Tarte au Chocolat à la Parisienne

{Fancy French Desserts}

New series! I’m cooking my way through a laundry list of gorgeous French desserts. This was the final destination for the candied mandarins I made earlier in the week.

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I showed my love for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ this week by OBLITERATING the competition at the annual church bake-off. The centerpiece of this contest is the chili cook-off, but since the intensely competitive family spirit prevents me from competing against my mother’s chili, I opted for the dessert category instead. This never-fail tart won me first prize.

There are some recipes that always call you back, that you always have earmarked in your recipe books or bookmarked in your favourites. This tart, from the archives of the late Gourmet magazine, is that recipe for me.

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However much I love regional Italian cuisine, there’s no disputing that the French have the most elegant, most luxe desserts in the world. Although many French recipes require a level of culinary précision that requires years of practice, this understated bombshell of a tart is straightforward in both techniques and ingredients.

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The foundation of this tart is ganache, a more-or-less 50/50 emulsion of chocolate and cream. The epic fat content of this mixture means that ganache latches on flavourings very easily, making this recipe a flexible one. I took this in a citrusy direction with mandarins, but you can infuse cream with almost any flavour imaginable—just think of how many flavours come in a box of chocolates. Whichever flavourings you pick for this tart, avoid adding too many. The charm of this tart is its elegant, clean taste profile. Any more than that will detract from the simplicity of the tart. That’s the essence of French cooking: effortless brilliance.

The tart is constructed in three layers: a graham cracker crust, a ganache-based filling that is set with eggs, and then a second denser ganache glaze. The original Gourmet Magazine recipe calls for chocolate graham crackers, but I find that the manufactured chocolate taste doesn’t stand up to the dense richness of the real chocolate in the filling. I prefer plain graham crackers, but you can hit it with some high-quality cocoa if you’re the chocolate-overload type.

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Personally, I don’t feel that desserts should be a competition to see how many ways you can jam chocolate into a dish in double-triple-quadruple levels. To some Americans, these views are tantamount to heresy. For this recipe, however, we will be following the lead of the French by using small amounts of high-quality ingredients. The simplicity of the recipe highlights the chocolate in a way that (I think) ends up tasting more chocolaty than your average chocolate-chip-Hershey-syrup-Oreo-devil’s-food-double-fudge-chocolate bomb.

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Recipe Notes: Any citrus besides lemon would substitute well in place of the mandarins (blood oranges are still in season!). Consider going in a floral direction with lavender, violets, or rose petals, using the same infusion method as the citrus zest. Chocolate is very friendly to South American ingredients—cayenne, coffee, cinnamon. If using spices, infuse with the cream and then strain out before stirring in the chocolate. For a hit of coffee, stir in a shot of espresso or very strong French-press coffee with the ganache.

Virtually any liqueur works—rum, Disaronno, Kahlua, brandy—just heat with the cream. For a romantic take: simmer 1/4 cup of a fruity red wine over medium heat until reduced to a few tablespoons, then stir into the hot ganache with a few drops of rosewater (don’t overdo it) after the cream and chocolate are mixed.


Parisian Chocolate Tart

Makes one 9-inch tart

Ingredients:
Crust:
1 sleeve plain graham crackers (9 whole graham crackers)
5 tbsp. (70g) unsalted butter
¼ cup granulated sugar

Filling:
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
9 oz. bittersweet or dark chocolate
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
Zest of two clementines (optional)

Glaze:
4 tbsp. heavy cream
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 oz. Orange Curaçao liqueur (substitutes: warm water, espresso)

Garnish:
Candied Mandarins

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pulse graham crackers in a food processor until very finely ground. You should have about a cup of crumbs. Add sugar, then drizzle in melted butter. Pulse again until mixture resembles wet sand.
  3. Press crust mixture into a 9″ fluted tart pan with removable bottom, then bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow crust to cool while you make the filling, at least 20 minutes.
  4. In a medium saucepan, heat cream over medium heat and add zest. Bring just to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Add chocolate and let stand 2 minutes, then whisk until the mixture emulsifies. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, vanilla, and salt until well combined, then slowly whisk in ¼ cup of the warm chocolate mixture, to temper the eggs. When combined, add the rest of the chocolate and whisk again until fully combined.
  5. Pour the mixture into the cooled crust, then return to the oven and bake another 20-25 minutes, until chocolate filling is softly set (it should jiggle a bit in the middle). Remove from the oven and allow to cool at least 1 hour.
  6. Heat remaining cream with the liqueur or other flavourings, then whisk in chocolate and syrup. Pour carefully onto tart, preferably using a container with a pouring spout, and tilt the tart so that the glaze covers the surface evenly. Note: If the glaze is very thick, add another tablespoon of corn syrup before pouring onto tart.
  7. Top with candied clementines and serve once glaze has set.

Recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine.

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