Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tart au Chocolat Part 1

I recently took a French cooking class at Sur la Table and it was amazing! Among all the delicious things I learned to make that day, the bittersweet chocolate tart stood out the most for me. I loved learning this recipe because there are so many cool techniques involved and it's overall not a difficult dessert to make. It's definitely chocolate-rich and every chocolate lover's dream!

There are two parts to this recipe and they're both quite simple. It might seem long but I'm going to try and break everything up as best as I can and split the entire thing into two separate posts. The first is the actual pastry dough (pate sucree, in French). This can be made the night before or even a week before! The great thing about this dough is its versatility. You can bake it and fill it with anything you like. You can add a chocolate gnache, fresh fruits and berries, mousse, etc. As long as you know how to make this simple dough, you can play with it as much as you like!

A little side note: This recipe calls for vanilla bean paste. Before this class I used vanilla extract for everything so I wasn't really familiar with the paste. But now that I've tried it, I don't think I ever want to go back to extract. I learned that since vanilla extract contains a lot of alcohol, the process of the alcohol burning off during baking takes away a lot of flavor with it. But with the vanilla bean paste, the flavor is locked in and it is just so much more powerful and delicious. I haven't seen it in grocery stores but you can find it at Sur la Table or online.

Let's begin!

Ingredients/Directions :

Pate Sucree (sweet pastry dough)
-Yields 9 inch tart or 6 4-inch tarts
  • 1 and a 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 and a 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 Tablespoons butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (butter must be COLD)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 and a 1/2 Tablespoons ice cold water

In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, and salt

Using a mixture with the paddle attachment, mix the dry ingredients until they begin to become coarse

Slowly add the cold butter and continue to mix on medium speed. Then add the egg yolk, vanilla paste, and lemon juice and mix for 1-2 minutes. Finally, add ice cold water and mix just until the dough becomes sticky and stretchy
Tip: If you do not use cold butter and cold water, the dough will not be flaky

Remove dough from mixer and place on a lightly floured surface

With your clean hands, begin to knead the dough, adding more flour as needed, until you are able to form it into a ball
Tip: As soon as the dough comes together and is no longer sticky, STOP KNEADING! If you continue playing with the dough, you will overdevelop the gluten and the dough will become tough, stretchy and chewy. Nobody wants tough dough!
If you choose to freeze your dough for more than one day, thaw it by placing it in the fridge for a few hours before using.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour in refrigerator

Tip: If you don't have a mixer with a paddle attachment, don't worry! You can do all this by hand. It will take a little longer, but you will get the same results. The only difficult part will be incorporating the cold butter, but you can use a fork to crumble it into the mixture.

So after your dough chills for at least one hour, it's time to assemble it into the tart pan with a removable bottom. I bought my tart pan from Target and it worked perfectly. Just be sure the pan is lightly buttered and floured so nothing sticks.

Preheat your oven to 325F and place the rack in the center of the oven

Place chilled dough on a lightly flowered surface and give it a few smacks with your rolling pin to break it up and soften it. After the dough is a little softer, begin rolling it out large enough to fit over your tart pan. Continue adding flour to the dough and rolling pin as needed

Carefully place the dough onto the tart pan. Press down with your hands to shape the dough. Roll off the excess and fill any gaps with extra scraps of dough. Use a fork to poke holes all over to help air escape

Next, you're going to "blind bake" the dough. This means you will bake the crust alone without the filling. This prepares the crust for when you bake again with the filling.  If you don't do this and just decide to bake everything together after you add your fillings, the fillings will cook (and burn) before your crust bakes. Also, the bottom of the crust won't bake all the way and you'll just be left with a hot mess!

After placing the dough onto the tart pan, line the crust with parchment paper and add weights. The weights can be in the form of dry rice, beans, etc. Some stores even sell pie weights but there's no need to waste your money since this works just as well. These wights are going to keep the bottom of the crust down and prevent it from turning into a dome

Bake the crusts with the weights for 20 minutes then place on a cooling rack to cool completely without removing from the pan. During this time, make the chocolate filling. See part 2 for directions!

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