2016 consisted of a lot more baking. It began with sourdough but since then has spilled over into somewhat of a passion *obsession* with baking in general. GIVE ME ALL OF THE FLOUR. I've made my way through cookies, croissants, pies, cakes, and right now I'm enamored with tarts. They are delicate and rich, can be sweet or savory, and the way they stand alone outside of their baking dish is so elegant. So when I was flipping through A Kitchen in France, one of the fanciest and most beautiful cook books you will ever lay eyes on, I just stopped and stared at her chocolate tart with caramel and mascarpone cream.
I've tried quite a few tart recipes: lemon curd, savory pumpkin, apricot, and now ... chocolate. But as important filling is for an incredible tart, the crust is where the beauty lies. The sweetness in this recipe comes from the sweet crust, and the method is a bit easier than regular pie or tart crust as well.
What started as a review ended up being an education. I had never made a sweet crust before, and when she instructed to use room temperature butter, I nearly fainted. Sweet crusts have more of a cookie-like texture and are sturdy enough to hold their shape outside of their pan. I ended up taking her tart crust and tweaking it a bit (more on that later) but for now, here are a few tips if you decide to make her sweet crust.
Tip 1 | Add Water
I had trouble with the very first crust instruction: mix all ingredients together until it forms a homogenous dough. Her recipe doesn't call for any water and perhaps its the dry climate here in Denver, or maybe almond flour is drier that regular flour, but the dough was a sandy, crumbly mess until I added quite a few tablespoons of cold water. I'm not sure I would have known to do this if I hadn't had a few tart crusts under my belt.
TIP 2 | Patch it together
After refrigerating the dough overnight, it was time to roll and shape it into the tart pan. Instead of rolling out into a smooth round, the dough cracked as it got thinner and as I attempted to wrap the flattened dough around my rolling pin to place into the pan, the cracking just got worse. The dough practically fell apart.
This is when I discovered that what I thought was it's biggest downfall (softened butter) was actually its biggest asset: this dough is incredibly forgiving. Since classic pie dough calls for cold butter, you have to work the chilled the dough very quickly; as soon as it starts to warm it becomes gummy and hard to shape. Since the butter in this recipe was incorporated at room temperature, it mixed extremely well into the dough, making it easy to patch together seamlessly.
Giving up on placing a perfectly smooth dough into the tart pan, we patched and pressed the dough together and by the end, it looked absolutely beautiful and well-shaped, fitting into all of the nooks and crannies of the pan. If you're making this at home, ditch the rolling out process and just immediately start pressing the dough bit by bit into your pan and then chill overnight.
Tip 3 | Chill The Shaped Dough
This isn't a departure from her recipe, but it needs to be emphasized and applies to most crust recipes. After you shape your crust into its pan, make sure you chill it for at least 30 minutes in the freezer or a few hours in the fridge (up to overnight). This firms up the dough, preventing it from sinking or losing shape during baking. And as you can see below, the crust held its shape very well after it's bake.
Tip #4 | Temper Eggs
Assembling the filling went seamlessly. One thing Mimi doesn't mention is to temper your egg or make sure your chocolate isn't too hot before incorporating it. If your chocolate is too hot, your egg will scramble instead of making the mixture silky smooth. You can either temper your egg by adding a tablespoon of the hot mixture into it before incorporating into the rest of the chocolate, or let the chocolate cool just a bit before you add it. I opted for the former.
The filling came out rich and smooth and the simple additions of caramel and mascarpone cream put this dessert over the top. While the dough wasn't as flaky as I'm used to, it was moist and perfect for the ganache, not to mention easy to form into a lovely tart. I'll be making this again.