No Ordinary Birthday Cake

Chocolate Tart with Mandarin Oranges and Toasted Almonds

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My Mother’s birthday was last week and my sister and I had decided to make her a fabulous dinner of grilled shrimp and our grandmother’s famous strawberry salad. But instead of the usual cake and candles I wanted to do something extra special that would incorporate some of my mom’s favorite things, chocolate and citrus. Now I must admit that I first created this while I was testing recipes for a cream cheese recipe contest. The tart did not turn out so delicious with the cream cheese in it but remove the cheese and you have perfection! A deeply rich chocolate tart incorporated with the crunch of almonds and a bite of orange to cut the richness.

Tart Shell

1 cup flour

½ cup almond flour

1 egg

¼ cup white sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cubed

Filling

8 oz dark chocolate, shaved

½ cup heavy cream

¼ cup Grand Marnier

1, 12 oz can of mandarin oranges, drained

¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted

Zest of 1 orange

Serves 10 to 12

 Directions:

Pre heat your oven to 350 degrees. Next, in a food processor mix the flour, almond flour, sugar and the cubed cold butter and pulse until it become like fine crumbs. Then add the egg and pulse a few more times. The dough will still be crumbly but that’s fine. Wrap the dough in some plastic wrap and allow it to rest in the fridge for thirty minutes. If you do not have a food processor just use a pastry cutter like I did. It’s a little more work but you get the same result.

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Once your dough is rested and cold unwrap it and place in on a floured cutting board. You may need to knead the dough a little to bring it together. Then start to slowly roll the dough out to fit a 9 inch tart pan about ¼ of an inch thick. If the dough cracks a little that’s fine you can always fix it once it’s in the pan.

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Place the dough into the tart pan and gently press around the edges filling any cracks or wholes with scrapes. Next, prick the bottom of the tart with a fork and pop it into the oven for 23 to 25 minutes until the tart becomes golden brown. Once it is finished cooking set it aside to cool completely.

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Now for the filling, first toast your almonds by placing them in a dry sauté pan on medium heat until they turn a light brown. Keep your eye on them, they can burn in a flash. Once the color is right set them aside to cool.

Next, place the cream and Grand Marnier in a small sauce pot. With the stove on low allow this to heat up but do not let it boil.

In the meantime we get to play with chocolate! Shave the chocolate into small chunks and place in a microwave safe bowl. Pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds, give it a stir and microwave for another 30 seconds. This should be enough time to partially melt the chocolate. Now pour over the hot cream and Grand Marnier let it stand for a minute then whisk it all together. It should be shiny and a rich dark color.

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Then, take the orange zest and gently toss it with the drained mandarin oranges. Now all that’s left is to assemble the tart.

Sprinkle the toasted almonds over the bottom of the tart shell then pour the gorgeous chocolate over using a spatula to spread it to the edges. Now taking one mandarin orange at a time, place them in a circle around the tart. Start with the outside circle then the inside circle. I like having the circles going in opposite directions.

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Once you have finished let the tart stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes or until the chocolate has firmed up a bit. You can also pop it in the fridge for about 15 minutes. When you’re ready to serve remove the tart from the ring mold and bottom of the pan slice into wedges and enjoy!

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The tart was a hit with my family especially my mom who gave up candles years ago. This also showed me to always be alert while playing around in the kitchen because you never know when you may have a drop of brilliance fall onto your plate. I have a feeling that this one will go into my kitchen repertoire for years to come.

P. S. if you have any leftover dough you can just wrap it up in plastic wrap and pop it in the freezer for later use.

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