If there is one dish that has never missed a spot on dinner tables since the medieval times, it is the pie. In fact, the pie has been the defining dish of English cuisine. In the olden days, pies were mostly savoury, containing poultry, fish, and meat. Cooking game, encrusted in short-crust pastry was a particular favourite amongst the Anglican royalty. Henry VIII was famed for his voracious appetite – for both violence and food. Known to be a glutton, this Tudor monarch was particularly fascinated with pies. One such pie, a version of which still survives, was a herring pie. Eating meat was prohibited by the church during the period of Lent, hence fish was the only animal flesh that could be consumed. The herring pie also shared Henry’s love for the macabre as the fish were used whole, with their heads jutting out of the pie crust.
Over time, with the French tarte and Italian crostata making an entry into the English kitchen, pies became a sweet affair. The present day tart is a close cousin of the sweet pie – the only difference, tarts are open-faced pies, with no pastry crust covering the dish. Using alcohol to develop complexity in pie and tart fillings is an age-old practice. You must have tried several tarts which have alcohol in the filling, but how about a tart which includes alcohol in the accompanying crème anglaise? Presenting the Maple Nut Tart with Chocolate Whisky Mousse.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray the tart pan with cooking spray and set aside.
For the crust, place the hazelnuts, granulated sugar and graham crackers in a food processor and pulse until it looks like cornmeal. Add the butter, a little at a time, pulsing until the mixture comes together. Divide among the tart wells and press up the sides, making sure the crust is tightly packed.
For the filling, in a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar, vanilla bean paste, salt and eggs. Add the bacon grease and maple syrup; mix to combine. Stir in the hazelnuts and pecans.
Sprinkle the bacon into the tart shells and pour the syrup mixture over the bacon. Bake until set, about 25 minute. Let cool.
For the mousse, combine the cream, confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, bourbon, vanilla bean paste, cream cheese and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip until light and fluffy. Taste and add more cocoa powder if needed.
Pop the cooled tarts out of the pan and place on individual plates. Spoon the mousse into small dishes, garnish with chocolate curls and mint leaves, and serve on the side.
The French are ever so elegant in their ways.
“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” - Charles M.