My in-laws were supposed to come out for a visit with us in Crested Butte last week, but had to cancel their trip at the last minute. When we host guests at our house, we pretty much clear everything off our schedule to entertain said guests. So we suddenly found ourselves with two days wide open and a little fresh powder on the mountain to enjoy.
and he did enjoy it
the clouds made way for a view of the town of crested butte below
Neva got to go for a couple of skate skis, an uphill ski on the mountain, and a run through our neighborhood up to the lake and back. All of this in addition to her daily training. She does rather well on paved paths and roads, but she is definitely more distracted on trails. Right now, we are toggling between snow and sunshine in the mountains, the trails in a constant state of melting out. I imagine that we’ll get to hit the real trail training with Neva soon, but until then, she’s doing alright. Meanwhile, the flowering trees are bursting with color down in Boulder and the rest of the flats. I must admit that the sight of that chartreuse spring green makes me a little giddy. I even opted for a trail run over a skate ski today, and found my first sign of local mountain spring.
the morning sun gets to work melting out yesterday’s snow
crabapple blossoms in boulder
an emerging pasque flower, the first to bloom in our mountains
In addition to the two open days we got as a result of the cancelled visit, we wound up with six extra chocolate tarts, which I had planned to serve as dessert. But chocolate tarts are easy enough to give away to neighbors. Go figure! This was the sixth batch of tarts I had made in the month of March. It all started when Eileen texted me as I was grabbing lunch in Steamboat Springs. She wanted to know if we’d be in Crested Butte the following weekend for a birthday dinner party for our friend, Wendy. It just so happened we WOULD be in town that weekend and was there something I could bring? Eileen suggested dessert, so I contacted Wendy’s daughters to get the scoop on her favorite flavors/desserts. Two things stood out: dark chocolate and raspberries. How about a dark chocolate tart with raspberries? Easy peasy, or so I thought.
cream, cocoa powder, flour, chocolate, powdered sugar, butter, more butter, grand marnier
I was fairly certain this recipe would work out, but I always make a point of testing a recipe before the real deal, just in case. Good thing I did. The crust, which seemed to behave nicely for just about everyone else in the world (it’s a recipe from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking), was a complete jerk. I suspect it has something to do with my high elevation, but it was quite frustrating to see it stick to the parchment during the blind baking. Luckily, I am friends with a lot of experienced and professional bakers – so I asked for advice on Facebook and got a slew of suggestions.
mix the flour and cocoa powder
beat the powdered sugar into the butter
add the flour and cocoa mixture
beat until just combined
wrap and chill
The recipe instructions called for docking the dough in the tart pan and then lining the dough with parchment paper, filling with pie weights, and blind baking the crust for 15-18 minutes. Then I was to remove the parchment paper with the pie weights from the tart shell and let it bake for another 6-10 minutes. This method resulted in half of the dough adhering to my parchment, leaving an anemic crust in the tart tin. People suggested not docking the dough, freezing the dough, using foil, buttering the foil, not blind baking, reducing the temperature, and on and on. What I found to work best for me was to dock and freeze the dough, use foil (buttered on the side that contacts the dough) and pie weights, and bake at the given temperature for a full 25 minutes or more until the foil released relatively cleanly from the crust. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough.
roll out the chilled dough
line the tart tin with the dough
dock the bottoms
butter the foil
line the dough with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans
bake until the foil releases
Of course, all of my failed attempts were edible – they just weren’t presentable for a birthday dinner. When I eventually figured out the chocolate shortcrust, I was ready to make the 9-inch tart for Wendy’s party. The ganache filling is the easy part, as far as I am concerned. The original recipe flavors the ganache with two tablespoons of espresso. I swapped out the espresso for Grand Marnier, as I thought it had a better flavor profile to pair with fresh raspberries. Jeremy and I actually taste tested the two versions on some rejected tart crusts and agreed on the Grand Marnier. Turns out, it’s another one of Wendy’s favorite flavors!
add hot cream to chopped chocolate and a large pat of butter
cool the ganache to 90°f
stir in the grand marnier
When the ganache is ready, pour it into your cooled tart shell or shells. Now, you might be tempted to remove the shells from the tart pans before filling them, but I recommend you keep them in the pans until you are ready to present or serve the dessert. The chocolate shortcrust is delicate and crumbly. It’s supposed to be. It should yield easily under a fork and have that crumbly, sandy, fragile texture. If you try to unmold it while empty, it will likely break or lose some pieces. The cooled ganache adds structural stability to the shell and holds it together. Once the tart is thoroughly chilled, it should be considerably easier to handle.
fill the shells
chill in the refrigerator for several hours
unmold the tarts before serving
cross section of the silky smooth interior
Wendy loved her birthday tart, as did everyone else who received test versions and extras throughout the month. It is especially nice with a raspberry coulis and some lightly sweetened fresh whipped cream. I’m not usually one with enough patience for this much recipe testing, but I’m glad this tart had excellent results, because it’s a real winner of a dessert for chocolate lovers. The tarts in the photos are 3 inches at the base and 1.5 inches tall (taller than the typical 1-inch high tartlet pan), which make them better suited to serving two people.
top with fresh raspberries
add a little zip of whipped cream
a well-tested double chocolate tart
chocolate short dough
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 lb. unsalted butter, softened, but cool
1/2 cup powdered sugar
extra butter for the foil
chocolate ganache filling
8 oz. bittersweet dark chocolate, chopped 1/4-inch or smaller
2 tbsps unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsps Grand Marnier
Make the chocolate short dough: Sift the flour and cocoa powder together in a medium bowl. Set aside. Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on low speed for 2-3 minutes. Scrape the sides down and add the powdered sugar. Beat on low for 30 seconds, then scrape the sides down. Add the flour and cocoa mixture, beating on low speed for 30 seconds or until the flour is just combined. Press the dough together into a disc and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days in the refrigerator or freeze for up to 1 month.
Bake the tart shell(s): Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface or between two sheets of plastic wrap. For a 9-inch tart, it should be at least 11 inches in diameter. If making 3-inch tarts, cut out as many 5-inch circles as you can. The scraps can be pressed together and re-rolled. Line your tart pan(s) with the dough, pressing the dough into the corners and sides. If there are any tears, use scraps to patch them up. Trim the edges so they are neat and even. Dock (prick) the bottom(s) with a fork. Place the tart pan(s) in the freezer for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°F and move the rack to the lower third of the oven. Tear a piece or pieces of foil large enough to line the inside(s) of the tart pan(s). Butter one side of each piece of foil. When the tart dough comes out of the freezer, line the inside of the dough with the foil, buttered-side down. Fill with pie weights or dried beans. Set the tart pan(s) on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 21-28 minutes, or until the foil releases from the dough without sticking. Let cool on a cooling rack. Remove the foil and pie weights and cool the shell(s) completely in the tart pan(s).
Make the ganache filling: Place the chocolate and the butter in a medium bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate, tapping the bowl on your counter or workspace to help the cream fill the interstitial space. Allow the cream to sit for a minute, then slowly stir from the center of the bowl to the outer edges. Continue to slowly stir (stirring vigorously will introduce air bubbles) until the temperature reaches 90°F (this took me several minutes) at which point the chocolate should be melted. Stir in the Grand Marnier. Pour the ganache into the cooled tart shell(s), filling them to just below the rim. Place in the refrigerator to let the ganache set uncovered (at least an hour if not longer). When the ganache has set, you can cover the tarts and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Makes a 9-inch tart or 4 deep 3-inch tarts (1 1/2 inches tall) or 6 3-inch tarts (1 inch tall).
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