Chocolate is for lovers

Rich, warm chocolate.  Nutty, buttery pastry.  Pillowy soft whipped cream and a sweet little sparkle.  Oh, and did I mention French?  If you are feeling extra romantic, by all means, go all out on a $55,000 red velvet cupcake topped with an 8-carat diamond engagement ring (if you have the means and are looking for a tantalizing way to pop the question).  If your means are a bit more modest, though, try this chocolate tart, and your loved one(s) will be glad you did.

Tarte au chocolat!  It was the cover recipe I spotted on a French magazine back on Thanksgiving Day when we took a drive to Alsace and wandered through a grocery store (yep, we went grocery shopping for Thanksgiving…I was feeling a little humbuggy about being so far away from family on the holiday, which is just a normal work day to all our neighbors).  Well, right away I put the tart on my list for Christmas dessert.  However, with Kara home to help and guests who brought all kinds of delicious contributions, Christmas dinner evolved into a Mexican feast and we ate our fill and then filled in all the little extra tummy spaces with cayenne caramel corn, pepita brittle, soft gingerbread cookies, raspberry kolachky, polvorones, and other assorted nibbles, and we didn’t even give the tart a thought until the next day.  When I pulled it out of the fridge and cut in, it was really hard to slice through.  We chiseled away at little servings, but I remember remarking to Kara that I had abandoned my plan to write up the recipe for the blog because my guiding question is always “Would I make it again?” and in this case, the answer was no.  It was very fast and easy* to make, with a fail-safe crust and a nice deep chocolate flavor, but the texture was way too hard and heavy.

But then……fast forward a few days.  Kara was already back in DC, and I looked at the recipe again.  Now, I don’t speak French, but I can generally make out a written passage on a familiar topic due to similarities between French and Spanish.  I labored through the text and noticed one important detail I’d missed….or rather, I noticed I had read into the recipe something that wasn’t there.  It doesn’t say to chill the tart before serving!  I took out a slice and zapped it in the microwave for 30 seconds and found myself in chocolate heaven.  If you like chocolate**, you’ll love this chocolate tart.

Tarte au Chocolat
Adapted from Zeste Nouveau, Cuisinons simple et bon
October-November, 2011

Sablé Pastry:

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons ground hazelnuts (substitute almonds or other nuts)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups flour

Cream together the butter and powdered sugar, then beat in the egg.  Stir in the ground nuts, salt, and flour and work the mixture gently until it holds together.  Flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic; chill in the freezer for 15 minutes or in the fridge for an hour or more.

Heat the oven to 325 F.  Roll the crust out on a lightly floured surface and cut a circle the size for a 9-10 inch tart pan (a regular pie plate is fine).  Fit the pastry round into the pan and trim the edges (no need for a fluted crust – the filling won’t fill the tart very deeply, and anyway, rustic is the new sophisticated).  Don’t start eating all the extra dough yet!  First, put the extra slabs of rolled pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cut out little hearts with a cookie cutter, about an inch apart.  Now you can pull the extra dough away from the hearts and eat it if you want.

Cover the pastry in the tart pan with foil or parchment, then fill it with pie weights or dry beans.  Blind bake for about 10 minutes, then remove the foil/parchment and weights.  Break an egg into a cup and beat it until it is frothy, then use a little of the egg to brush over the partially baked crust and bake for another five minutes or more, until it is completely cooked through and just starting to brown.  Brush the raw dough hearts with egg as well and sprinkle the hearts lightly with sugar.  Bake the little hearts until they are golden brown and set aside to decorate individual tart slices.  Keep whatever egg is left to add to the filling (the original recipe says to use one egg plus a yolk for the filling and to use another yolk to brush the pastry, but this method works just as well and makes use of two whole eggs so you don’t end up with two extra egg whites).

While the pastry is baking, make the filling:

  • 8 ounces dark chocolate (I used two 100-gram bars, which is slightly less than 8 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 egg plus the extra beaten egg from the pastry
  • ¼ cup sugar (twice as much as the original recipe, but it seems needed to me)

While the chocolate is still in the wrappers, give them a couple of solid whacks on the counter top to break the bars into pieces.  Melt the chocolate pieces with the butter over a double boiler (if you cover it and keep a close eye on it, you can do the melting in the microwave if you prefer).  Beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture is thick and light yellow colored, then blend in the chocolate and butter mixture and beat until smooth.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the tart shell and return to the oven for another 12-15 minutes, until it is no longer liquid.  Cool before cutting, but serve at room temperature or slightly warmed.  Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream and the heart cut-outs.

Yield: 12 servings

*And I do mean easy.  The recipe is part of an article called Atelier chocolat (Chocolate Workshop) which features a dad making chocolate recipes with two little kids.  A six-year-old could make this recipe with a little help.

**I used one bar of 72%, and the other one, labeled Herren Schokolade (Gentlemen’s Chocolate), is 60%.  The mix seemed just right, but if you use all 60% you might want to cut back the sugar to 2-3 tablespoons.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


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