I cannot describe how much I love this dessert. I first made it about 5 years ago at a restaurant I had just started working at. Pastry work is not my forte and I will admit I was a little nervous, but I persisted and the first one turned out OK and they just got better from there.

The moral of the story? Well this is not an easy dessert to knock together, but it is definitely not unachievable if you are keen and have a few hours to while away in the kitchen, and if you are out to impress, you can do a lot worse. It is a special occasion dessert par excellence.

What makes it so special is the multiple layers, giving a delightful synergy of richness and texture. The filling is a rich, yet light chocolate cake, topped off with a decadent chocolate ganache (chocolate icing), but the key lies with the toffee. Sandwiched between the pastry and filling is a crunchy filigree of toffee that prevents the pastry from going soggy and adding textural interest at the same time.

Ingredients

Pastry
  • 250 gm (8 oz) plain flour
  • 150 gm (5 oz) chilled unsalted butter
  • 1 free range egg
  • Chilled water
    Filling
  • 200 gm (6½ oz) good quality chocolate
  • 200 gm (6½ oz) unsalted butter
  • 300 gm (9½ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 100 gm (3 oz) plain flour
  • 6 free range eggs
  • 100 gm (3 oz) caster sugar, extra
    Topping
  • 150 gm (5 oz) good quality chocolate
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) cream, 35 % butterfat

    Method

    Start with the pastry. Cut the butter into dice and place into a food processor with the flour. Quickly pulse together until the mix has a sandy texture. Pulse in the egg and if the pastry has not formed a ball add small amounts of iced water with the motor running until it comes together. This can be done without a food processor, just rub the butter into the flour with your hands until well combined, then place on your kitchen bench. Make a well in the centre, crack in the egg and kneed together, adding water if necessary. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least an hour.

    For the filling, place the chopped chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl and set over a pot of gently simmering water. As this is melting, beat the eggs and sugar in a bowl until the mix is pale and fluffy. Stir the melted chocolate mix into the egg mixture. Gently fold in the flour and set aside.

    Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (360°F). Take the pastry from the fridge and if it is too hard to roll, let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes. Roll out on a floured workbench, trying to keep it evenly thin. Line a 28 cm (8 inch) fluted tart ring, preferably with a removable base, with the pastry and trim off any excess. Use this excess pastry to gently press the tart shell into place. Put back in the fridge for another half an hour. All this resting will (hopefully) reduce the pastry shrinking when you bake it.

    Take the tart shell from the fridge and cover with tin foil. Pour pastry weights on top (you can use rice or dried beans) to stop the pastry from puffing up. Place in the oven for about 20 minutes, then take out and remove the weights and foil. Return to the oven for a further 10 -15 minutes, until the pastry is golden and cooked through.

    Place the extra sugar into a small saucepan with 60 ml (¼ cup) water and set over high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, stop stirring and let cook to a golden caramel. Immediately remove from the heat and pour half into the tart shell. Working quickly, pick up the tart shell and turn around on an angle until the toffee has covered the base, using extra caramel as required. You only have a few seconds before the toffee starts to set, so speed is of the essence in this step. Once the toffee has cooled and set, pour in the chocolate filling and return to the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the filling has set.

    Cool the tart completely, then melt together the topping ingredients. When melted pour on top of the tart and using the same technique as the toffee base, angle the tart around until the top is completely covered. Resist the temptation to use a spatula to smooth the chocolate down as this will result in a dull finish. Cool until the topping is set.

    This is a treat served with vanilla bean ice cream, but a slice on its own has never gone astray. The pastry and filling can be made up to 4 days in advance.
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