It’s Spring and all of a sudden this week our garden has come alive with the heady scent of masses of orange jessamine and citrus blossoms. Inspiring me to make this celebratory Bittersweet Chocolate Tart scented with a little more than just a hint of Cointreau. Deep, dark and decadent. Chocolate on chocolate. A crisp, buttery crust encasing a glossy rich, velvety, bittersweet, Cointreau infused filling.
There was a time when I used to shy away from making my own tarts. In my mind they were fussy and time-consuming involving a two step process of first making a blind baked pastry shell and then it’s luscious filling. After all I had access to a wonderful French patisserie, practically on my door step, so why go to all that effort. Then the unthinkable happened, that long standing French patisserie closed its doors forcing me to re-evaluate my stance.
I’ve since learnt pastry making is a lot less complicated than I first anticipated. Of course, there is always the option of good quality store bought, but in all honesty, home-made is infinitely better. These days, after much trial and error, I use a food processor to cut chilled cubes of butter into dry ingredients until the mixture begins to resemble fine breadcrumbs. I then add eggs, pulsing until the dough just begins to come together. All that’s then required is the barest knead on a cool bench top to coax the mass into a smooth disc. My pastry making mantra? A light hand always yields the best results. Wrapped in plastic (Twin Peaks style) the pastry is retired to the fridge to rest and relax. Voila! Shortcrust pastry in minutes without a colossal mess.
The next hurdle is conquering the art of quickly and easily lining a tart tin. Having watched many late night episodes of Paul Hollywood’s Pies and Puds I think I have this sorted. First and foremost always err on the side of generosity and make a large batch of pastry dough. The trick is to make more than you think you will ever need. There is nothing more frustrating after rolling out a beautifully rested pastry dough than the slow dawning realisation, despite much stretching, pummelling and patching, there’s just not quite enough to line your tin. Been there, done that. So rest assured the quantities provided for the tart shell in the recipe below are far more generous than they need to be.Any leftover pastry can easily be frozen, or if so inclined can be used to make mini pastry shells using patty pans or muffin tins.
By far the most efficient way I’ve found to roll my pastry is between two sizeable pieces of non stick paper. The best invention ever. No dusting of benches and rolling pins, no sticking, no mess. Always remember to roll your pastry 2-3 cm wider than your tin. Once rolled to size, peel off the top layer of baking paper, invert the pastry into your tin, and then remove the second layer before gently pressing the pastry into the fluted sides of the tin. Simply run your rolling pin over the top edges of the tin to trim away any excess pastry and achieve a neat finish. Of course, the tart shell will need another bout of rest and relaxation in the refrigerator before a blind baking in a hot oven. The reward will be a perfectly baked, beautifully crisp chocolate shortcrust shell ready for filling with a luscious chocolate ganache.
Happily, the chocolate ganache filling for this recipe is fairly fool-proof and ready in minutes. The process is so very easy, it’s pure genius. There’s no mention of double boilers or bain maries, seizing of chocolate or curdling eggs. It takes a block of bittersweet chocolate and adds it into a very hot mixture of cream and cointreau. Once melted and smooth, a beaten egg is strained and stirred into the ganache, and filling spooned into the waiting pastry case. The tart is placed into a preheated 200C oven, which is immediately switched off, for twenty minutes. The idea is that the residual heat will gently thicken the ganache and cook out the egg leaving a fabulously smooth, decidedly delicious ganache. Easy and impressive, this recipe is a worthy, much appreciated addition to my repertoire.
Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache Tart Scented With Cointreau
Makes one 20cm tart
Chocolate Pastry Shell
320g plain flour
160g caster sugar
generous pinch of salt
160g cold butter, diced
PREHEAT oven to 180°C.
PLACE flour, cocoa, sugar, salt and butter in the bowl of a food processor and process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
ADD eggs and process until dough just starts to come together.
TURN dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead until just smooth. Shape into a disc, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for at least 20 minutes to rest.
REMOVE pastry from fridge and roll out between two large sheets of non stick baking paper to a 23 cm (3 mm thickness) circle to fit a 20cm (base measurement) fluted tart tin with a removable base.
REMOVE top sheet of baking paper and carefully invert rolled pastry over the tart tin, then remove second sheet of baking paper (do not discard as you will need to re-line the pastry shell and fill with pastry weights or rice prior to baking).
GENTLY press pastry into the fluted sides of the tin. Trim any overhanging edges by simply running a rolling pin over the top of the tin, light pressure will easily slice off excess pastry. Pastry scraps can be reused to make mini tart shells or biscuits.
PLACE pastry lined tin in the fridge for 20 minutes to rest.
REMOVE from fridge, re-line shell with baking paper and fill with rice.
BLIND BAKE for 15 minutes. Remove paper and rice and bake for a further 10 minutes or until firm to touch. Set aside to cool until ready to use.
Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache Scented with Cointreau
250 ml thickened cream
200g dark bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
1 extra-large egg, beaten
INCREASE oven temperature to 200C.
PLACE cream and Cointreau into a saucepan. Stir and bring to a boil over medium heat.
REMOVE saucepan from the heat, add chocolate and stir until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated.
STRAIN egg into the warm chocolate mixture, and stir until absorbed.
POUR warm filling into the baked tart shell and smooth with a spatula.
TURN OFF oven, and bake the tart for 20 minutes or until just set, with a slight wobble in the middle.
ALLOW tart to cool and set for at least two hours before serving.