Around two years ago, I went through a phase where I was seriously obsessed with tahini. I’d discovered that it was good for more than just drizzling over falafel, and for some still unfathomable reason, I deemed it necessary to put it on everything, in everything.
I mixed it with honey and and yogurt. I poured it over ice cream. I made ice pops with halva and tahini. I made a sandwich with tahini. A sandwich. I think it was just slices of whole wheat bread slapped together with a bit of honey and tahini in lieu of peanut butter, but who knows? Who remembers? Certainly not me. I overdosed on the stuff and got so sick I couldn’t look at it, and I’ve tried to block the whole weeks long episode from my memory entirely.
But recently, while eating raw peanut butter on a spoon (yes, sometimes I eat peanut butter by the spoonful, don’t judge me) I realized tahini was essentially the same thing. While it’s made from a seed (that would be sesame) rather than a nut, both tahini and peanut butter have similar textures and rich, nutty flavor profiles. Tahini’s extra, slightly bitter edge just makes it more sophisticated and means it takes well to both sweet and salty adaptations. Once I realized tahini could stand in for peanut butter pretty much anywhere, a whole new world opened up to me.
These tarts were inspired by peanut butter cups, except I ditched the peanut butter for tahini. Sorry not sorry! They’ve got cookie-like chocolate crusts, sweet, creamy tahini middles and they’re covered with glossy, sea salt studded layers of ganache. They are sweet and salty, slightly bitter with dark chocolate and sesame and light with whipped cream and cream cheese, both of which give the tahini cream mousse-like qualities.
They’re perfect. They’re enough to make me think of abandoning peanut butter for life. They’re the fancy, adult version of the candy you grew up with and if this what adulting looks like, I’m totally ready for it.
Yields: four 6″ tarts
Why I love this recipe: inspired by peanut butter cups, these tarts are made fancy by swapping peanut butter for tahini in a cream that’s smooth, sweet and full of nutty sesame flavor. The cocoa based chocolate crusts are snappy, cookie like and bake without shrinkage and a sea salt flecked, shredded halvah topped layer of ganache tops each tart for a final, deep, dark chocolate touch.
Notes: baked shells or unbaked dough will keep in the freezer, well wrapped, for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator before filling baked shells or using unbaked dough. You may have some leftover ganache- this can be frozen and then thawed for future use.
For the chocolate tart dough:
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed
For the tahini cream:
- 2/3 cups tahini
- 1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped until stiff peaks form
- 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the chocolate ganache + topping:
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- flaky salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling
- shredded halvah for topping
- Make the tart dough: whisk the whole egg, egg yolk, and vanilla together in a small bowl.
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in a bowl using a pastry blender, combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar and salt. Pulse to combine.
- Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas. Add the egg mixture and pulse until it is evenly distributed and the dough starts to hold together.
- It should hold together easily when pressed. if the dough does not hold together when pressed, pulse in water 1 teaspoon at a time.
- Lightly butter the tart pans and press the dough into the pans, making sure to evenly coat the bottom and sides with dough. Save a bit of dough just in case you have to repair any cracks after baking the shells.
- Freeze the shells for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375ºF and line the frozen shells with pieces of aluminum foil, shiny side down.
- Bake the tart shells (no need for pie weights) until they begin to brown, about 15 minutes, then remove the foils and continue to bake until the shells are completely cooked through, another 5-10 minutes.
- If a shell puffs up while baking, carefully use an offset spatula to gently press it back into the pan. Repair any cracks that may have formed with the reserved raw dough, which will bake from the residual heat.
- Now, make the filling. In a large bowl, beat the tahini, cream cheese, butter, confectioner’s sugar, salt and vanilla together until fluffy and smooth with a mixer. Gently fold in the 1/2 cup of whipped cream and combine until no streaks remain.
- Divide the mixture into evenly into each tart shell and smooth the surface with a spatula. Chill the tarts while you make the ganache.
- Heat the heavy cream until it is steaming slightly. Remove from heat and add chocolate to the pot. Let sit for five minutes then stir to melt the chocolate and combine with the cream.
- Let sit for another 5 minutes to thicken slightly, then pour over tahini filling in each tart shell and gently spread with a spatula to smooth to the edges. Chill the tarts until firm, around 6 hours in the fridge.
- Before serving, sprinkle with flaky salt and top with shredded halvah.