Sunday, 12 December 2010

We Should Cocoa - December Challenge

Date, Chocolate and Orange Festive Tarts

The December 'We Should Cocoa' challenge was set by Choclette, at Chocolate Log Blog. She chose dates as the added ingredient to use in our chocolate product, in a bid to give the challenge a festive feel.

For anyone who would like to join in this monthly challenge, the rules are also on Choclette's blog, here.

I love the combination of dried dates and chocolate, but one of the drawbacks of the texture of cooked dates is that they can disappear into the background and not really be noticed in the final product. The flavours of chocolate and dates can blend too, so that it's difficult to tell where dates end and chocolate begins. For instance, I've used dates in these Chocolate, Date and Walnut Squares, and in Sticky Toffee Pudding, and it would be difficult to identify them as an ingredient, if you didn't know they were there. I wanted to make sure they stood out as an ingredient for this challenge. Happily, I think I succeeded!

Pastry (this makes a bit more than you need if you don't make full lids for the tarts; I hate trying to stretch pastry further than it wants to go! Pun intended! ;)):
200g SR flour
50g salted butter
50g lard
cold water to mix

200g dried dates
1 medium orange
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
60g plain chocolate, chopped finely - I used 66%
cocoa solids

To finish - a little icing sugar

First make the filling; chop the dates into two or three pieces (this is a useful way of checking there are no stones left), and place in a small saucepan. Add the zest of the orange, plus the juice and any fleshy pieces of fruit that end up in the juice. Add the water and bring the pan rapidly to the boil. Turn down the heat, cover and simmer for a few minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. When cold, add the cinnamon and the chopped chocolate.

Next, make the shortcrust pastry in the usual way - the use of some lard, and SR flour, makes the pastry crumbly(short) and soft. Rest for 20 minutes in the fridge, then roll out thinly and cut into 12 circles to line a mincepie pan. Re-roll the trimmings and cut a few festive shapes to decorate the tops of the tarts. Alternatively, you should have enough pastry to make full lids, as you would for mincepies.

Divide the filling between the pastry cases and level with the back of a teaspoon. Decorate with the pastry cutouts and bake at 200C for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden. Cool for a few minutes in the baking pan, then carefully transfer to a wire rack. When cold, sieve over a little icing sugar.
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Although the surface of the date filling dried out a little while cooking (which is why you might prefer to make full lids, and turn these into pies instead of tarts), underneath it was moist and richly flavoured. There was still enough texture in the dates to prevent them from being a bland purée, and by adding the chocolate only when the dates were cold, it stayed in discrete pieces rather than blending into the mixture. The cinnamon and orange added just the right festive notes, without either flavour overwhelming the chocolate and dates.

A good alternative to mincepies, I think, which is exactly what I'd been hoping for!


Choclette said...

Oh well done Suelle, these sound delicious. What a brilliant idea. These sound a grand alternative to mince pies, especially for those that don't like the traditional sort. I've just made my we should cocoa entry, or the first part of it anyway - it was inspired by one of your posts.

Suelle said...

That sounds mysterious, Choclette - and it's a long time to wait to see all the entries!

Caroline said...

They look delicious Suelle - what a lovely Christmassy alternative to mince pies!

Chele said...

Very festive! I am so impressed I have no idea what I am doing for this month's challenge ... although I did manage to purchase the dates yesterday! Love the idea of adding the dates to mince pies, these look great!

Alicia Foodycat said...

Sue those look lovely! Great combination!

Suelle said...

Thank you, Chele and Foodycat.

Snowy said...

These look good, Suelle. A great idea!

Anonymous said...

Suelle, those look so festive! The date/orange/chocolate combination sounds wonderful!

Brownieville Girl said...

They look really pretty - I love the one with two stars!!!!

veena said...

They look so pretty with those stars on them!!!!!!!11
wish you a very happy new year