When it comes to baking, cookies, cakes, brownies and bars are usually in my repertoire... not so much pastries. So when it was my turn to decide the Project Pastry Queen baking challenge this week, I wanted to step outside of my usual baking choices. These Texas Big Hairs Chocolate Hazelnut Meringue Tarts start out with a simple tart dough made with toasted hazelnuts, butter, powdered sugar, flour and Frangelico liqueur. If you ask me, anything with a little liqueur has to be good, right?!
After making the tart crust, it's filled with a rich and silky chocolate ganache. What's special about this ganache is that it's made with a vanilla bean, not the usual vanilla extract. If you can't get a vanilla bean, a great substitution is vanilla paste, which I used for the recipe. The ganache is placed into each tart crust and allowed to set. When I made these tarts, I added a few chopped hazelnuts into the tart crust before covering with the chocolate ganache for extra hazelnut flavor and texture.
Lastly, the meringue part of this recipe is the key to the tart's beautiful presentation. Egg whites and sugar are whisked over low heat and then whisked more in a stand mixer until stiff and shiny. The proper texture of the whisked meringues is key in order for the 'Texas Big Hairs' to really form properly. It's a little messy to work with since it's encouraged to use your fingertips to create the beautiful meringue peaks, but it's also a lot of fun and worth it!
Texas Big Hairs Chocolate Hazelnut Meringue Tarts
recipe from The Pastry Queen: Rebecca Rather
recipe from The Pastry Queen: Rebecca Rather
1/3 cup hazelnuts
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature + more for greasing pans
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons Frangelico liqueur
1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
To make the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. With your fingers, butter four 4 3/8-inch, 1-cup capacity tartlet pans, using about 1 generous tablespoon softened unsalted butter total.
Arrange the hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast them in the oven for 7-9 minutes, until golden brown and aromatic. (Alternatively, you can place them in a dry nonstick skillet and toast the hazelnuts on the stovetop.) Immediately gather the nuts in a kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove the skins. Chop the nuts and set aside.
Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix iin the Frangelico liqueur and salt. Gradually add the flour and combine on low speed until just incorporated. Add the hazelnuts and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator, divide into 4 equal portions, and press into the prepared pans, making sure the dough comes up to the top edge of the pans.
Bake 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes on racks. (Don't worry fi the tart bottoms look wrinkly.) At this point, the crusts can be cooled and stored in airtight containers for up to 2 days.
To make the ganache:
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the cream, butter, salt and vanilla bean. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and take out the vanilla beak halves. Using a paring knife, scrape out the vanilla pad's tiny black beans and add them to the cream mixture. Put the chopped chocolate in a large bowl and pour the hot cream over it. Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Spoon the ganache into the tart shells, dividing it evenly among them. Refrigerate the tarts at least 30 minutes, r until the ganache is set.
To make the meringue:
Set a large, perfectly clean metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. (I used the bowl of my stand mixer.) Pour in the egg whits and sugar. (Note: if there is a trace of fat in the bowl, the eggs won't reach their proper volume.) Heat the egg whites and sugar while whisking constantly until the sugar melts and there are no visible grains in the meringue. Take a little meringue mixture and rub it between your fingers to make sure all the sugar grains have melted and dissolved. Remove the meringue from over the simmering water and ship it with a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment on low speed for 5 minutes; then increase the speed to high and whisk for 5 more minutes, until the meringue is stiff and shiny.
Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the broiler. Pile the meringue on top of the cooled tarts, being sure to seal each tart by spreading teh meringue to the edge of the pan. Style the meringe with your fingers by plucking at it to tease the meringue into jagged spikes. (For those who don't like the hands on approach, shape the meringue with the back of a spoon.)
Broil the tarts until the meringue turns golden brown, about 1 minute. Watch the tarts carefully, as they can turn from browned to burned in a matter of seconds. (If you are using a kitchen torch, hold it 2-3 inches away from the meringue until it is browned all over.) The tarts should be served the day they are assembled.
It was a lot of fun selecting and preparing this week's PPQ baking challenge. Hopefully others who tried this recipe enjoyed it as much as we did. Be sure to take a peek at fellow PPQer's to see how their recipe came out!