoms onto each of them on the stem side.
- Press strawberries, flat side down, into the ganache-filled tart shell. Start with the largest strawberries in the middle and fill the shell concentrically from there, leaving as little space as possible between the berries.
- Warm the apricot jam and lemon juice on the stove top until fluid. (If your jam has chunks of fruit that don't break down, strain it.)
- Brush lightly onto the strawberries with a pastry brush until all are glossy.
- To serve, slice the tart into 12 equal portions. (You may wish to accompany each slice with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream.)