Where’s your happy place?
You know, the place you go to on a crappy Tuesday morning, with the week stretching ahead of you; long and unrelenting. The place you’d rather be?
One of mine is, without question, Margaret River.
I spent a lot of time there as a kid, so it’s full of those really awesome happy memories and life lessons. I learnt that snakes are afraid of loud noises. So are chickens, and will attack you if startled. I learnt that no, walking on fire is not easy (to be fair, my brother learnt that lesson, I just encouraged him). I learnt that you don’t let someone with short term memory loss hide the Easter eggs for the egg hunt. And once I was old enough, I learnt that wine is amazing. Hangovers, not so much.
I was lucky enough to head back to Margs with Where the Wind Blows Her, Col Panna and Carolanne’s Kitchen. There’s nothing better than going on a holiday with people who share you interests. Namely being: eating, eating, wine, eating, wine, eating, nap, eating. And buying things. Priorities. I haz dem.
It’s hard to pick from all the great treats and tidbits I got to nibble on while I was there – An incredible tasting plate at the Berry Farm, Berry mojitos over lunch, mead made from local honey, pâté from the Venison Farm. But I think my favourite find of this trip was Bahen & Co. Chocolate. I met Josh at the farmers markets, quietly explaining his process of how he makes chocolate. He doesn’t have a fancy stall, or a sales pitch – he doesn’t need one. His chocolate is that good. You may be aware of the concept of single origin coffee? Well, his chocolate kind of works the same way. From bean to bar, there are only two ingredients. Cocoa beans and a little cane sugar. That’s it. Oh, and it’s all made in a 100 year old machine. That he brought back from Spain, if I recall. You know, as you do. When he’s not hanging out with cannibals, of course.
I came home with all of the 4 kinds of chocolate on offer, but my absolute favourite was the salted chocolate and almond. So in one of my ‘It’s-Friday-night-and-I-have-nothing-else-to-do’ baking sessions… I set about recreating that kind of awesomeness in a ganache tart.
Salted Chocolate and Almond Tart
For the crust:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, halved, seeds scraped, bean reserved
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
For the ganache:
500g dark chocolate, good quality dark chocolate
200g unsalted butter, chopped
Sea salt flakes (not table salt)
A couple of really good cracks of fresh black pepper
1/4 cup flaked almonds
Sea salt, to garnish
Heat the oven to 180°C.
Combine butter, sugar, vanilla seeds, and salt in a bowl and mix until incorporated. Add flour and mix until a dough forms.
Roll out the dough gently and press into the bottom and sides of a tart pan with a removable bottom.
Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes. Once cold, prick all over with a fork. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.
Spread flaked almonds on to a baking tray. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Set aside.
To make the ganache: Break up the chocolate in a bowl. In a small pan over medium heat, bring the cream up to an almost-but-not-quite boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and stir until smooth and glossy. Crack the black pepper over the chocolate, and then add the sea salt a teaspoon at a time. Now, I haven’t provided a measurement for the salt, because everyone’s tastes are different. You do want to be able to taste the salt though, so don’t be afraid!
Pour ganache evenly over tart shell and spread with a knife.
Refrigerate, overnight if you can. Just before you serve, sprinkle with toasted almonds and sea salt flakes.
Now, it might sound a little weird that I’ve given the ganache a liberal crack of black pepper. But when you think about it, salt and pepper do wonders to bring out flavours and just add an extra kick to savoury foods – so why wouldn’t work with sweet ones? Let me tell you, it’s a trick I’m keeping up my sleeve from here on in.