Growing up, my idea of dessert was pretty much limited to the occasional bowl of ice cream; or, if I was really lucky, a chocolate-fudge cake from our neighborhood Kroger grocery store.
At holidays, we would bake special treats – pies, red velvet cake, the occasional caramel cake.
When it snowed, which didn’t happen very often in Georgia, my mother had this super easy microwave brownie recipe she’d break out. They were so rich and fudgey, and could be mixed up in one bowl and cooked, as the name suggests, in the microwave.
Every so often, we’d splurge and get something special. One of our favorite treats was one of those orange-shaped (and flavored) chocolate things. You know the ones I’m talking about – they’re wrapped in foil, about the size of a medium navel orange, and you’re supposed to whack them on a table or countertop to break them into sections. The flavor combination of chocolate and orange is still one of my favorites.
This tart is a slightly elevated version of that childhood favorite. It combines an almond-crumb crust with a light orange curd and dark chocolate ganache. The whole thing gets topped with candied orange slices and drizzled with some thyme infused cream. If you’ve never paired thyme with chocolate or orange, I recommend you try it. The citrusy, grassy notes of thyme marry quite well with both.
I began by candying my orange slices. I used a combination of sucanat and honey granules for this, but you could just as easily use granulated sugar. The dark color of the sucanat definitely affected the color of the final product. It doesn’t bother me, but if you want a more traditionally colored candied orange slice, then you might want to go with a more traditional sugar. I sliced two medium oranges in 1/4-inch slices. In a medium saucepan, I combined one cup sucanat, one cup honey granules and 1 1/2 cups water. I brought this to a boil, added the orange slices once the sweeteners had dissolved and reduced it to a simmer. I let this simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes. Then I let the slices cool in the syrup.
For the crust, I placed two cups of blanched almonds in the bowl of my food processor and processed them until they were a relatively fine powder. To this I added 4 tablespoons of melted butter and pulsed to combine. I pressed the mixture into a 12-inch tart pan and baked it at 350 for about 15 minutes, just until it began to brown. I removed it from the oven and allowed it to cool.
The orange curd is a combination of 5 whole eggs, 2/3 cup honey granules, the zest of one orange, 2/3 cup orange juice and a stick of butter cut into small pieces. Combine the eggs, honey granules and zest in a medium saucepan and use a handheld mixer to whip it until it is light in color and honey granules have dissolved. Add the orange juice and butter and stir over medium heat until the butter melts. Continue stirring/whisking until the mixture begins to thicken. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to cool.
For the ganache, chop 2 oz. of unsweetened chocolate and place in a heat-proof bowl. Combine 1 cup heavy cream, 2 tablespoons sucanat and 10 sprigs of fresh thyme in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Place over medium heat and allow it to just simmer. Remove it from the heat and pour all but 1/3 cup of it through a strainer and into the bowl with the chocolate. Reserve the remaining 1/3 cup and refrigerate it. Stir the chocolate and cream mixture until it is smooth and no lumps of chocolate remain. Allow to cool at room temperature.
To assemble, pour the chilled curd into the cooled crust. Pour the ganache over top and gently spread using an offset spatula. Place the candied orange slices in a decorative pattern on top. Refrigerate to set the ganache and the crust. Slice into single serving-size slices and drizzle with the reserved thyme-infused cream.
For a printable version of this recipe, click here.