5 weeks ago
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
April has been quite a chocolatastic month for TWD. Sure, we started out the month exploring the coconutty, lime-y and banana-y end of the dessert spectrum, but by mid-month we were solidly into chocolate, and we haven't looked back. As the only reliable chocolate eater in my house (my kids would pick Skittles over chocolate - where did I go wrong?) I sort of found myself on my hands and knees last weekend, clawing and scratching my way to the chocolate finish line. But boy, am I ever glad I made it there, because this Chocolate Cream Tart is certainly the best chocolate dessert I've ever made, possibly one of the best I've ever eaten, and absolutely among the handful of the best desserts I've made since joining TWD.
The tart calls for Dorie's chocolate shortbread tart dough. This is a pretty simple dough -- mix up flour, cocoa powder, sugar and salt in the food processor, and then cut in some butter and an egg yolk and mix until "clumps and curds" form. I might as well just come out and say it: I've got pastry issues. I just can't stop mixing it. I want to stop, I know I should stop, but then there's my finger on the "pulse" button again. Dorie provides the best, clearest directions for pastry dough -- she even tells you that the mixer will start making different sounds when the dough is almost ready, and it really does -- so as long as you don't have pastry dough OCD like I do, you should have no trouble with this.
My slightly overmixed dough after being turned out onto work surface:
The other great thing about Dorie Greenspan recipes, thankfully, is that they are generally pretty forgiving. So you can overmix the crust a little bit, as I did, and it will still taste great. I could tell that mine didn't have that perfect shortbread consistency, but it was very good, and when it came together with the chocolate pastry cream and the whipped cream, it was downright incredible. A tad crumbly, though - I made four 4" mini tart crusts, and two of them kind of fell apart on me. But those pieces worked great in parfaits!
I thought the chocolate filling was the star of this show. Making it, of course, involves that whole custard making process, which for me is inherently stressful. Adding to the usual custard stress was the realization -- after I started boiling the milk and whisking together the yolks, sugar and cornstarch -- that I didn't have enough bittersweet chocolate -- whoops! At that point hubs was not home, and I had three sticky, sandy kids, so I did a quick analysis and decided that losing my pastry cream would suck less than taking my kids to the grocery store at that moment. Fortunately, the pastry cream was as forgiving as the crust, and graciously agreed to come together for me in fits and starts over a two hour period.
The night I made these tarts, David and I went out to dinner at one of the restaurants owned by one of our little town's favorite sons, James Beard Award-nominated (that's why he's a favorite son) Frank Stitt. David ordered dessert, but in an unprecedented move that is likely to never again be repeated, I did not. Because I knew that I had Dorie's chocolate cream tart waiting at home, and I was confident that it would rival anything that Frank could throw my way. When we got home, I prepared the tart for David's parents (our awesome babysitters - thank you!) and myself. And the three of us proceeded to be wowed by the tart as David looked on longingly. Okay, not really, he had just finished off a strawberry cheesecake twenty minutes earlier. But the tart eaters in the house really were wowed!
The three components of this dessert - the crust, the pastry cream, and the whipped cream topping, unite to create a spectacular dessert. Each part is good on its own, but it is not until the pieces come together that this tart becomes really special. What can I say, I'm kind of running out of English words/adjectives to describe the fabulousness of Dorie's desserts. As Jessica and I have discussed, pretty soon we are going to have to move into symbols, a la Prince, or interpretive dance. Suffice it to say that this tart is crazy good.
Kim from Scrumptious Photography chose this week's recipe. Kim has been one of my favorite bloggers from my early days in TWD. I swear I can just stare at her photographs all day long. In fact, come to think of it, some days I do. She is a supremely talented food stylist and photographer. Visit Kim's blog for the recipe, and for more eye candy (and eye cookies . . . eye brownies . . . eye pie . . . you get the idea.) Thank you for this incredible pick, Kim!