Vail Valley baking: Swirled chocolate tart
Life is Sweet
Vail, CO Colorado
Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
Want to make someone’s heart go pitter-pat on Valentine’s Day? Serve this swirled chocolate tart. Oh, so pretty and oh, so luscious, it’s a perfect way to end any special occasion meal. The filling is what makes it memorable. White chocolate, enlivened with a little sour cream, is swirled through its rich, bittersweet namesake, creating delightful contrasts in color and taste and a texture as smooth as velvet.
I like to cradle the striking filling in a dark chocolate pastry shell. However, you can substitute any crust you like. Just be sure to blind bake it; the filling is made on the stovetop and requires no time in the oven, so the crust must be fully baked before it’s filled.
The tart is surprisingly easy to make. And, because it must be prepared in advance (it needs about 9 hours in the refrigerator to set), it’s ideal for entertaining. I usually make it the day before it will be eaten.
The chocolate is the key to its success; use the best you can find and don’t even consider substitutions.
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Make in a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom
Chocolate Crust (optional)
1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
8 tablespoons of unsalted butter (one stick), cold
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon of ice water
6 ounces of good bittersweet chocolate (not over 61 percent cacao)
2/3 cup of heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons of dark rum
6 ounces of good white chocolate
1/2 cup of sour cream (not non-fat)
Raspberry or dark chocolate sauce (optional) for garnishing
Make the crust, if using: Place the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined. Cut the cold butter into 16 pieces, add them to the bowl, and pulse until the dough looks like course meal and there are clumps the size of small peas. With the motor running, add the egg yolk and ice water and pulse until the dough is fully moistened but still crumbly. If necessary, add another teaspoon of ice water. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap and knead it a few times to bring it together. Form it into a disc, wrap and refrigerate it until it’s firm, at least half an hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease the bottom of the tart pan. Roll the dough (I do this between sheets of plastic wrap or waxed paper) to a circle about eleven inches in diameter, gently fit it into the tart pan, trim the top, and freeze until firm. Line the crust with non-stick or greased foil (non-stick side on the crust), fill with pie weights, place on a cookie sheet, and bake until the crust is set (about 18 minutes in my oven). Take the pan from the oven, carefully remove the weights and foil and return the crust to the oven to bake until dry and firm (an additional 7-11 minutes). Don’t overbake the crust or it will taste bitter. Remove it to a rack to cool completely.
Make the filling: Chop the bittersweet chocolate into fine pieces (I do this in the food processor). Set it aside. Use a double boiler if you have one; If you don’t, make one by setting a heatproof metal or glass bowl in a saucepan of simmering water so that the bowl sits about three inches above the water (it must not sit in the water). Before placing it over the water, whisk the cream and egg yolks in the bowl or the top of a double boiler until combined. Then, place over the simmering (don’t let it boil) water and continue whisking until the mixture thickens and registers 160 degrees on a kitchen thermometer (Heating the egg yolks to this temperature eliminates any risk of salmonella). Remove the bowl from the pan, add the chopped chocolate and stir until smooth. Add the rum and stir until smooth again. Set this aside.
Chop the white chocolate into fine pieces and place it in another heatproof bowl (or transfer the bittersweet chocolate mixture to a different container and clean and use the same bowl) that will sit above the pot of simmering water. Stir it constantly until it melts. White chocolate overheats very easily (which makes it grainy and ruins it), so make sure the water is at a slow simmer and the bowl is several inches above it. Remove it from the heat as soon as it melts and stir in the sour cream until it is smooth. Let both chocolate mixtures cool until they are slightly warmer than room temperature.
Spoon the chocolate mixtures into the tart shell, alternating their placement. Gently shake the pan to settle the chocolates, then, draw the back of knife or a skewer through them, creating swirls. Refrigerate the tart, loosely covered, for about 9 hours, until it is set, before cutting and serving it. Slice it with a thin, sharp knife, wiping it clean between cuts. Serve pieces of the tart with a drizzle of raspberry sauce or in a pool of dark chocolate sauce.
The crust recipe is from “Baking with Julia.”
The filling recipe is a variation of one from “Gourmet Magazine.”
Vera Dawson, a Chef Instructor at the Culinary Institute of Colorado Mountain College, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.