[Absolute Chocolate Tartlets]
I could have met my friends Marie-Laure and Laurence at a Chocoholics Anonymous meeting, so when they came over for dinner last night, I decided I would treat them to Absolute Chocolate Tartlets.
The recipe comes from one of my cookbooks, called Je Veux du Chocolat! (“I want chocolate!”) by Trish Deseine – another much cherished present from Maxence. In the book, it is called “Tarte Absolue” and is made as one big tart, but I love making single-serving things, especially desserts, and I wanted to use the little tartlet molds I had bought at E. Dehillerin two weeks ago : fluted edged, non-stick, with removable bottoms.
This is a pretty time-consuming dessert to make, but it’s a lot of fun, and the result is way worth it!
The first step is to make chocolate pie dough. The book gives a recipe that involves egg yolks, but I prefer to rely on my mother’s foolproof recipe for “pâte sablée”. The basic recipe is this : in a food processor, mix 170 g of flour with 85 g of sugar. Then add 85 g of butter (or equal parts margarine and butter, but I very rarely have margarine in the house) straight from the fridge, cut in small cubes. When that’s well blended, add 2 tablespoons of milk and blend again. You should obtain coarse sand. Dump the whole thing in a 28 cm pie dish and press/pack the dough with your fingers so it lines the whole dish. And there you go, pie dough! Notice how you avoided the whole “roll out dough on a flat surface, give it a round shape and transfer in dish” nightmare? I love this recipe, it results in a delicious crust that has just the right texture : slightly crumbly, crunchy outside, chewy inside. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the last pie dough recipe I’ll ever need (except of course to make tarte tatin, but that’s another story).
Here, I scaled the recipe down to use 120 g of flour, 60 g of sugar and 60 g of butter), and removed a heaping tablespoon of flour, replacing it with the same weight of unsweetened cocoa powder. I lined my 3 tartlets with the dough, placed circles of parchment paper and ceramic baking weights on them, and baked them at 200°C (400°F) for 10 minutes. They were then turned out on a rack to cool.
In the meantime, I prepared the chocolate caramel sculptures to be placed on the tartlets. I melted 50 g of sugar in a small non stick saucepan. When it had completely caramelized, I added a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa and mixed thoroughly. Using a small spoon, I poured caramel on my silicon baking sheet, drawing shapes. Word Of Advice #1 : do this fast, because as the caramel cools down and thickens, it gets more difficult to draw pretty shapes. Word Of Advice #2 : think ahead what shapes you want to draw, otherwise you’ll end up with a bunch of blobs for lack of inspiration in the heat of the moment (look at the weird ones on the right). Word Of Advice #3 : you want shapes that will hold their own on the tartlets, so it’s a good idea to make them balanced, with a flat section they can stand on.
Next step : chocolate ganache. I heated 100 ml of “crème fleurette” (not sure what the American equivalent to that would be. It’s also called “crème liquide”, and it’s what you use to make crème chantilly as well. Does anyone know?). When it was hot (the first teeny bubble had appeared) I poured it on 150 g of chocolate broken into small pieces, and mixed thoroughly with a fork. I added 2 egg yolks, then 40 g of butter, making sure no lumps of butter remained. All this resulted in a luscious looking thick chocolate cream, which I poured in the tartlet shells. Each of them was then adorned with one of the least blob-like caramel shapes (and that’s when Word Of Advice #3 above would have come in handy) and they were put in the fridge for the ganache to set (and stayed there until about 15 minutes before serving). I did have some ganache leftover after filling the 3 shells, so next time I would use about 3/4 of every ingredient, but I’m not sure how I would deal with the half yolk that this would have me use… And then again, whoever heard of such a thing as too much ganache?
So there you have it, Absolute Chocolate Tartlets : chocolate pie dough, thin layer of pure chocolate, thick layer of creamy chocolate ganache, topped with a crunchy chocolate caramel decoration, that you can nibble on between bites. Four contrasting textures, four different interpretations of the same glorious flavor, united in one perfect dessert.
My little creations did make quite an impression on my friends, who – to my delight – deemed them worth of an excellent professional pâtissier (they certainly know how to make sure they get asked over for dinner again, don’t they? :).