Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dark Chocolate Cherry Tart

If you think pastry is too difficult, please reconsider.

You could make some sweet tart dough faster than it takes to find your keys and start your car, and it is WAY more rewarding than the store-bought crap. I'm sorry (I'm really not sorry). It's just crap. 

Pastry is one of those things where practice makes perfect. The more often you make it, the better you get a feel for it and the easier it gets. It's all about knowing how much to give and knowing when to stop. Kind of like telling a good story.

Once you become friends with pastry, your dessert world opens up like the sky. A pre-baked tart shell is a canvas. It can carry a million different things (food-related things, I hope).

Mascarpone and honey cream.
Vanilla bean custard.
Fresh berries.
ANY pie filling you can imagine.
Chocolate ganache... baked chocolate ganache.
Cheesecake filling.
Chocolate custard.
Dulce de leche.
Lemon curd.
Thick coconut cream.
Marshmallowy meringue.
Ooey gooey pecan pie town.
Savoury of all sorts - caramelized leek, potato, cheese, tomato, mushroom...

If you're serious about dessert, get to know your pastry recipes. Scientifically Sweet goes into depth about it in Chapter 3.

The gist of it is to stay cold, stay calm, it's totally OK to use your hands (the colder the better), and don't try to be perfect. Lumps are welcome, smooth is not a good look for pastry dough.

The perfect pastry has a harmonious balance of tenderness and flakiness.

Tenderness comes from finely dispersed butter that coats flour particles and acts as a barrier to moisture. Water + wheat flour = gluten protein development. Fat will help keep water away from wheat proteins so that we have a tender, shortcrust-like texture.

Flakiness comes from contrasting layers. Inevitably we will have some hydrated flour that will develop some gluten and strength. That's OK. We want a bit of that. Oat or pea-sized pieces of solid fat (butter/shortening/lard) will get in the way of spots of strong dough and both will flatten out into sheets when the dough is rolled, leaving you with distinct layers of fat and dough, fat and dough, fat and dough...

These layers will separate and puff apart even more as water turns into steam during baking. How much puff you want is up to you.
More butter + larger solid pieces of it = more PUFF.

For this recipe I leaned a bit more on the tender side, dispersing most of the fat in the flour and leaving some oat-flake-sized pieces.

You deserve satisfaction so get your hands all up in your flour and make friends with butter.
If chocolatey custard filling, sweet cherries and dark chocolate sauce isn't enough to entice you, then I don't know what is. I just couldn't relate.


Dark Chocolate Cherry Tart 
Makes one 9-inch round tart

For the pastry:
1 cup plus 2 tbsp (160g) all-purpose flour
½ tbsp (35g) sugar
¼ tsp salt
7 tbsp (100g) very cold butter
1 egg yolk
½ tbsp cold water

For the filling:
½ cup (118 ml) 35% whipping cream
2 large eggs
4 tbsp (50g) sugar
3oz/85g dark chocolate, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 tbsp (18g) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp ground almonds
200g pitted fresh or canned cherries (if using canned, drain well)

For the topping:
2oz/56g dark chocolate, chopped
½ tbsp (20g) butter

To make a pastry, combine flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add cold butter and rub it into the flour mixture until it resembles bread crumbs with some larger pieces the size of oat flakes. Combine egg yolk and cold water in a small bowl with a fork and gradually add to the flour/butter mixture while tossing with the fork. Continue stirring with the fork until it comes together in clumps and then use your hands to bring the dough together, pressing in loose bits until it holds together. Flatten into a disk, wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). 

Roll pastry out to just over 1/8-inch thickness and fit into a 9-inch round fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Prick with a fork, line with baking paper or foil and fill with baking beads. Bake 15 minutes with beads, remove beads and then bake 10 minutes longer, or until the pastry is golden. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

Meanwhile, to make the filling, whisk together cream, eggs, sugar, melted chocolate, vanilla extract and salt. Sift in flour and whisk until well combined.

Remove the baked tart shell from the oven and sprinkle the ground almonds over the pastry base. Scatter most cherries over the almonds and then pour the filling evenly over the top. Poke in a few extra cherries.

Bake for a further 20-25 minutes, or until the filling is just set around the edges but still has a soft wobble in the center. Let cool completely before removing it from the pan. 

To make chocolate drizzle, melt together chocolate and butter over very low heat in a saucepan or a microwave on low power and stir until smooth. Drizzle over tart while warm.
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