Tag Archives: chocolate tart

Salted Chocolate Tart

I was invited to a dinner last night, where the hostess was promising curry. Then came the casual request…and you can bring dessert, yes?

So I was up at 6:30am yesterday, reading some cookbooks for inspiration. My inclination was to start with something Indian, but I quite quickly realised that most of the recipes involved making some sort of paneer cheese and then frying it (yup, deep-fried desserts). I’ve bookmarked them to try another time, but I was left scratching my head nevertheless.

I had initially resisted the idea of something with chocolate as I was not too sure that it would be a good follow on from hot, spicy food, but then I came upon a recipe from the Paul A Young cookbook for a salted chocolate tart, topped with caramelised pecans. It looked like a winner, especially when I remembered that I had a tiny pot of edible gold leaf in the cupboard. I could make that, then top it off with gold leaf! And that’s basically the thought process that was going on in my head as I was drinking a cup of tea and finishing off toast with marmalade.

I made one large tart that I took along, and had enough extra pastry to make two small tartlets for later. Sadly I don’t have a picture of the big one, so you’ll have to be content with these two. I have to say, small as they are, they are still just about the richest thing I’ve made for a long, long time.

I really liked the way that this recipe turned out. The pastry is pretty easy, and the filling is a complete doddle – equal weights of chocolate, cream and muscovado sugar, then round out the flavour with some sea salt. Think salted caramel meets dark chocolate. As a flavour experiment, it was quite interesting to taste a spoonful of the cream and sugar mixture on its own (very sweet!) and then appreciate how much it changes once you add the salt. The flavour becomes so much deeper and richer.

However, my eyes did pop open when I saw how much salt was supposed to go into the mixture – I had made one-and-a-half times the filling, but still thought the suggested 10 grams was too much. I measured it out, and just didn’t trust it, and I didn’t have enough other ingredients to make another batch if the worst were to happen. I went with my gut, and added about two-thirds of the amount suggested, and the taste was great. So if you’re going to have a go at this tart, I recommend mixing the cream and sugar in a bowl, and add just enough salt to the cold mixture to suit your taste. There is a fine line between tongue-tingling salted caramel and a salty, sugary mess, and this is a recipe where less is more and you may wish to err on the side of caution.

So how was this tart received? The recipe book said it would silence a table of dinner guests, and it seemed to have the desired effect. This is definitely a keeper for the dessert portfolio, and I’m already planning to use the filling as the base of a tart to be topped off with fruit. I’m seeing great things involving passion fruit, or a few punnets of juicy ripe raspberries.

To make a salted chocolate tart:

For the pastry:

• 175g butter
• 75g caster sugar
• 2 egg yolks
• 35ml water
• 20g cocoa powder
• 250g plain flour

For the filling:

• 300g dark chocolate
• 300g light muscovado sugar
• 300ml double cream
• 1 heaped teaspoon sea salt (or more or less, to taste)

For the topping

• 100g nuts (pecans or skinned hazelnuts)
• 100g caster sugar
• 1 level teaspoon sea salt, finely ground

To make the pastry:

1. Cream the butter and sugar until soft. Add the egg yolks and water and combine. Add the cocoa and flour, a quarter at a time, and mix to a dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for an hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Roll out and use to line a 24cm loose-bottomed flan tin (no more than 5mm thickness). Place the pie crust in the freezer for 15 minutes.

3. Line the pie crust with greaseproof paper, and fill with baking beans. Bake the pie crust blind for 20 minutes, then remove the greaseproof paper and baking beans, and bake for another 8-10 minutes (the base should look dry and cooked, but the edges should not be dark). Leave to cool completely.

To make the filling:

4. Put the sugar and cream into a bowl. Stir well, then add salt to taste, then add the chocolate.

5. Place over a pan of very hot water, and allow everything to melt together. The mixture is ready when the chocolate has melted completely and the mixture looks thick and glossy.

6. Once ready, pour into the prepared tart shell, allow to cool slightly, then chill in the fridge for two hours.

To make the topping(*):

7. Lightly toast the nuts in the oven – they should be just toasted, not dark. Remove from the oven.

8. Put the sugar into a saucepan with a dash of water, and warm over a medium heat until you just have a light caramel. Don’t be tempted to stir it.

9. Once the caramel is done, add the salt, stir well, then add the nuts. Stir briefly, then turn out onto a sheet of non-stick baking parchment.

10. Leave the nuts to cool completely. Break or roughly chop the nuts into smaller pieces, and sprinkle generously on top of the tart.

(*) The topping can be made ahead of time – if you do this, be sure to store in an airtight container to stop the caramel from getting sticky.

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White Chocolate Tart with Piment d’Espelette

Yes, more Piment d’Espelette! I’ve posted my goat’s cheese fritters with a spicy Piment d’Espelette chutney, and now we move onto the dessert. I also submitted this to the competition run by the association of Piment d’Espelette producers, so again, fingers crossed!

Chocolate and chilli are a common combination (I’ll hold off on “classic” as I am not usually a fan…I want desserts to be sweet, not to burn), but this got me thinking: Piment d’Espelette is not so hot, so would it work in a chocolate dessert for those that don’t like hot chilli? But the colour – I was a little put off by the fact that it would  just look like another dark chocolate dessert. Ah, but what if I were to use white chocolate? I reasoned that the colour of the Piment d’Espelette would diffuse into the cream and chocolate, and the flecks of red would be visible in the finished cake. With these thoughts, I ventured into my kitchen.

One of the rules in the competition was that you had to come up with a recipe from scratch. I sensed that there was potential for my attempts to be rather “unusual”, so rather than making whole tarts, I started making small batches of white chocolate ganache in ramekins to test my ideas.

Attempt number one – create an infusion of Piment d’Espelette and mountain honey in water, then add to the white chocolate. The theory was that this would provide a clean, light flavour, highlighting the Piment. Too bad it didn’t set. In fact, it sort of separated, with a clotted-cream-type crust on top, and then a layer of liquid chocolate, then all the Piment at the bottom. Not a success.

Attempt number two – back to the classic ganache. I put cream, Piment and some mountain honey in a pan, and allowed it to infuse for half an hour. Heated it, added it to chopped white chocolate, stirred until melted, put in a saucepan to melt it properly (as, ahm, not all the chocolate melted first time), then added butter. Result! A smooth filling with a bright peachy-orange colour and flecked with red. It flowed, set as it was supposed to in the fridge, and cut perfectly. I served it at room temperature, and the filling did exactly what I wanted – stayed firm but not hard, but cut easily.

And the taste? The initial flavour was of white chocolate, but then it gives way to the fleshy earthiness of the Piment (like red peppers) and the honey. Then you get the warmth of the Piment, but it does not get hot. I think this is a nice way to use Piment in a dessert, making a feature of it rather than just adding a pinch as decoration. I can imagine that this would also work with other strongly-coloured spices (saffron for a golden ganache) or even with a spoonful of beetroot juice into the cream (if you like bright pink).

For the tart:

• one basic sweet pie shell (see here)
• 300g white chocolate
• 125ml double cream
• 2 teaspoons runny honey (thyme or orange blossom)
• 1 generous teaspoon of Piment d’Espelette (or mild chilli powder)
• 80g unsalted butter, at room temperature

Mix the honey, cream and Piment d’Espelette in a saucepan and leave to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This allows the cream to take on the colour of the Piment. In the meantime, chop the chocolate into very small pieces and put into a bowl.

Heat the cream mixture, stirring well. Bring to the boil, and cook for 30 seconds. Allow to cool briefly, then pour over the chopped chocolate. Stir well until the chocolate has melted. If there are still lumps of chocolate, then transfer to the saucepan and heat very gently, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth. Transfer back to the bowl.

Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Add the butter and stir until it melts and you have a smooth, glossy ganache. Pour immediately into the pie shell, and shake lightly to smooth the filling off. Allow to cool, then move to the fridge to set. Serve at room temperature, in thin slices.

Worth making? I have tried for a long time to make a white chocolate ganache (for pies, for cakes, for truffles) which stays smooth but sets properly, and I am really happy with this recipe. If you’re not a fan of the Piment,  you could easily omit this, and instead use vanilla and top off with fresh fruit – ripe raspberries or juicy strawberries. It makes an ideal dinner party dessert too – it can be prepared completely in advance, so no running around in the kitchen while your guests have fun.

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