One of the more interesting things I like to do when traveling abroad is to go shopping in foreign grocery stores. This may sound ridiculous. This may sound like a waste of time. Many of you may even be appalled that I'd take time out of sightseeing to peruse something so commonplace as a grocery store, but I'm going to stand behind myself on this one. It's quite amazing what you'll find.
It's one thing to dine in the unfamiliar restaurants of another country to get a sense of the food culture (and the flavors!), but dining out isn't how most of the population eats. I'm lucky if I dine out once a month. If you want to get a true idea of how people eat (and everybody eats), the market will show you just about everything you could wish to know.
I like to marvel at the differences from my own store and the foods I'm used to. Depending on where you live and where you are traveling, the fruits and vegetables vary. I've often picked up fruit I couldn't recognize, tried to translate the sign I couldn't read, and ended up snapping a photo to identify it later. The amount of boxed and processed foods scattered throughout the store can say quite a bit about the culture you're visiting. I've noticed that there seems to be a much greater focus on fresh food everywhere but the United States. I also find the sweet treats to be fascinating but, then again, my life tends to revolve a bit around butter and sugar.
Food says a lot about a culture and the people who live there. Next time you're in a far away land, eat as much as you can! But when you get full, take a minute or two out of your day to walk through a market and explore. You might just learn more than you expected.
Believe it or not, this tart tastes exactly like an Almond Joy. It is as if you've placed an Almond Joy on a flaky shortbread cookie and taken a big bite. Seriously. The sweet coconut is covered in just the right amount of chocolate—neither overwhelms the other. Sliced almonds are spread over the coconut giving each bite that rich and subtle almond flavor instead of the occasional big crunch in a real Almond Joy. This tart converted my coconut hating boyfriend into one who now requests I make more coconut treats.
Almond Joy Tart
Yields 1 tart (or 8 tartlets)
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup almond meal or ground almonds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, room temperature
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
In a food processor, blend the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the powdered sugar and process until well mixed. Add in the almond meal, salt, vanilla extract, and egg and process again. Scrape around the bowl if necessary. Add the flour and pulse just until the dough forms a ball. The dough will be the consistency of very soft and sticky cookie dough.
Remove the dough from the bowl, shape into a disk, and wrap in plastic. Chill in refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight to firm up the dough.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
When chilled until firm, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is 1/8-inch thick (you may have to wait a few minutes for the dough to soften). Transfer dough and press carefully into the pan; be careful not the stretch the dough! Stab the bottom several times with a fork so the dough will not rise in the oven.
Bake the tart shell for 15-18 minutes, or until it is lightly colored and the shell feels dry to the touch. Let cool completely before filling.
2 cups packed sweetened coconut
7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sliced almonds, plus extra for sprinkling
In a small bowl, mix together the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla. Set aside.
Place chocolate in a bowl and set aside. Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour over the chocolate and let sit for a few minutes before stirring until the ganache is smooth.
Spread coconut into the bottom of the tart pan until evenly distributed. Top with almonds. Spread the chocolate into a thin layer on the top of the tart and smooth. If desired, sprinkle a few extra almonds on top. Refrigerate an hour before serving (this is an ideal time; if you can't wait that long like me, it will all be okay. I promise).
Store the tart in an airtight container in the refrigerator.