Dessert Elegance

The end of the year brings so many opportunities to dine well, entertain friends and loved ones, and end meal with a flourish. Whether you're hosting a gathering or bringing a dish to share elsewhere, the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day is filled with festivity. And when it's my turn to provide dessert, I like to make something decadent and filled with chocolate:

This tart is particularly well-suited to holiday entertaining. Not only can it be made in advance, it's actually the kind of dish that's better after a little time. What's more, if you make it exactly as stated, you can get some bonus pots de creme. I used small ramekins and had six of them set aside in my refrigerator for another event. So I baked once and got two different wonderful desserts:

But the tart itself is really the main event. An almond shortbread crust is filled with an amaretto-infused dark chocolate filling. And that filling gets part of its richness from - surprise! - pureed roasted butternut squash. I know everyone sings the praises of pumpkin, but I think it's too stringy and I love the texture and sweetness of butternut squash even more than pumpkin. I actually save my pumpkins for savory dishes and hollowing out to bake delicious things in instead.

Because this is such a rich dessert, you'll want to slice it nice and thin and serve it with your favorite festive beverages. Of course, coffee is lovely, but consider a fancy cocktail … maybe something featuring amaretto? Suddenly, everyone at the table feels extra special. And after all, isn't that what the holidays are all about?

Dark Chocolate-Almond Tart

For the crust:
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 2 T. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. almond meal
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
For the filling:
  • 1 1/3 c. heavy cream
  • 8 oz. 70% dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 T. amaretto
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 2/3 c. canned pumpkin puree (I used homemade pureed butternut squash)
For the topping:
  • 1/4 c. slivered almonds
  • 1 T. maple syrup

To make the almond shortbread crust, preheat the oven to 350° F. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine all of the crust ingredients and seal the bag. Using your fingers, pinch the contents of the bad until coarse crumbs form. Gently pat the mixture into a 9-inch tart pan. Bake the crust in the preheated oven for about 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Remove the crust from the oven.

To make the filling, add the cream and chocolate to a double broiler over low/medium heat. Stir constantly until all of the chocolate has melted. Gently whisk in the amaretto. In a medium glass bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, and sugar. Slowly pour in the chocolate and cream mixture; stirring quickly to incorporate. Slowly stir in the pumpkin or butternut squash puree. Pour the filling into the tart pan, allowing the filling to reach the top edge of the crust. (If you are like me, you'll have additional filling. I simply pour the additional filling into small ramekins and bake it alongside the tart until nearly set. You should see only slight movement if you jiggle them. Remove them from the oven, allow them to cool completely, and store in the refrigerator for an intensely decadent treat. You could also halve the filling ingredients … but try this instead.)

Bake the tart for 22 minutes at 350° F.

Remove the tart and let it cool for 1 hour.

To prepare the topping, place the slivered almond in a small skillet and heat over medium heat until just fragrant, stirring occasionally. Once you smell the toasted almonds, remove them from the heat, add the maple syrup, and continue to toss them gentle to completely coat the nuts. Sprinkle the nuts evenly over the tart.

  • Yields: 10-12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour