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Recipe: chocolate pistachio almond tartlets

I’ve had some thoughts milling in the back of my mind all weekend since I learned of Sherry’s recent and sudden passing. I didn’t know Sherry, but the food blogging community is pretty tight and news travels quickly. I know what it is like to lose someone you love very suddenly and let me tell you – it is a complete mindfuck. Since then I no longer assume that the people I love will always be there and so I try to make every moment count. When you get a cancer diagnosis, your mind undoubtedly lingers on your own mortality… but as I told my surgeon, it is a slow-motion crisis. I knew and still know that I could very well die in a car accident or some other random event, just like that – trivializing the whole cancer BS. And no matter what my own condition is, I also know that losing certain people in my life would be far worse than losing my own life. I don’t take my time for granted and I don’t take the people around me for granted. Lessons learned the hard way. While we all have our moments, pitching a fit over stupid little day to day minutiae that we turn into Major Drama, it helps to always keep that bigger picture in mind and remember what is really important. My heart aches for Sherry’s loved ones who are left behind, missing the one they thought they’d never have to live without – at least not so soon. I wish them peace.

early morning stream

Jeremy, Kaweah, and I hiked to Pawnee Pass on the Continental Divide again yesterday morning, this time with a friend who had never been. The original plan was to hike Pawnee Peak at about 13,000 feet. I woke up feeling exhausted, which wasn’t a good sign. Since I had hiked to the pass a week ago, I could gauge my progress. Above lovely Lake Isabelle, I began to experience shooting pains and fatigue – all expected side-effects from my treatment. At this point I told Jeremy and our friend to hike ahead because I wasn’t sure how far I would get, but I wanted our friend to summit as I had been promising this hike all summer.

enjoying the quiet stream and flowers

It did make me sad to see them forge ahead at their fast clip. Jeremy and I never hike apart, but I felt this was the best thing to do logistically. Kaweah stayed with me and we made our way after the others at half their pace. I let the pup play on the snow fields and eat the corn snow as it was already getting warm by 9 am. Hiking is a mental game for me when the slog is long. I was so excited to begin hiking this summer because my chemo had ended and I wasn’t planning on letting radiation treatment hold me back. I have been a strong hiker in the past and on occasion I was getting my stamina and speed back. But things kept happening to knock me down and keep me in this constant state of trying to regain my old fitness. I think a year ago, I would not have continued hiking through the pain, knowing that I might not make the pass at all at such a reduced speed. I thought about this as I put one foot in front of the other, navigating the rocky trail or the slushy snow fields, breathing deeply and tracking the two dots ahead of me that were growing smaller and smaller with each passing minute.

storm clouds rolling in

I have a different perspective now than I did last summer. My threshold for pain has shifted and I have a new appreciation for the opportunity to be “normal”. Getting out to hike, even if it hurts, is way better than lying at home wasting away. I don’t take for granted these things I love to do: hike, bake, eat, shoot flowers and pretty mountains, pet my dog, put my head on Jeremy’s shoulder. I relished the soreness in my legs, the aching in my butt (yeah, work those glutes!), and the stiffness in my back as I slowly wound my way along the trail. I arrived at the Continental Divide just as Jeremy and M were approaching from the other direction after summiting the peak. They were astounded and thrilled to see me. I was happy that I hadn’t let myself defeat myself.

A few weeks ago we sampled a terrific pistachio tart at Bra 1010. I’m crazy for pistachio. Crazy, I tell you! Ever since that delectable bite touched my lips, I had been plotting to make some myself.

for the dough

pressed and ready to bake

I fashioned my tarts after this recipe on Epicurious, omitting the apricots. There is a ton of butter involved. Plenty in the dough as well as the filling. I doubled the recipe as I wanted to bake 4-inch tarts as well as some petits fours tarts. Glutton for punishment? Yup.

pistachio, almond, sugar

butter for the frangipane filling

It was hot last week, when I made these tarts. For some stupid reason, I had my sights set on baking a ton of stuff (we have at least 7 different desserts/pastries in the kitchen now – to be distributed to friends and students). After I pressed the crust dough into the second tartlet pan, sweat streaming down my face, I admitted to myself that in these instances, a nice 10-inch tart wasn’t such a bad idea. Swearing ensued. But onward…

baked crusts

fill to the brim

The 4-inch tartlet crusts baked and puffed. I flatted them down half-way through the baking time with a fork. To bake the petits fours tartlet crusts, I didn’t poke holes in the dough the way I did with the 4-inchers. Instead, I pressed a second mold on top of each one and removed that second mold halfway through the baking time after the shape has set, to allow the crust to brown nicely. That’s why I own 24 of those little buggers, so I can cuss a dozen times.

hot out of the oven

add some chocolate ganache, whipped cream, and raspberries

The filling bubbled up and in some cases, over, during baking. I observed this through the oven door and had some choice words for the tarts. That was frustrating. Even if it didn’t bubble over, the filling had lost considerable volume in the oven. This wasn’t what I had intended. I consulted with my favorite pastry girl and she suggested adding an egg to the filling. Okay, I will keep that in mind for future bouts of insanity and cussing. In the meantime, I filled the void with some extra chocolate ganache I had lying around. I figured it might be a little over the top, but my taste testers thought the combination brilliant. So perhaps it wasn’t a disaster after all?

dig in

Chocolate Pistachio Almond Tartlets
[print recipe]
modified from Apricot Tart with Pistachio-Almond Frangipane at Epicurious

1 1/2 cups flour
3 tbsps sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tbsps chilled whipping cream
1 large egg yolk

1/2 cup shelled natural unsalted pistachios (about 2 ounces)
1/2 cup slivered almonds (about 2 ounces)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg (or 2 eggs, to give filling more body?)
1/3 cup heavy cream (to give more stability to the filling)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

8 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
8 oz. heavy whipping cream

Crust: Combine flour, sugar, and salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cream and egg yolk. Pulse until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball. Press over bottom and up sides of 10-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom, or into 6 4-inch tartlet pans, or 12 2-inch petits fours molds (you may have leftover dough, I don’t know). Pierce crust all over with fork for tartlet pans. If using petits fours molds, press a second mold on top of the dough. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 1 day. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake chilled crust until light golden, pressing any bubbles with back of fork, about 18 minutes. For petits fours molds, bake for 8 minutes, remove the top molds and bake another 7 minutes. Cool crust(s) on rack 15 minutes.

Filling: Combine pistachios, almonds, and sugar in processor. Blend until nuts are finely ground. Add butter and blend to paste consistency. Pulse in eggs and both extracts. Gently stir in the heavy cream. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before using.) Spread filling evenly in crust. Bake tart(s) until filling is lightly browned and set, about 55 minutes for 10-inch tart, 30 min for 4-inch tartlets and 15 minutes for petits fours molds. Cool tart(s) completely on rack.

Ganache: Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat cream until steaming, but not boiling. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes then gently stir the mixture until creamy and smooth. When tarts are cool, pour ganache into tart shells. Let cool completely before serving.

Serve with freshly whipped cream and fruit.

38 nibbles at “perspective”

  1. Courtney says:

    wow those tarts look really good. the pictures are absolutely beautiful.

  2. robin says:

    Why, hello there, Miss Inspiration.
    You really make me want to get into hiking again. And your tart makes me hungry!

  3. Mollie says:

    I love your perspective on food and on life. I have had some losses as well and have learned much about the value of the journey. Important to remember when I get too focused on that next big thing or worried about that other thing I can’t control. Like now. “Normal” is all relative and the only thing we can control is the choice to move. Good stuff.

    And you just might eventually turn me into a baker because DAMN those tarts look good!

  4. Rosa says:

    You are right! It is better to not take things for granted and to enjoy every little moment/thing life offers…

    That place is breathtakingly beautiful and so are your pictures! Very peaceful too…

    What pretty tartlets! Delicious, I bet!



  5. Lori says:

    yep – people can leave you forever, without time for a goodbye. it happened to me once, too, and in the 26 years since then, i’ve never left someone i love without being sure to tell them i love them. i haven’t been as good at keeping the b.s. in perspective….i still get wildly cranky sometimes over ridiculous stuff….but people, the ones you love (or even just like a lot), can’t take them for granted.

  6. Jenny says:

    Jen, the tarts look amazing – I’m going to be making those for my brother-in-law’s 50th birthday. I try not to take anyone for granted and I definitely don’t take my own life for granted. You never know when your time is up – so live it baby! You are my inspiration.

  7. Lan says:

    the tarts are gorgeous looking, yet another recipe i have to find time to make! :)

    hope you are feeling better! sending you lots of energy and positive thoughts from bmore.


  8. Taylor says:

    Well, I don’t hike, but your 1st photo is the most beautiful photo I’ve ever seen. You are so talented and I’m really glad you got going on that hike.
    Those tarts look amazing! Stay well and strong.

  9. Pam says:

    I love the photos – especially how you captured the water. You are always so inspiring – thanks for sharing. The tarts look tasty too – I love pistachio nuts!!

  10. bee says:

    whenever i feel lazy, i’ll read this post. thank you, jen, for putting things in perspective, and wish you quick and complete healing. .

  11. Christina says:

    You’re right, so often we let the little things loom large, when really it isn’t that big a deal at all. Perspective is what it’s all about, because even though I know that it’s relative to what a person has going on, some things really just aren’t that bad.

    The stream photos are incredible! I’m really stunned by them! Gorgeous tarts!

  12. jennywenny says:

    What wonderful pictures! I’m glad you had time in your hike to take these wonderful pictures as a perfect monday pick-me-up. I’m sorry you’re frustrated with your body. Well done for making it to the summit, and I’m glad those mountain storms didnt get you, I got caught in a nasty one a couple of weeks ago as I was doing my best to finish the death ride. :(

    Those tarts look absolutely incredible, I’ll definitely be bookmarking them!

  13. Patricia Scarpin says:

    I was shocked when I heard the news, too. I lost my mom when I was 7 and for that reason I try to make every day special with the ones I love.

    The tarts look wonderful, Jen, even though you weren’t 100% satisfied with the filling.

  14. Taylor says:

    I love your blog!!! Everything looks so good!!! Even the pictures look so perfetionall and the recipes…. yum!!

  15. Laura @ HungryAndFrozen says:

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful tarts.

  16. Ashley says:

    Yum beautiful tarts. There’s a pistachio tart recipe I’ve wanted to try for a while and should do that soon! Though it has pistachios in the crust, not filling.

  17. Debbie Green says:

    A beautiful tart. I would love to try and make that. Your photos are beautiful. I agree that you cannot take the ones you love for granted. You have to live each day as it comes and make the best of it. Sometimes easy, sometimes hard but our loved ones make it all worth it….

  18. Madam Chow says:

    Yes – you are absolutely right. I am grateful for every day with the people I love, and I really, really wish you the very best.

  19. peabody says:

    Fabulous tarts.
    Absolutely best to appreciate people everyday for you don’t know how long they will be around.
    Oh and I hear ya on going out and hiking even if you are in pain. They first told me with my illness to sit around and do nothing. So I did. For about 6 months. I gained like 30 pounds and was miserable. Now I just go and do stuff because I learned I would be tired and hurt either way. So why not just go do something!!!

  20. manggy says:

    Nope, certainly not a disaster :) They look really moreish– the kind I would finish in 3 bites before begging for another (all the while remembering that I really should exercise more). The Tartine recipe also puffs up before settling, and there is some loss in volume, but not alarmingly so. Claire Clark’s recipe for Bakewell tart looks interesting (especially since the frangipane– in the picture– looks undeflated). The quantities are 260g sugar, 260g almonds, 260g butter, 60g flour, and 2 eggs. I’ve yet to try it out :)

    With all this baking you shouldn’t feel like you’re wasting away at home (I certainly don’t)! But if the alternative is to spend it with your loved ones, of course that’s always better. I’m in this weird transitional phase where my friends have their own completely separate lives and I have my own. It’s sad but I’ve accepted it. Imagine my surprise when one my friends offered to watch The Dark Knight with me after I’m done with my August 1 exam… I was really touched, which is weird because it’s just a movie. Speaking of which, I should be getting my studying on! Take care Jen! xxoo

  21. Margie says:

    Jennifer, I LOVE reading your blog and seeing your photo’s. Finding your site has been most rewarding; I feast my eyes upon my former stomping grounds (I’m a native of Colorado), and I get to enjoy seeing beautifully prepared food as a sidebar. Could I ask for anything more? … well, maybe one thing…. is Smell-O-Vision available yet? lol.

    Thanks so much for a beautiful reminder of all things, good. Kudos to you!

  22. Mrs Ergul says:

    Sadly, taking others for granted is human nature. And I too are guilty in this sense! But I’m trying to lose this selfish me. One of the many reasons why people love you and your blog is the person you are. You’re very admirable! The tarts look lovely! Anytime for tarts!

  23. Woolly says:

    I wanted you to know that after reading your blog these past months and listening to the way you write about pushing threw the side effects of your treatment and how you get out there and still enjoy the things you do has inspired me to do the same. I don’t have the obstacles to overcome that you do, but I just wanted you to know your writing has had a effect on me in a positive way. So thank you for that, and please keep getting out there and taking those pictures and cooking those amazing meals it brightens my day to see them. I wish you all the best!

  24. Cynthia says:

    Good for you Jen. IT is exactly that attitude that makes you a winner. I had a dear friend who’s husband had ALS. One of his biggest desires was to pull weeds out of the garden. I never pull a weed now without thinking of him, and yes, I am grateful for the weeds.

  25. Haley says:

    We’d like to invite you to participate in our July berry recipe contest. All competitors will be placed on our blogroll, and the winner will receive a fun prize! Please email me,, if you’re interested. Feel free to check out our blog for more details:

    KI Blogger

  26. Joanne at frutto della passione says:

    As always the photographs here always make the visit a real pleasure. Have you ever hiked or skied the Alps? If you’re ever in the neighbourhood … ;)

  27. Sue (coffeepot) says:

    Your pics are lovely and the Pawnee Pass looks like a place I would love to see in person.

  28. cindy says:

    Question! Question! (hand waving in the air)

    Since the almond filling gets baked too, do you underbake the shells initially?

    I hear you on the drama biz. I know some people thrive on it, but it just makes me tired. So many better uses of energy, you know. Good to hear from you over on Figs. xo

  29. Kevin says:

    I really like the sound of the pistachio filling! The tarts look great.

  30. Jenn says:

    I really like your take on food and life, as I have been skimming the past two years of your blog. i am positively hooked. And the trail looks AMAZING, as do the tarts! Take care.

  31. Susan says:

    So pretty! I still haven’t been to happy hour at Brasserie but have managed to have macaroons at Spruce Confections twice this week (not the same but I’ll take the goodies where I can).

  32. sara says:

    Mmm, these look amazing! Yum…chocolate is always a good addition. :)

  33. Tartelette says:

    They look awesome! I want to see the improved ones because I would eat rejects (not that they were but you get the thought) any day!! Oh, and stop making me blush!!

  34. Holly says:

    This looks like such an incredible dessert! I have to try this soon since my little boy l.o.v.e.s pistachios and chocolate!

    Your writing is so beautiful, especially this one – thank you for reminding me to have perspective!

  35. jenyu says:

    Courtney – thanks!

    Robin – hiking is good stuff, hon. I highly recommend it. The tarts aren’t so bad either ;)

    Mollie – perspective comes at a price, to be sure. I think not having perspective is probably a sad thing. I believe there is a little bit of baker in all of us, hon!

    Rosa – thank you, dear :)

    Lori – luckily, my sister and I always said “I love you” at the end of every conversation. Those were my last words to her, and I don’t regret that ever. It’s hard to muddle through the daily crap, but it feels great to be able to let it roll off your back from time to time.

    Jenny – awwww, thanks! I do suggest trying the recipe with the extra egg. I’ll have to give that a go because I hate my tarts looking so empty…

    Lan – thank you so much, I hope things will be on the up and up soon!

    Taylor – I’m really glad to hear you like the photo. I think landscape photography is really just my way of sharing the beauty I see in nature with everyone else. So in essence, you were on the hike with me :) Thanks!!

    Pam – thanks, you’re very sweet.

    Bee – you? Lazy? Never! If I ever feel lazy, I just have to think of your amazing garden and the love and work you put into it :)

    Christina – Right on, sistah. You got it nailed.

    Jennywenny – I’ve been caught in enough storms to know that I want to avoid getting caught in a storm ;) My body and I have been at it for several months now. I’ll get her whipped into shape in short order :)

    Patricia – oh, I had no idea. I am so sorry, my dear. xxoo

    Taylor – why, thank you!

    Laura – honey, I need you here to help clear these out!!

    Ashley – the pistachio in the filling is really delightful.

    Debbie – very true and well said.

    Madam Chow – that is sweet of you. Right back at ya, babe.

    Peabody – right on, girl! Leave it to you to get out and do what you want to do :) I love your attitude, gf.

    Mark – I think I should experiment with different recipes, no? It just seems to take forever when it’s hot. When I bake, my back and legs and shoulders get stiff. When I’m out running around, I feel much more energized :) I guess I just like getting out and exerting myself in the mountain air. If I’m indoors for too long, I get sad. Best of luck on your exam, my dear. Seriously. Score well and come to Colorado! :) xxoo

    Margie – hey thanks! I wish smell-o-vision were real. Food blogging would take on a whole new meaning :)

    Mrs. E – oh, you give me far too much credit. Just recognizing that you take others for granted is already one step toward not taking them for granted, right? And I already know that you appreciate the people in your life :)

    Woolly – Dude, you are a sweetie! I didn’t think my blathering would do much more than make me feel better, but I am really glad to know that you are getting out and doing what you love to do. I truly wish you the best too. Make the most of each day, love.

    Cynthia – damn, that makes you stop and think, doesn’t it? Yes, I have a new found appreciation for things I used to take for granted and couldn’t do or enjoy at all during chemo. It’s good to be grateful for the little things. All the best, hon.

    Joanne – I’ve never been, but someday… someday :)

    Sue – it’s a terrific hike, I highly recommend it!

    Cindy – I don’t actually underbake the crusts, but I definitely don’t OVER bake them (well, unless I get all stupid and forget to set the timer). The color is either light golden or lighter golden :) Glad to have you back from your vacay!

    Kevin – thanks!

    Jenn – why thank you! You’ll notice that my older entries have crappier photos and far more random (well, maybe not) mindless drivel :)

    Susan – I’ve never been to Spruce! I’ll have to check it out – thanks!

    Sara – they don’t taste all that bad either!

    Tartelette – ha ha! I will try to make the improved version and let you know if they are better. Hell, perhaps I’ll ship them too you – I can’t eat all of these sweets, dear.

    Holly – oooh, what a lucky little guy you have. I love pistachio and chocolate together – a very nice pairing (and so pretty too). thanks!

  36. Susan says:

    Spruce is good and cheap! Really cute, I’m so happy I had to take my car into the mechanics this week because we got to go to the bakery twice…I like riding into Pearl Street with the boy in the morning if it means pastries (I liked the peach scone better than the blueberry-blackberry and I think the chocolate top of the macaroon was good but he ate mine. Bastard. The macaroon part was good.)

  37. Tony says:

    I JUST made fruit tarts yesterday. I love to add ground pistachios to the crust – not only does it add to the richness, but it also gives it a nice nutty undertone.
    Jen, that looks like the farthest thing from a disaster. The chocolate & nut combo is always welcome in my book : )

  38. jenyu says:

    Susan – mmm, thanks – I’ll have to check it out!

    Tony – yes, well pistachio and chocolate are really quite lovely together, aren’t they? :) I’ll come by and see your tarts!

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