It’s never easy or fun being “the new kid” especially when you realize that most middle school students don’t wear adult-sized glasses, sport braces coordinated with the latest holiday colors, or possess an affinity for flannel shirts. You can take the girl out of West Virginia…
By the time I reached 7th grade I was on my second new school in less than three years and had spent most of my 6th grade year trying, unsuccessfully, to break into tight cliques, learning to play the trombone(nerd alert!) and thus, largely on my own. So I was surprised when the chatty and effortlessly nice girl sitting in front of me in English class turned around to say hello. She lived in good ole’ Beaverdam (a rural town outside of Ashland), played the cello and enjoyed wearing vests. It was friendship at first sight.
We spent the most awkward and milestone packed teenage and college years side by side. In the pre-driver’s license days our weekends were packed with sleepovers, an endless cycle of John Hughes’ classics (at my 80’s obsessed insistence), bags of our favorite chocolate covered pretzels and amateur “fashion” photo shoots – the pictures from which now make me cringe. Oh the bangs!
So when I spotted this recipe in Food & Wine Magazine for a chocolate covered pretzel-inspired tart I knew it would be a fitting ode to the friendship that witnessed first loves, lousy boyfriends, broken hearts, embarrassing moments, and greatest successes.
As with most old friendships, we do our best to stay in regular touch but young careers, busy schedules and a traffic clogged stretch of Interstate 95 tend to get in the way. Despite our differences, perhaps we remain close because time and distance have less affect on a friendship with someone that always felt more like a member of my family. Whatever the reason, it’s a comfort to know that an old friend is never more than a bag of chocolate covered pretzels, a few horrifying photographic attempts at modeling and a phone call away.
Chocolate Pretzel Tart
Adapted from a recipe by Colleen Grapes in Food & Wine Magazine
This recipe is fairly straight forward but I recommend chopping up the pretzels a bit more than I did. You can see in the photos that I left some pretty large chunks. But this made the crust difficult to roll out and also resulted in a harder texture to the finished product.
For the crust
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups coarsely crushed thin pretzels (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
For the filling
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 pound milk chocolate, chopped
Sea salt, crushed pretzels and whipped cream or crème fraîche, for serving
1. In a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with 3/4 cup of the pretzels and the confectioners’ sugar at low speed until creamy. Beat in the flour and egg. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of pretzels, being sure to leave some pretzel pieces intact. Flatten the dough into a disk between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Roll out the dough between the sheets of plastic wrap to a 12-inch round. If the dough becomes too warm it will begin to come apart, so you may need to pop it back in the fridge for a few minutes to re-chill and then continue to roll out. Peel off the top sheet and invert the dough over a 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough into the corners and patch any tears. Trim the overhanging dough and refrigerate the shell for 30 minutes or until firm.
3. Line the shell with parchment paper or aluminum and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for about 30 minutes, until nearly set. Remove the parchment and weights and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the tart shell is firm; cover the edge with foil if it darkens too much. Let the shell cool completely and brush the melted chocolate over the bottom and up the side sealing any small holes in the shell. Refrigerate for 10 minutes, until set.
4. Meanwhile, make the filling. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer. Off the heat, add the milk chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Transfer the filling to a bowl and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
5. Pour the filling into the shell and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and crushed pretzels. Cut into wedges, top with crème fraîche or whipped cream.